A project of the Afterschool Alliance.

The Beacon Community Centers Middle School Initiative: Report on Implementation and Youth Experience in the Initiative’s Second Year

Year Published: 2010

A study of middle school participants in New York City’s Beacon Initiative, which served 21,000 middle schoolers during the 2008-2009 academic year. Student survey responses indicated that the Beacon program supported students academically by improving their homework completion, grades, reading comprehension, and math performance. Students participating in the program also overwhelmingly agreed that they felt safe and that they belonged at the Beacon Center, and that the program taught them how to help others. Students also reported that they felt it was important to be involved in their community.

Program Name: Beacon Community Centers

Program Description: The Beacon Community Centers, founded in the early 1990s, were first developed to provide community resources to high-need neighborhoods in New York City. The Beacon Middle School Initiative was launched in 2007 by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development to target more resources to provide middle school youth structured programming in academic enhancement, life skills, career awareness, civic engagement, health and fitness, and culture and arts. During the 2008-2009 school year, the Middle School Initiative served 21,000 middle school students at 80 Beacon Centers.

Scope of the Evaluation: Local

Program Type: Summer, Afterschool

Location: New York City, NY

Community Type: Urban

Grade level: Middle School

Program Demographics: Thirty-eight percent of participants were African-American, 38 percent were Hispanic, eight percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, eight percent were white, and 7 percent were other. Less than half of participants were girls (44 percent).

Program Website: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dycd/services/after-school/beacon.page

Evaluator: Russel, C. A., LaFleur, J., Scott, T. A., Low, M., Palmiter, A. S., & Reisner, E. R. Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

Evaluation Methods: Data was collected through the following: directors’ surveys and interviews; student surveys focused on the extent to which Beacon Center programming exposed them to new experiences, attended to their interests and improved their academic performances; site visits; parent surveys; and school attendance and educational performance data from students’ school records.

Evaluation Type: Non-experimental

Summary of Outcomes: Eighty percent of students believed that they were finishing their homework more often because of the Beacon they attended, 76 percent believed the Beacon helped them get better grades, 70 percent believed the Beacon helped improve their reading comprehension, and 69 percent believed the Beacon helped them solve math problems better. Relatedly, 40 percent of students in the program reported that they spoke with adult staff members about “school or schoolwork” on an “almost daily” basis and 73 percent of students said that they spoke with adults about their “future goals and plans” on at least a monthly basis.

The report also looked at students’ sense of belonging while in the program, and found that most students reported positive associations with the program, such as 87 percent of students agreed that at the program they felt safe, 86 percent felt that they belonged, 82 percent felt that they mattered, and 77 percent felt that their ideas counted. Seventy-six percent of youth in the program also agreed that they learned to help others at the Beacon Center and 75 percent agreed that they learned it was important to be involved in their community.