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Featured Topics

The Out-of-School Time (OST) field is constantly undergoing change as innovation occurs and resources become more abundant. This section of the Toolkit is a compilation of up-to-date research in the interrelated areas of this field, featured below. These areas are particularly important to the OST landscape and will benefit your United Way's work if integrated into your OST efforts.

Descriptions of Topics

  • Attendance

    Attendance is a critical component of students' educational experience, yet far too many children and youth experience chronic absenteeism. Out-of-School Time programs can help inspire behaviors that lead to increased school attendance, thus decreasing the achievement gap. Explore this section to better understand the impact of chronic absenteeism on students' opportunities for success.

  • College & Career Readiness

    College & Career Readiness is an important, yet frequently ignored, aspect of the OST landscape. Out-of-school programs can provide quality college-related resources to youth, increasing their access to and preparation for college. Similarly, OST programs can provide opportunities for youth to engage in career exploration practices. This section not only highlights the importance of a postsecondary focus, but it also shares numerous program examples and tools for success.

  • Common Core

    Common Core State Standards outline the skills and knowledge students should have at the end of every grade in the areas of Mathematics and English Language Arts. Out-of-School Time programs have an opportunity to support schools' efforts in aligning with these standards, thus maximizing the potential for students' to learn and be successful in school. Read this section to gain a better understanding of the standards themselves as well as potential integration of these standards in an OST context.


    Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) / Healthy Eating & Physical Activity (HEPA) focuses on integrating healthy practices into the lives of children and youth. Out-of-school programs can foster the implementation of these healthy practices through intentionally integrating new components to their already-existing programs or enhancing the quality of existing practices. Explore this section of the Toolkit to read key research on the subject, learn ways to integrate HOST elements, and be introduced to key initiatives and organizations in the field.

  • Literacy

    Literacy includes a set of skills that are required for people to be successful in life– whether in day-to-day tasks or in pursuing a career. These skills include abilities in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and a mastery of how to use language to convey a message. Teaching literacy effectively is of utmost importance for children's success. Currently, there are new OST initiatives seeking to promote literacy in innovative ways– check some of them out here!

  • Mentoring

    Mentoring benefits children in hugely significant ways, instilling within children a sense of confidence, self-esteem, and direction. Various types of mentoring relationships can exist, and those that occur as part of Out-of-School Time programs can be structured to achieve the maximum potential benefit. Explore this section to learn more about the research supporting the importance and benefit of mentoring in OST programs as well as to see program examples of effective mentoring programs.

  • Social Emotional Learning

    Social Emotional Learning is an important component of children's growth. Out-of-School Time programs have the ability to foster this type of learning in the children they serve, and therefore increase opportunity for future success. Check out this section of the Toolkit to learn more about both the importance of ways to address and assess social emotional learning.

  • Special Populations

    Out-of-School Time programs have the potential to serve diverse populations who need tailored supports to achieve maximum success. By targeting Special Populations, OST programs can operate on a high-quality basis and play a role in closing persistent achievement and opportunity gaps. Some of these unique populations highlighted in the Toolkit include: Black male students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students in a rural setting.


    STEAM is an education movement focused on integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics more purposefully into the educational system, with an intentional focus on inclusiveness, especially in regards to gender. The STEAM movement seeks to inspire students' interest in these fields in order to better connect them  to the world in which they live, empower them as sources of a wide-range of knowledge, and equip them to participate successfully in the work force. To find out more about the importance of STEAM and get resources on incorporating STEAM into OST programs, click here.

  • Summer Learning

    Summer learning encompasses a wide range of programs, yet the benefit of high-quality summer learning programs is obvious. Keeping children and youth engaged throughout the summer months is imperative, because the summer is a time when many children, including a disproportionate number of low-income children, experience "Summer Slide" and lose knowledge and an opportunity for educational progress. Visit this section to read about the research behind the need for summer program and learn about some innovative summer learning programs.

  • Your Suggested Topic

    The topics currently included in this Toolkit only represent some of the important areas to consider within the Out-of-School Time context. If there's another topic area your United Way deals a lot with in conjunction with Out-of-School Time, please share it with us! Email with either general topic suggestions or specific topics and corresponding resources. We look forward to hearing from you!

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