Can Out-of-school Time Programs Reduce High School Dropout? A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Programs

Open Access
Brown, Rachel Emily
Area of Honors:
Human Development and Family Studies
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kathryn Bancroft Hynes, Honors Advisor
  • Kathryn Bancroft Hynes, Thesis Supervisor
  • Emilie Smith, Faculty Reader
  • out-of-school time
  • OST
  • dropout
  • youth engagement
High school dropout is harmful to individuals who dropout as well as society. Consequences of dropping out include earning less money than graduates, being more likely to go to prison and experience long unemployment stretches and being less likely to participate in civic life. This literature review aims to answer the question, can out-of-school time (OST) programs reduce high school dropout? The goal is to identify recommendations for policy makers in relation to OST programs. After discussing the consequences of dropout, risk factors of dropping out are identified at the microsystem level—attending a high school with a large minority population and having a low socioeconomic status (SES)—and at the individual level at school—low attendance, poor academic performance, and weak student engagement. Next, the components of youth engagement are discussed. These include affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement. Youth are engaged through quality relationships and through knowledgeable staff members. In fact, the characteristics of quality programs overlap greatly with factors that engage youth. OST programs may be useful in dropout prevention by providing a risk-free environment, which is a prime opportunity to engage youth. However, OST programs may not be useful in dropout prevention because they cannot change characteristics such an adolescent’s SES or neighborhood. The literature review concludes by providing recommendations for policy makers regarding OST programs to reduce dropout.