Providence, RI, Creates a Model that Effectively Engages Middle-Grade Youth in Quality After-School Programs

April 16, 2010


The Wallace Foundation, Lucas Held, 212-251-9782
Public/Private Ventures, Laura Johnson, 212-822-2401

NEW YORK, N.Y., April 16, 2010 - An innovative model in Providence, Rhode Island to coordinate after-school programs to attract middle-school youth through neighborhood hubs has succeeded in enrolling over 40 percent of the student population in the seven participating middle schools.
That is a key finding of a new evaluation, “AfterZones: Creating a Citywide System to Support and Sustain High-Quality After-School Programs,” undertaken by Public/Private Ventures and commissioned by The Wallace Foundation. 
The new report is the first in a series of two evaluations of the AfterZone model, which is operated by the Providence Afterschool Alliance (PASA). The report is available without charge at or 
“In the five years since its inception, PASA has built an accessible citywide system of after-school programs and installed a number of mechanisms to coordinate, manage and support this system,” the report finds. “The AfterZone initiative integrates as many as 100 of Providence’s out-of-school-time providers into a network with a coordinated schedule and a centralized registration process… It has shown that a campus model is feasible and indeed attracts youth in this age group.”

The report’s co-author, Dr. Lauren J. Kotloff, notes that, “This study has certainly shown how much deliberate planning and citywide coordination need to take place to engage large numbers of middle-school youth in after-school activities. We look forward to releasing the final outcomes study next year, which will tell us more about the promise of this innovative model.”
Kotloff wrote the report with Danijela Korom-Djakovic.

Hillary Salmons, executive director of PASA, commented: “Providence’s AfterZone system for middle school youth has been a collective effort that was inspired by The Wallace Foundation’s investment and knowledge around what works in after school. The visionary leadership of Mayor Cicilline and a community of youth advocates and leaders that has been willing to work together for a common purpose shows what a community can accomplish for its youth.” 
The report notes that middle school youth are at a critical juncture in their development. Previous research has shown that these youth are more likely to stay on the path to high school completion when engaged in high-quality after-school services, but their participation also drops dramatically during these years.
The evaluation explores the challenges and successes of building a citywide system to engage large numbers of middle-school youth through high-quality out-of-school-time services. It reveals several important implementation lessons that could be useful to other cities seeking to encourage greater participation of middle-school youth in after-school programming.  
Among other findings, the report reveals that: 

  • Off-site programming is costly but has the potential to provide youth with enriching learning experiences.
  • Within five years, PASA built accessible, citywide “neighborhood campuses” of after-school programs and installed a number of mechanisms to effectively coordinate, manage and support this system.
  • The mayor’s active involvement was important to sustaining broad-based support throughout the initiative.
  • Effective leadership from PASA was critical to building a citywide out-of-school-time system.
  • Challenges remain in several areas, including: sustaining the AfterZone model in the current economic climate; attracting eighth graders; transferring control to community-based organizations; and providing timely feedback on quality to providers.

The second evaluation is to be released in 2011 and will focus on how youth participated in AfterZone programs and the relationship of various patterns of participation to youth outcomes.

Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with offices in Philadelphia, New York City and Oakland. For over 30 years, P/PV has tackled critical challenges facing low-income communities—by seeking out and designing innovative programs, rigorously testing them and promoting solutions proven to work.

The Wallace Foundation commissioned the evaluation as part of its effort to help develop lessons relevant to cities on how to build systems that coordinate and support high-quality out-of-school time. As part of its out-of-school time initiative, launched in 2003, Wallace granted funds to support after-school system-building initiatives in: Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Providence, RI; and Washington, DC. This investment was designed to help create citywide system-building efforts that could advance three interrelated goals for the out-of-school-time field: improving program quality, making programs accessible to youth who need them most, and improving youth participation so more children can realize benefits.

The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. The Foundation maintains an online library of lessons about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening educational leadership to improve student achievement; enhancing out-of-school-time learning opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts.