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Making the case for youth development

Evidence & outcomes

Concrete evidence of measurable program outcomes is essential to furthering the field of youth development. What makes a youth development program successful? Read studies and research that measure outcomes for youth and for society.


Reports & articles

The Positive Development of Youth
National 4-H Council
A report of the findings from the first eight years of the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, sometimes referred to as "The Tufts Study." 2012

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes (PDF)
Forum for Youth Investment
Out-of-school time programs can help youth develop skills and attributes they need to be ready for college, work and life, but few have the tools to effectively measure those outcomes. This guide reviews eight youth outcome measurement tools appropriate for use in after-school and other settings. 2011

A Meta-Analysis of After-School Programs That Seek to Promote Personal and Social Skills in Children and Adolescents
Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg, Molly Pachan
A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to enhance the personal and social skills of children and adolescents indicated that, compared to controls, participants demonstrated significant increases in their self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, school grades and levels of academic achievement, and significant reductions in problem behaviors. 2010

Developing and Improving After-School Programs to Enhance Youth’s Personal Growth and Adjustment: A Special Issue of AJCP
Joseph Durlak, Joseph, Mahoney, Amy Bohnert, Maria Parente
This introductory article overviews the historical and current context of ASPs and then describes a developmental ecological model to guide research in this area. 2010.

Dilemmas of Practice: Challenges to Program Quality Encountered by Youth Program Leaders
Produced by Extension: Reed Larson and Kate Walker
To create and sustain high quality youth development programs it is important to understand the challenging situations and dilemmas that emerge in program leaders’ daily work with youth. In this research the experiences of leaders in 12 programs were followed over a 2–9 month period, which led to the identification of 250 dilemma situations. 2010

Does the Amount of Participation in Afterschool Programs Relate to Developmental Outcomes? A Review of the Literature
Jodie Roth, Lizabeth Malone, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn
Contrary to the findings from previous reviews we found little support for the general notion that greater amounts of participation in afterschool programs was related to academic, behavioral, or socio-emotional outcomes. 2010

Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance
David Shernoff
Using the experience sampling method, this study examined two questions related to outcomes associated with after-school programming. First, does the quality of experience in after-school programs mediate the effect of program participation on social competence and academic performance? Second, among program participants, is the difference in quality of experience when in programs versus other settings after school related to higher social competence and academic performance?  2010

Implementation Quality and Positive Experiences in After-School Programs
Amanda Brown Cross, Denise Gottfredson, Denise Wilson, Melissa Rorie, Nadine Connell
Data collected during an evaluation of a multi-site trial of an enhanced after-school program were used to relate quality of program implementation to student experiences after school.  2010

Inside the Black Box: Assessing and Improving Quality in Youth Programs
Nicole Yohalem and Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom
This paper describes what is known about the relation between youth program quality and youth developmental outcomes, summarizes different quality assessment tools being used in the field, and discusses how such tools are being used to drive systemic quality improvement efforts. 2010

Investing in Success: Key Strategies for Building Quality in After-School Programs
Jessica Sheldon, Amy Arbreton, Leigh Hopkins, Jean Baldwin Grossman
This paper examines the relation between the implementation quality of after-school literacy activities and student reading gains. 2010

More Than Attendance: The Importance of After-School Program Quality
Barton Hirsch, Megan Mekinda, JulieAnn Stawicki
In this commentary, we discuss why student engagement, program characteristics and implementation, staff training, and citywide policy are key considerations in the effort to define and achieve high quality programs for youth. 2010

Quality at the Point of Service: Profiles of Practice in After-School Settings
Charles Smith, Stephen Peck, Anne-Sophie Denault, Juliane Blazevski, Tom Akiva
Staff practices in after-school settings were represented on a series of unidimensional scales closely indexed to staff behavior.  2010

Specific Features of After-School Program Quality: Associations with Children’s Functioning in Middle Childhood
Kim Pierce, Daniel Bolt, Deborah Lowe Vandell
This longitudinal study examined associations between three after-school program quality features (positive staff–child relations, available activities, programming flexibility) and child developmental outcomes (reading and math grades, work habits, and social skills with peers) in Grade 2 and then Grade 3. 2010

Understanding and Improving the Effectiveness of After-School Practice
Robert Granger
This article draws on the work in this volume and related studies to suggest that there is an emerging consensus on the importance of staff-youth interactions as a determinant of program effectiveness. 2010

Exploring the Supply and Demand for Community Learning Opportunities in Minnesota
Produced by Extension: Ann Lochner, Gina Allen, and Dale Blyth
This report, also known as the "Gap Study," documents the gap between supply and demand for youth development programs in the state. 2009

Afterschool Learning Opportunities Make a Difference (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Ann Lochner
A fact sheet on the benefits of after-school learning. 2008

Afterschool programs in the 21st century: Their potential and what it takes to achieve it
Priscilla M.D. Little, Christopher Wimer, Heather B. Weiss
This research brief draws on seminal research and evaluation studies to address two primary questions: (a) Does participation in after school programs make a difference, and, if so (b) what conditions appear to be necessary to achieve positive results? 2008

Closing the Gap through Extended Learning Opportunities (PDF)
National Education Association
A policy brief from the NEA on expanding learning opportunities. 2008

Highlights from Out-of-School Time Database
E. Harris
This Research Update explores two major themes: Using evaluation to shape program improvement and planning, and out-of-school time benefits to older youth and their families. 2008

Expanding Learning Opportunities: It Takes More than Time (PDF)
Afterschool Alliance
Afterschool Alert Issue Brief from the Afterschool Alliance on expanding learning opportunities and ensuring student success in the 21st century. 2007

The impact of after-school programs that promote personal and social skills (PDF)
J.A. Durlak and R.P. Weissberg
Conducted in collaboration with Joseph Durlak of Loyola University and funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation, this first report describes the strong positive effects after-school programs can have, and the conditions needed to realize these benefits. 2007

Outcomes linked to high-quality afterschool programs: Longitudinal findings from the study of afterschool programs (PDF)
D.L. Vandell, E.R. Reisner, and K.M. Pierce
A report explaining that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs is linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and work habits as well as reductions in behavior problems among disadvantaged students. 2007

Critical hours: Afterschool programs and educational success (PDF)
B.M. Miller
This research explores the links between afterschool programs and positive youth development, particularly during early adolescence and examines three of the most common approaches to enhancing the academic impact of programs: homework time, linkages with the school day, and literacy development. 2003

Positive Out-of-School Time Hoopla: Why Should We Care? (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Mary Marczak and Rachel Moreau
An article exploring why we should care about "positive out-of-school time" (POST) and "developmental assets." 2002

Putting Knowledge to Work (PDF)
Nicole Yohalem
An article that explores what can be done to strengthen the bridges between research, evaluation, and practice. 2002

Recreation's Role in Promoting Positive Out-of-School Time (PDF)
Corliss Outley
An article explaining the importance of out-of-school time recreation and how it has been overlooked. 2002

Related organizations

A database of research-based youth development materials, particularly for at-risk audiences. Includes curricula, new and seminal research, technology and program evaluation resources.

Harvard Family Research Project
Research on more effective youth development practices, programs, and policies.

Minnesota Compass
Tracks data and trends that affect Minnesotans, including youth.

Search Institute
Research-based solutions to challenges facing young people.

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