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Introduction to our experts: An-Me Chung, Ellen Gannett, and Adriana de Kanter La Perla
  Afterschool programs -- setting the stage.
What specifically is meant by the term "afterschool program"?
Are there differing visions of what an afterschool program should be?
Why are afterschool programs good for school-age children and youth?
What benefits do afterschool programs offer to the schools, the communities, and the families who participate in them?
Are kids being "over-scheduled"?
Why has demand for afterschool programs increased so significantly?
Where is the support and the funding for the development of these programs coming from?

Why are afterschool programs good for school-age children and youth?

mixedinterests Families across the country are beginning to recognize the tremendous benefits a quality afterschool program can provide. Because they offer an array of activities not always available during the traditional school day, these programs give students many opportunities for growth and learning they might not find elsewhere. For example, at a time when many schools have had to cut or reduce spending on art and music programs, afterschool programs can offer kids the opportunity to paint, draw, perform in a dramatic production, play music, participate in a dance performance, visit museums, etc. Or students can go into further depth with research that they may have begun in class time, which is often limited. While most in the afterschool field would agree that supporting academic skills is an important goal for afterschool programs, they stress the importance of integrating academic supports into a larger program that also promotes the social, emotional, and physical development of the children they serve. In her regular column, Sandra Feldman, President of the American Federation of Teachers, recently wrote a "holiday wish list" in which she asked for "more learning time for children who need it. There is accumulating research that afterschool programs, summer school, and extended days and years enable children who are behind to catch up. And added academics are not enough. Poor children need the kind of extras that advantaged children take for granted but that too many poor children don't get: sports and cultural activities -- like singing in choirs, dancing, visiting museums -- and going on organized excursions." [A Holiday Wish List by AFT President Sandra Feldman December 2000 http://www.aft.org/stand/previous/2000/1200.html]

There is growing evidence from around the country that this approach is paying off. Children and youth who attend afterschool programs do better in school, and are safer and less likely to get into trouble in the hours after the end of the school day. Below is a quick look at what the available data on afterschool programs have shown us.

trophy. 1.  Afterschool programs can enhance children's academic achievement. Participants in afterschool programs:

  • show increased interest and ability in reading
  • develop new skills and interests
  • show improved school attendance, increased engagement in school, and reduced dropout rate
  • turn in more and better quality homework and can spend more time on task
  • are held back or placed in special education classes less frequently
  • show higher aspirations for the future, including intention to complete high school and go to college. (See the NIOST fact sheet [http://www.niost.org/] and Safe and Smart: [http://www.ed.gov/pubs/afterschool/afterschool.pdf])

Project Learn
The Boys and Girls Club of America developed Project Learn: The Educational Enhancement Program (EEP), a program designed with five major components: homework help and tutoring, high yielding learning and leisure activities, parent involvement, collaboration with schools, and incentives. The 30-month evaluation compared youth in Clubs with the EEP to youth in Clubs without EEP and youth in other afterschool programs. Findings of Project Learn participants include an increase of 8.5 points in their GPA, and improved school attendance and study skills. [Steven Schinke. Evaluation of Boys and Girls Club of America's Educational Enhancement Program. Unpublished manuscript for the Boys and Girls Club of America, Atlanta, GA, 1999]

Ohio Urban School Initiative
Fourth graders who participated in the Ohio Urban School Initiative School-Age Child Programs exceeded the state-wide percentage of students meeting proficient standards in math, writing, reading, citizenship, and science. [Partners Investing in Our Community of Kids, and Ohio Hunger Task Force, Urban School Initiative School-Age Care Project: 1998-99 School Year Evaluation Report, Columbus, OH: Authors, 1999]

Maryland Extended Day Programs
In a recent study of higher-success and lower-success elementary schools in Maryland, researchers found that the more successful schools were seeing consistent academic gains as a result of extended day programs. [Willis Hawley, William Schager, Francine Hultgren, Andrew Abrams, Ernestine Lewis, and Steve Ferrara, "An Outlier Study of School Effectiveness: Implications for Public Policy and School Improvement," paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, March 25, 1997]

LA's BEST
Students with at least four years participation in LA's BEST had better subsequent school attendance, which led to higher academic achievement on standardized tests of mathematics, reading and language arts. [UCLA Center for the Study of Evaluation. "A Decade of Results Impact of the LA's BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program," Los Angeles: Author, 2000]

finishline 2.  Afterschool programs support children's social development and their relationships with adults and peers. Children who participate in afterschool programs behave better in school, have more developed social skills, and show more self-confidence as a result of the caring relationships they develop with staff and other students in the program. Afterschool participants are also in smaller classes and can take advantage of the extra time with teachers. (See the NIOST fact sheet [http://www.niost.org/] and Safe and Smart: [http://www.ed.gov/pubs/afterschool/afterschool.pdf])

