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The following frequently asked questions describe the purposes and uses of our Out-of-School Time Program Research and Evaluation Database. We recommend that first-time users of the database read through all of the questions to better understand how the database can be used to support the development of the out-of-school time (OST) field and its programs.
Our Out-of-School Time Program Research and Evaluation Database provides accessible information about research and evaluation work on OST programs and initiatives with the purpose of supporting the development of high quality evaluations, studies, and programs in the OST field. Policy interest and investment in OST issues and programs are extremely high. As a result, demand for information about the effectiveness of these programs, at the national, state, and local levels, is on the rise. At the same time, those working in OST programs of all types are recognizing the value of having data that enables them to tell their stories and to increase their effectiveness. Substantial investment has already been made, and continues to be made, to learn about what types of OST programs work, for whom they work, why they work, and how they can be improved.
Currently, however, there is little systematic and ongoing investigation of the overall picture of research and evaluation work in the field, what is already known about the effectiveness of OST programs, and how different programs approach the evaluation task to support development of the field and its programs. Our database fills this void by providing access to a range of evaluation designs, research methodologies, and findings that can help inform existing programs, shape new programs, and build capacity to conduct OST program research and evaluation.
The database is envisioned as a program-building tool. By providing detailed information about evaluation designs, methods, and data collection approaches, the database enables program staff, funders, researchers, and evaluators to learn about how others have approached research and evaluation.
The database is also envisioned as a field-building tool. By bringing together information about evaluation investments and findings across the OST field, the database helps OST program staff to better understand the “yield” from current and planned knowledge investments, to understand what is known about findings from research studies and evaluations of OST programs, and to facilitate strategic investment of research and evaluation resources.
We conduct periodic analyses of the database information to identify and highlight key OST research and evaluation issues and emerging trends and to identify knowledge gaps. We produce two series of publications based on these analyses: the Issues and Opportunities in Out-of-School Time Evaluation briefs and the Out-of-School Time Evaluation Snapshots. We also convene meetings to facilitate dialogue on these issues. You can read about our first national meeting for OST evaluation—the After School Evaluation Symposium.
Our database offers a range of research and evaluation work from large-scale national OST investments to small-scale local program evaluations, and programs and initiatives that focus on afterschool as well as on broader out-of-school time. It also includes research and evaluation work on initiatives that have strong OST components, such as community schools and mentoring initiatives. We will continue to add studies and evaluations that best respond to and serve the needs and interests of the field. Evaluations and studies included in our database must meet three criteria:
Additionally, we have developed a set of criteria to prioritize the order of entry of evaluations and studies into the database. We expect these priorities to shift to reflect field interests and database growth. As of March 2002, our priorities for inclusion are:
Evaluations and studies included represent a variety of designs, methodologies, and findings to serve multiple stakeholder needs. Inclusion in our database does not equate with program endorsement.
The information in the database is presented as several-page narrative “profiles” of individual programs, initiatives, and studies. Each profile is divided into two main sections: (1) program and (2) evaluation. The program or research study section provides information about the program, initiative, or study's goals, scope, funding, duration, participants, components, and contact information. This section also includes a brief overview of all of the research and/or evaluation work. The evaluation section provides detailed summaries of each evaluation or research study, including the purpose/questions, design and sample, data collection methods, and findings. Findings are organized by formative/process and summative/outcome. It is important to note that the findings information contained in the profiles is not exhaustive, particularly in the case of implementation studies that focus on the details of program operations.
We solicit evaluations and studies from multiple OST resources including: print and Web publications, listservs, researchers and evaluators, and people who visit our website. Information in the database comes from a variety of sources, but primarily from evaluation and research reports and design documents produced by researchers and program evaluators. Information on the program is often supplemented with data from program brochures and documents, press releases, and websites. Included in each profile is information about the availability of reports, with electronic links to actual reports, where available.
The information in each profile is confirmed with the researchers or evaluators to ensure its accuracy prior to posting on our website, whenever possible. Profiles for which we were unable to receive a response from the researchers or evaluators are marked as drafts.
For reference information for all of the OST research studies and evaluations that we are tracking, visit our Out-of-School Time Program Research and Evaluation Bibliography. This bibliography contains citations for all the OST program evaluations and research studies that we are currently tracking. Some of these evaluations and studies we have profiled and added to our Out-of-School Time Program Research and Evaluation Database. For those in this bibliography that we have not profiled yet, we do not have detailed information on the evaluations and studies, but we do provide basic program information as well as links to relevant reports.
The database can be accessed in two ways: through a search of program, study, and evaluation characteristics and through a summary table of all profiles.
The search engine enables users to select program, study, and evaluation characteristics that are most important to them. It operates as an “and” search, meaning the search results will match all the criteria selected. For example, if you selected the search criteria “national,” “afterschool,” and “academic,” the results would list only evaluations and studies involving national afterschool programs that measure academic outcomes. Results are presented in tabular format so that you can easily scan them and link directly to relevant profiles.
To keep users up-to-date on the database contents, we compile a summary table that lists all the programs, initiatives, and studies in the database, and provides a brief description of the evaluation or study, search criteria, and when the profile was included or updated. To view this table, click on “evaluation database” above and then on the next page click on “See an overview of all profiles in the database.”
A caution about comparison: the database's profile format was deliberately designed to provide users with a comprehensive understanding of the work and to help ensure that information is not taken out of context. We urge that comparisons among programs and initiatives be made carefully.
Each profile includes the date on which it was updated. The information in the profiles will be updated when research and evaluation findings are made available or when research and evaluation plans are finalized or revised. You can visit our Subscription Center to subscribe to our out-of-school time updates email, which notifies members when we make changes to the out-of school time area of our website.
For information about how to submit an OST program evaluation for inclusion in the database, please contact Heather Weiss at Harvard Family Research Project at Heather_Weiss@gse.harvard.edu or 617-495-9108.