The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Beacon Centers, designed in the 1990s, are operated by community-based organizations, using space in school buildings during non-school hours. Beacons offer youth and adults recreational, educational, and social activities, as well as social services, health education, and opportunities for community building. Youth have opportunities for positive experiences in safe, welcoming settings that promote their healthy social and emotional development, build their social connections and engagement in community, and foster positive intergenerational relationships.
The Beacon Middle School Initiative, launched in the 2007-08 school year, was intended to improve the lives of young adolescents in grades 5-8 by providing high-quality, structured out-of-school experiences through the Beacon Centers. The initiative sought to address this need by providing regular programming for youth in certain core areas during the out-of-school hours: academic enhancement, life skills, career awareness/school-to-work transition, civic engagement/community building, recreation/health and fitness, and culture/art. Together, these program activities were expected to lead to positive educational and social outcomes for youth, including higher rates of high school graduation and improved life skills
Analyses examined the implementation of the Middle School Initiative, youth attendance and participation in the Initiative, and participants' growth in light of the duration and intensity of their participation. Grounded in a theory of change that specified the initiative's key assumptions and expectations, the evaluation sought answers to the following questions:
Implementation and outcome data for the evaluation were collected from all Beacon Centers through annual surveys of program directors and youth participants. Ten Beacons contributed in-depth information through site visits and annual surveys of parents. In addition, the evaluation examined program participation data and educational data from the New York City Department of Education.