Ensuring equity in the classroom has become a priority for many school districts in recent years. But how are they focusing on equity in their afterschool, summer, and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs as well?
This brief summarizes findings from a team of University of Virginia researchers who studied how school districts strongly committed to educational equity approached equity in their OST efforts. The team set out to begin filling a knowledge gap: Although research on equity in the OST sector in general is growing, equity in OST programs provided by school systems in particular has received less attention. Learning more about equity in school-operated OST is important, the researchers say, because children and youth from historically marginalized backgrounds often attend the least resourced schools and have less access than others to high-quality OST.
The findings were based in large part on interviews with 59 people familiar with the efforts in nine communities, including school system officials and OST program administrators.
The districts promoted equity in a number of ways, from making OST programs more accessible and culturally responsive to providing content in sync with student needs, including STEM opportunities, homework help, and arts activities. Efforts varied across the districts depending on what local circumstances called for—whether providing transportation to programs, offering programs for free, or easing program enrollment hurdles. Districts also sought to engage families through efforts such as offering translation services for non-English speakers and scheduling virtual meetings for the convenience of working parents.
At the same time, even the most equity-minded districts faced significant hurdles. A lack of funding for high-quality programs for all who need it was a persistent problem. Administrative silos often hampered planning for how to use OST to advance districts’ equity goals. Leadership turnover at the district level was a frequently cited barrier. And some interviewees said more could be done to integrate school-day equity supports, such as professional development opportunities for staff members, into OST programs.
The researchers recommended that districts consider a number of steps to make progress. These include that district and school leaders work more directly with community organizations and provide clear communication on equity commitments and goals, and that funders look for ways to help communities sustain programs that have been supported with federal COVID relief funds.
The research was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation.