Camp Fire Columbia

Student Impacts

Students benefit from out-of-school time program participation

The Initiative evaluation demonstrates that participating programs benefit students in three ways:

  • Academically, by supporting school attendance, engagement and motivation during programming as well as high-school completion.
  • By promoting a sense of belonging.
  • By developing social and emotional skills, including confidence.

Explore Impact Areas

Initiative-supported out-of-school time programs help students succeed academically.
Out-of-school time programs promote a sense of belonging for students, which is particularly important for middle schoolers.
Students build a wide range of social and emotional learning skills in out-of-school time programs.

More about student impacts

Taken as a whole, our evidence indicates that high-quality out-of-school time opportunities support the academic and social-emotional development of participating students.

Our evidence for these impacts is interrelated, multifaceted & complex

Many of the outcomes we explored are closely related to or influence one another. For example, social and emotional learning and a sense of belonging can contribute to student academic engagement.

Many of our findings also triangulate; we see evidence of the benefits of out-of-school time programming across data sources, methods and over time. Some of the strongest evidence comes from the voices of students and their families, and the observations of the staff who come to know them well through out-of-school time programs. As these people are experts in their own experiences, this data is important and valid.

Centro Cultural of Washington County

Analyses of standardized educational data do not provide a clear picture of program impacts. They were intended to answer overall impact questions (e.g., Did Initiative students on average fare better than comparison students?). But we did not find consistent impacts across all programs—that is, across all programs and for all three entry cohorts—for standardized reading and math test scores, or for ninth grade on-track status. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including the limited degree to which diverse programs directly and consistently contribute to these outcomes in ways substantial enough to overcome other barriers and challenges students face, as well as data limitations like availability and quality of data at the state level. The variety of programs, communities and students involved in the Initiative requires more nuanced questions to be useful—such as What is working for whom, and why?—hence the inclusion of results from our analyses that indicate promising patterns (e.g., for Latino/x students in culturally specific programs).

We also conducted many analyses that are not included here because they do not reveal clear patterns, including an exploration of outcomes for other Initiative-supported program types (e.g., math enrichment), different program contexts (e.g., run by and located at a school), and student characteristics. For example, our analysis of rural programs indicates positive associations between rural program participation and several educational outcomes including higher high school completion rates. We are unsure how to explain these differences, which can’t be attributed solely to the fact that programs are in rural locations. They are more likely the result of combined student, program, school and community factors, as well as of other unmeasured factors such as staff turnover and aspects of program design and structure. It is impossible to isolate a rural geographical location as the unique contributing factor to program outcomes.

Data limitations also prevented us from being able to conduct detailed analysis for all possible student characteristics. For example, we had an insufficient number of students from particular race/ethnicity groups to further disaggregate our results (e.g., we had very few Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students in our data set). Finally, we don’t have any way of knowing whether, or to what extent, students in our comparison group participate in out-of-school time programs outside the Initiative.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT our analysis in about the evaluation.

Camp Fire Central Oregon

Much of our evidence reflects existing research

A substantial body of research shows that participating in high-quality out-of-school time programs can improve student attendance and engagement with school, boost social and emotional skills, and improve academic performance, which in turn increases the likelihood of high school graduation (e.g., Kidron & Lindsay, 2014; McCombs et al., 2017; Naftzger et al., 2014; Pierce et al., 2010; Vandell, 2013). The research on social and emotional learning in schools is similar, suggesting alignment between in-school and out-of-school time. Combined analysis of 356 studies on universal, school-based social and emotional learning programs revealed significant and positive effects on short and longer-term academic outcomes (Mahoney et al., 2018).

Oregon MESA

Existing research also shows that social and emotional learning is an important part of student well-being and that constructs like self-identity and belonging are connected to school and community engagement (e.g., Farrington et al., 2012). High-quality programming that is also culturally specific can further bolster a sense of belonging and identity for students, bridging student cultural skills and knowledge with what happens in school and increasing student interest in learning (Gray, 2018; Curry-Stevens & Muthana, 2016). Further, some of our findings reflect evaluation results from participating programs, like Oregon MESA, whose most recent report notes that “MESA students were significantly more likely to graduate from high school than their peers” (Greenburg Motamedi et al., 2020, p. 1).

Our findings contribute to out-of-school time research

Evaluations findings provide Oregon-specific evidence that affirms existing research, including studies showing that high-quality out-of-school time programs benefit students academically and promote social and emotional learning.

Our efforts to measure and understand social and emotional learning also reflect still-emerging areas of research in out-of-school time. There is a great deal more to learn about how programs integrate and support social and emotional learning, and how social and emotional learning in out-of-school time relates to other student impacts.

We also believe our findings relating to culturally specific programs are particularly noteworthy and are an important contribution to the field given how little has been published about how, and how well, such programs support students.

Read FURTHER reflections on what we’ve learned about evaluating OST programs & this Initiative in MOVING FORWARD.
LEARN MORE about the evaluation itself, including its methodology, in about the evaluation.

Voices from the OST Initiative


Lisa Bermudez, Bend Science Station


Becca Schaefer, Lane Arts Council (1)


Tori Kirkpatrick, Rogue River Jr./Sr. High School