Within the last decade, after-school programs have moved from the periphery to the center of the national education policy debate. The demand for after-school care by working parents and a new focus on test-based accountability are the two primary reasons. Reflecting these pressures, federal funding for after-school programs has grown dramatically over the last half-decade. Between 1998 and 2002, federal funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program grew from $40 million to $1 billion. State and local governments have also increased their funding, with California committing itself to a six- fold increase in funding for after-school programs over the next few years.
As a wave of evaluation results has recently become available, policymakers are understandably eager to see evidence that these investments are paying off. The purpose of this review is to summarize the results of four recent evaluations, to draw the lessons we have learned so far, and to identify the unanswered questions.