Methods: A nonequivalent comparison group design was used. The comparison group was purposively sampled to identify youth that met eligibility criteria for participation in the ASP but did not receive program services. Six hundred and forty-four students, representing diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, were included in the analyses. All outcomes were based on administrative data provided by the local public-school system. Missing data was substantial with most outcomes exceeding the recommended cutoff of 40% to conduct multiple imputation. Therefore, all findings should be viewed as exploratory and only be used to generate hypotheses to test in future studies. Statistical analyses consisted of both multiple linear regression for continuous outcomes and multiple logistic regression for binary outcomes. Finally, homoscedasticity was an issue, so all linear regression models were estimated using HC3 robust standard errors.
Results: After adjusting for grade, gender, and race/ethnicity, involvement in the ASP was significantly related to higher independent reading levels (β=0.31 [0.16, 0.45], p < .01; η2=0.07 [0.02, 0.14]). Participation in the ASP was also associated with significantly higher levels of attendance over the full academic year (β=0.21 [.12, .30], p < .01; η2=0.03 [0.01, 0.07]). In terms of teacher-rated course proficiency, no group difference was found in reading or social science. However, the ASP group demonstrated significantly higher levels of proficiency in math (odds ratio (OR)=1.75 [1.06, 2.87], p < .05) as well as science (OR=2.12 [1.22, 3.69], p < .01). Finally, youth in the ASP were found to have significantly lower likelihood to receive either a suspension or expulsion than the comparison youth for an entire academic year (OR=0.38, [0.21, 0.67], p < .01).
Conclusions and Implications: Findings point to the promise of ASPs as a strategy for improving academic performance and school behavior among low-income children of color. The presence of significantly greater gains in reading performance among ASP participants, compared to comparison group students, is particularly important as early literacy skills are related to long-term academic success and positive school behavior in a number of studies. Preventive interventions in community-based ASPs that enhance reading skills and promote social-emotional development should be further developed and tested.