Positive Feelings
High school students in afterschool programs exhibit more positive feelings and attitudes toward the pressures of teen life and are more willing to share their talents with the community. ["The Shell Education Survey," August 25, 1999]


Mentoring
Campus Partners in Learning (CPIL), a mentoring program for youth and teens, found that youth in grades four to nine who are mentored by a caring adult exhibit improvements in self-esteem, perceived scholastic competence, and satisfaction with social skills. [Jones, Nolan & Brown, Rebecca. "The Value of Youth Mentoring Programs," National Governors Association, February 21, 1999]

nodrugs 3.  As well as supporting positive goals, afterschool programs can also lessen risky behaviors, such as drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, by providing young people with positive and healthy alternatives. The afterschool hours are the time that students are most likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and engage in other unsafe or dangerous behaviors. When these kids have a place to go that is staffed by caring adults, they are much less likely to engage in this kind of unhealthy behavior. The middle school years are a time when kids are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure. By simply giving these kids an alternative, afterschool programs can help steer them in healthier directions. (See the NIOST fact sheet [http://www.niost.org/] and Safe and Smart: [http://www.ed.gov/pubs/afterschool/afterschool.pdf])

Drop In Juvenile Crime
Highland Park, Michigan reported a 40 percent drop in juvenile crime in the neighborhood surrounding the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program. [21st Century Community Learning Centers: Providing Quality Afterschool Learning Opportunities for America's Families. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, September, 2000]

Decrease in Risky Behavior
A national survey of 10th graders found that, in comparison to students who spent 5-19 hours weekly in school-sponsored activities, students who spent no time in these activities were 75 percent more likely to use tobacco or drugs, 37 percent more likely to become teen parents, and 50 percent more likely to be arrested. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Adolescent Time Use, Risky Behavior, and Outcomes: An Analysis of National Data." Washington, D.C.: Author, 1995]

graduateQuantum Opportunities
High school freshmen were randomly selected from welfare families in four cities to participate in The Quantum Opportunities afterschool and graduation incentives program. Boys left out of the program were six times more likely to be convicted of crime, and boys and girls left out were twice as likely to drop out of school and 50 percent more likely to have children before graduating. Kids in the afterschool program were twice as likely to continue their education beyond high school. [Taggart, R. Quantum Opportunities Program. Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America. Philadelphia, 1995]


Abstinence Program
In Plainview, Arkansas, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program implemented an abstinence program as part of their afterschool programming. This program has resulted in no pregnancies in their high school graduating class for the first time in years. In 1998, there were six pregnancies, in 1999 there were only three, and in 2000, there were no pregnancies at the high school. [21st Century Community Learning Centers: Providing Quality Afterschool Learning Opportunities for America's Families. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, September, 2000]

afterhours 4.  Afterschool programs may keep young people from committing crimes and from juvenile delinquency, and may prevent them from being the victim of violent crime. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the hours immediately after school dismissal are when young people are the most likely to commit or be victimized by serious criminal acts. [FBI, National Incident-Based Reporting System] In fact, the juvenile crime rate triples between 3:00 and 6:00 pm. Afterschool programs can offer a safe and enjoyable place for young people who might otherwise find themselves in dangerous and unsupervised situations. (See the NIOST fact sheet [http://www.niost.org/] and Safe and Smart: [http://www.ed.gov/pubs/afterschool/afterschool.pdf])

Drop In Risk of Children Becoming Victims
The Baltimore Police Department saw a 44 percent drop in the risk of children becoming victims of crime after opening an afterschool program in a high-crime area. A study of the Goodnow Police Athletic League (PAL) center in Northeast Baltimore, the first center to open in May 1995, also indicated that juvenile arrests dropped nearly 10 percent, the number of armed robberies dropped from 14 to 7, assaults with handguns were eliminated, and common assaults decreased from 32 to 20 [Baltimore Police Department Division of Planning and Research, Juvenile Victimizations Comparison for Goodnow PAL Center Area, Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Police Athletic League, 1998]


Improved Behavior
The behavior of students who regularly participate in Montgomery, Alabama's three Star Search afterschool programs is improving, even though discipline problems have increased for other students. Overall, there has been a 25 percent reduction in violence. [21st Century Community Learning Centers: Providing Quality Afterschool Learning Opportunities for America's Families. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, September, 2000]


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