Cover: Expanding Afterschool Opportunities

Expanding Afterschool Opportunities

Connecting STEM Afterschool Providers and Schools

Published Nov 8, 2023

by Catherine H. Augustine, Jennifer T. Leschitz, Jonah Kushner

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Children and youth have benefited from afterschool programs in terms of academic, physical health, school attendance, promotion, graduation, and social and emotional outcomes. Afterschool programming in general—and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) afterschool programming in particular—is also popular among school officials and parents. To obtain a national picture of why and how principals and district leaders partner with external organizations as STEM afterschool providers, the authors administered a survey to a nationally representative sample of public school principals (kindergarten through grade 8) in November and December 2022. Schools have direct access to youth and families and, therefore, have great potential to influence afterschool choices. The authors surveyed and interviewed school and district leaders to understand their STEM afterschool needs and interests, including the details on how these leaders go about partnering with STEM afterschool providers. The surveys and interviews illuminated how administrators learn about potential afterschool partners, what they look for in a partnership, and why they renew them.

Key Findings

  • The number one factor about afterschool programming that principals would change would be to offer more STEM programming. Principals said that it is challenging to find STEM program providers in general, high-quality STEM program providers in particular, and the funding to pay for them.
  • According to our survey of principals, 65 percent of the schools partnering with an external provider of afterschool programming offered a STEM option, and principals estimated that 14 percent of their students engaged in this STEM programming.
  • Of the eight factors we listed on the survey, principals reported that student interest in the activity was the most important component in selecting a STEM afterschool provider and in renewing a contract—more important than either the quality or the cost of the program.
  • However, principals did report that finding afterschool program funding is a challenge. Only about one-third of principals said that they had more funding for afterschool programming as of the 2022–2023 school year, when federal coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic stimulus funds were still active, than they did before COVID-19.
  • According to our district survey, 67 percent of district leaders plan to spend the same amount of funds that they are spending now on afterschool programming after the stimulus dollars expire. Suburban districts (82 percent) were much more likely to plan to maintain their funding for afterschool programming than were urban districts (55 percent).

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Overdeck Family Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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