Committee for Children Blog

What SEL-Focused District Leaders Need to Know About Out-of-School-Time Policy

Kids play in out-of-school time

Special thanks to Afterschool Alliance’s Dan Gilbert, senior project manager and SEL specialist, for his contributions to this post.

Every educator knows that what happens with young people outside school affects how they operate in school. One of the best opportunities a district has to work with kids in their out-of-school time (OST) is to offer access to environments that encourage social-emotional development. Young people benefit from continuity in their social-emotional learning (SEL) experiences, particularly in regularly occurring programs throughout the school year and into the summer that target social-emotional development.1 Students show improved homework completion, personal safety awareness, and overall well-being.2 Moreover, a recent review of 17 years of research on after-school programs found that they “improved a variety of outcomes, ranging from mathematics and reading/ELA achievement to physical activity/health, school attendance, promotion and graduation, and social and emotional competencies.”3 So it makes good sense to coordinate in-school and out-of-school social-emotional learning programs. Yet much work is needed to enable and sustain SEL in OST and to help connect that with in-school SEL.

Governmental policy provides a unique and broad avenue for addressing this need. In their 2019 legislative sessions, a number of states have been addressing SEL through out-of-school-time policy.

  • One of the most successful campaigns (by our estimate) was in New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment passed legislation that created a fund that will support evidence-based learning opportunities with a required component of after-school enrichment. It also tried to allocate $2 million to after-school and summer enrichment programs, but that separate effort did not ultimately pan out.
  • We’d award second place to Delaware. It proposed funding for after-school programs that focus on youth violence and suicide prevention. This legislation is still pending.
  • Our picks for legislative runners-up would be Kansas and Minnesota. Both states introduced bills to fund after-school and out-of-school-time programs and resources. Although these bills did not pass this year, SEL-focused district leaders can look at their efforts as energy toward further development of social-emotional learning for school staff, because they may someday become OST providers.4
  • SEL-focused district leaders might also be interested in the revenue side of out-of-school-time social-emotional learning policy because sustainable revenue streams help to promote access and quality of the programs that can provide positive outcomes. Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and Oklahoma all proposed that a percentage of specific sales tax revenue go to funding enrichment opportunities and after-school programs that could improve social, emotional, academic, and career readiness skills for students. These after-school state funds could potentially be braided together with school-focused funds to support in-school and OST continuity in programming.

For insights into out-of-school-time policy, Committee for Children looks to the Afterschool Alliance. The aim of this national nonprofit is to help all children attend affordable, quality after-school programs; the Alliance does so by working at national, state, and local level.

For example, the Alliance supports the work of Statewide Afterschool Networks in Alaska, Washington, West Virginia, and Connecticut as these states implement communications and advocacy projects focused on promoting SEL at the state level. At the federal level, in mid-June the Alliance hosted its annual Afterschool for All Challenge on Capitol Hill, where more than 150 advocates convened to meet with their members of Congress and “make the case” for OST.

These are just a few of many hands-on projects that the Afterschool Alliance designs, promotes, and supports. Committee for Children is proud to partner with the Alliance in this important advocacy work.

Committee for Children recently announced they’re developing an out-of-school-time social-emotional learning program.

Out-of-School Time Research References

  1. McCombs, J., Whitaker, A, & Yoo, P. (2017). The value of out-of-school-time programs. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation. Retrieved from
  2. McCombs et al., The value of out-of-school-time programs.
  3. Neild, R. C., Wilson, S. J., & McClanahan, W. (2019). Afterschool programs: A review of evidence under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Philadelphia: Research for Action. Retrieved from
  4. In its overview of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the Afterschool Alliance notes that 80 percent of these centers are run by school districts (