The aim of evaluating RBC funded after-school programs was to examine the successes and challenges of offering after-school programs in Canada. The evaluation comprised two phases. Phase 1 entailed a content analysis of annual program evaluation reports submitted to RBC grant managers. Findings from this phase provided a rich description of the key outcomes and benefits of after-school programs (see RBC Foundation After-School Programs Evaluation, Preliminary Report August 2010). Phase 2 utilized data obtained through individual interviews and focus groups held with parents, children and youth, after-school staff and RBC Foundation members and grant managers currently involved with an RBC funded after-school program, to explore their perspectives of “what works” and what may serve as barriers.
Following a brief review of the literature, the research procedures and methodological approaches to Phases 1 and 2 are provided. The findings of each phase are discussed in detail, followed by a conclusion and related appendices.
In looking at evaluating after-school programs, students, parents, staff, and funders contemplated how programs could be evaluated in the future. A number of suggestions related to measuring program success were offered including: academic improvement; academic confidence; academic achievement; skill mastery; behavior and social skill development; and satisfaction.
Participants offered a number of methods to tap these outcomes including grades, student self-report, and parent and staff report.
With respect to measuring impact and success, it is important to note that lacking pre-program individual level data on objective measures such as self-esteem or healthy lifestyle behaviours, makes it impossible to determine whether the outcomes identified in the evaluations are due to the after-school programs.
There is therefore an emphasis in the discussion of the analyses on perceived or apparent benefits of the after-school programs among the children and youth who participate. Nevertheless, the identified outcomes represent important social, psychological and behavioural benefits for the young people who participate in these programs.
Appendix III provides a short description on how to plan evaluation efforts that will elicit pre-and post-test data in order to more empirically provide evidence of a program’s effectiveness.