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Out of School Time

ELO Out of School Time Banner (No Hyphens)


Out of School Time (OST) is defined as "a supervised program that young people regularly attend when school is not in session. This can include before- and after- school programs on a school campus or facilities such as academic programs (e.g., reading or math focused programs), specialty programs (e.g., sports teams, STEM, arts enrichment), and multipurpose programs that provide an array of activities (e.g., 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs)".1

Best Practices

There is considerable research on what makes OST programs successful for the students and families served. Effective OST programs4:

Maximize student engagement in school

  • encouraging both school-day attendance as well as participation in OST programming.
  • Re-engage students through interest-based, hands-on activities, which can be offered both in person and virtually.

Provide academic support for students who need additional help

  • ...with school-day learning such as in math and reading, using certified teachers and/or trained staff as well as evidence-based approaches that are aligned with school-day content and practices

Provide targeted instruction based on student needs

  • demonstrated by periodic diagnostic/formative assessments of student learning, to ensure students have the opportunity to catch up and keep up in their learning

Provide engaging learning experiences that foster a lifelong love of reading and learning

  • offering innovative and creative activities students do not have the opportunity to participate in during the school day

Assess program effectiveness and use results to improve

  • ...making sure that OST programs are having the most effective impact on students' learning, engagement, and wellbeing

Attend to student physical health and wellbeing and connectedness

  • offering physical health and wellness activities in OST programs as well as a safe and meaningful learning environment where students can make meaningful connections with peers and trusted adults

Engage families in their student's learning

  • offering opportunities for active and meaningful engagement in their children's education, including opportunities for literacy and related educational development.
  • Consider including grandparents and engaging families by seeking parental input on hours, structure and offerings, student choice.

Promote community partnerships

  • look beyond the school building in bolstering capacity (including staffing) for OST programs to serve as many students and families as possible

Build upon student interests and include self-directed and real-world learning components

  • ...such as hands-on activities, project-based and experiential learning, and field trips

Work to provide all students with public library cards

  • provide free access to a wealth of online resources (ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, databases), physical collections (books, magazines, audiobooks, films, unusual learning items, digital devices), and in-house computer and printer use.

Programming and Activities

To best accelerate learning, out-of-school time programs should include evidence-based approaches.

Programs ideally should:

  • Target students needing additional support (including using information provided by diagnostic assessments).
  • Have certified teachers deliver the academic instruction.
  • Engage the students in using experiential instruction that incorporates hands-on activities, project based learning, enrichment, and field trips.2

OST programming can support students' academic achievement by providing a safe, positive learning environment for students outside of the school day.

Benefits include:

  • Helping students catch up and keep up academically;
  • Keeping students safe and engaged, and keeping students learning when schools are closed or parents/caregivers are working;
  • Providing social and emotional support that students need to emerge from this crisis strong, resilient and hopeful;
  • Helping schools and community partners provide essential needs (such as food) to kids and families who need it most;
  • Fostering a lifelong love of reading and learning;
  • Providing connections and wraparound supports to families; and
  • Helping families overcome technology challenges and ensure kids have access to learning platforms.3

The most common types of OST activities are:

  • Academic support such as homework help, tutoring, credit recovery, apprenticeships/internships/externships, literacy and STEM and the arts.
  • Enrichment programming such as physical activities, outdoor activities, the arts, social and emotional learning, and service learning.
  • Family engagement activities such as classes for two-generation involvement, parenting, English and GED classes.



  • College and career readiness, internships, apprenticeships (ELSSR)
  • (connected to Kahn academy, free online tutoring)


  • services, programs & events, public library programs
  • (ELSSR) "Expanded Learning Programs are Essential for Covid-19 Recovery: Key Principles for Expanding Learning to Support Student Re-Engagement." Afterschool Alliance March 2021 Brief
  • (HASSL) "How Afterschool Supports Students' Learning." Afterschool Alliance Handout


1 Center for Disease Control and Prevention

2 US Department of Education, ED COVID-19 Handbook

3 Afterschool Alliance

4Institute of Education Sciences