For approximately 15 years, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, as originally authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, has supported activities and services that offer students in high-poverty communities across the nation the opportunity to participate in programs designed to improve their academic enrichment and promote positive youth development. In Texas, there are close to 1,000 21st CCLC programs that serve approximately 130,000 students statewide.
Commissioned by the Texas Education Agency in 2007, the evaluation of the Texas Statewide 21st CCLC focuses on analyzing the impact of 21st CCLC program participation on student achievement and behavior and on identifying innovative strategies and approaches implemented by successful 21st CCLC programs in the state. Over the past 9 years, the evaluation team has conducted summative evaluations of the program’s impact on student-level academic achievement outcomes and of the variables that mediate or moderate the relationship between program participation and student-level outcomes. To provide a broad picture of the 21st CCLC program in Texas, the evaluation team has created a comprehensive profile of 21st CCLC grantees, centers, and participants in the state using the state’s administrative data system. In addition to the program profiles, the evaluation team developed a series of statewide surveys of grantee directors, center directors, and center staff to gather information regarding additional dimensions of program quality. The survey data provided implementation and quality scales that are employed in models of program impact on student outcomes.
Beginning in 2011, the evaluation also included site visits involving interviews, focus groups, a youth survey, and observations across a random sample of centers to identify and describe innovative strategies and approaches implemented by successful 21st CCLC programs in Texas.
The study has provided the Texas Education Agency with strong evidence that attendance at 21st CCLC activities that had mathematics as a focus area resulted in improved student achievement in mathematics, with both positive annual and positive cumulative effects. Likewise, the study found that 21st CCLC attendance tends to reduce the likelihood that a student will be held back a grade. Most recently, the study found that participation in high quality programs is linked to reduced absences and that participating in a combination of intense academic intervention and traditional enrichment activities can lead to better outcomes than participating in either type of programming alone.