Abstract: Furthering Academic Progress through Community-Based Afterschool Programs: Findings from a Nonequivalent Comparison Group Design (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Furthering Academic Progress through Community-Based Afterschool Programs: Findings from a Nonequivalent Comparison Group Design

Friday, January 18, 2019: 5:45 PM
Union Square 13 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Christopher A. Veeh, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Jeffrey Jenson, PhD, Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Yolanda Anyon, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Molly Calhoun, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Stephanie Nisle, MA, Doctoral Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background and Purpose: Afterschool programs (ASPs) designed to increase academic performance and prevent behavior problems among young people are implemented widely. Yet few studies have been conducted that includes a comparison group to assess the effects of these preventive interventions. This study examined the effects of a community-based ASP located in poor and racially segregated neighborhoods on academic performance and school behavior problems among students in grades kindergarten to 12. Intervention components include academic tutoring and skill building groups that aim to enhance youths’ intellectual, social, and emotional competencies. A quasi-experimental design was used to compare the academic and school behavior outcomes of program participants with a comparison group of youth living in similar neighborhoods who were not served by the ASP.

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.