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Monday, 27 March 2017 09:06

The Trump administration is arguing that after-school programs aren’t working. What does the research show about these programs’ effectiveness?

I believe the difficulty may be in the federal evaluation of these programs. Virginia, like other funded states, requires programs that receive funding to report data into a nationwide program evaluation. When these types of national evaluations are completed, in an attempt to collect data that spans every program in every state, specificity is often lost.

For example, we expect that “students will improve” when they attend after-school and/or summer programing. Certainly, a student who only attends an after-school program one week out of the year is likely to not improve as much as one who attends every day.

Not all programs are run in schools. Thus, they have to rely on students to share grades with them. Not all states use the same grading scales. Every state comes up with its own end-of-year state-wide assessment tool; in Virginia, [it is] the Standards of Learning.

“For some students it is grades, for some it is attendance, self-esteem, team-work and having a safe place to belong.”

What we do know: Quality after-school programs do have positive impact on students’ lives. For some students it is grades, for some it is attendance, self-esteem, team-work and having a safe place to belong. Juvenile “crime time,” the three to four hours from the end of school to dinnertime, is a concern for most communities. According to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, juvenile violence peaks in the after-school hours on school days and in the evenings on non-school days.

Having a safe, pro-social, supervised place to be during these hours is a protective factor, especially for youth who live amid many other risk factors.

The school day is 5.5 hours; for full-time working parents, that means some form of out-of-school care is needed. At $5/hour for two kids, it’s easy to see that for those making $10/hour, this cost can be a huge burden that often results in “latch-key kids.” Knowing one’s child is safe, cared for, and homework assistance is provided is a huge assistance to many working parents.

Research has shown that while achievement during the school year for children in all socio-economic ranges is about equal, it is during the summer that gaps appear. Children in the lowest socio-economic bracket lose the most during the summer months, in what has been termed “summer slide.” Summer day-camp type of programming with 21st Century funding includes reading and math enrichment to off-set this “slide.” Studies have shown that students can lose two or more months of achievement in math and reading over a summer.

If funding for after-school programs is cut, what do think will happen as a result?

I believe we’ll see more spending on juvenile justice, both youthful victims and perpetrators; and I think that the achievement gap will continue to widen. 

While people discuss not wanting social-funding that simply gives “hand-outs,” this is truly offering “hand-up” type of funding, assisting working parents in enriching their children’s lives in pro-social and pro-achievement manner. I can think of fewer wise investments in public spending than in evidence-based out-of-school time programming.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 March 2017 09:14