The Program Being Evaluated
The goal of Playworks (formerly Sports4Kids) is to address the physical, emotional and cognitive needs of elementary school children by coordinating full-day play and physical activity programming—during lunchtime, recess and after school—taught from a framework of youth development. By engaging students in structured play, at recess in particular, Playworks aims to improve conflict resolution on the playground, which may feed into improved classroom management and recaptured learning time once students return to class.
The program is promising, but evaluation can assist the program in terms of establishing its potential effects, improving implementation, and setting the stage for spread. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has funded an expansion of the program, and this project is coordinated with that expansion. RWJF is now following this implementation study with a formal test of program effectiveness.
About the Evaluation
The study, led by Milbrey McLaughlin, Founding Director and Rebecca London, Senior Researcher, at the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University, examines the initial implementation of Playworks programs in six San Francisco and Silicon Valley schools, and measures the effectiveness of the programs in two schools with already established Playworks programs.
The research addresses two broad objectives: (1) to understand the ways that Playworks affects the students, school personnel and schools involved; and (2) to study the implementation process, with a focus on varying school experiences in the context of vastly different school environments. The study will employ mixed methods (interviews, observations, teacher and student surveys and focus groups, and reviews of teacher time diaries) to answer four general questions:
Knowledge and Impact
The Playworks Theory of Change describes the components required to bring about the program’s long-term goal of healthy child development in several domains. The literature review and related reports examine why increasing opportunities to play and be active may improve students’ academic and physical outcomes.
The study identifies the following findings from implementation of Playworks in six San Francisco and Silicon Valley schools, compared to previous years:
Key factors for successful implementation of Playworks include:
Playworks implementation affected students, adults, and school climate in the following ways:
Nearly half of Playworks teachers reported less bullying at their schools since Playworks was implemented