Out-of-School Time Programs are at their best when they are linked with the school-day as this best supports youth academic achievement and social-emotional learning. The activities and program offerings should complement school-day lessons and concepts. However, not replicating the school day is a careful balancing act that requires coordination with the school, while keeping the unique essence of out-of-school. Youth academic and social growth is bolstered by the fun, hands-on and relational learning that is the hallmark of OST programming.

Program Content
  • Offer programming that complements, but does not duplicate learning: Students are tired by the end of the school day. Motivating youth to voluntarily participate in academic learning practically requires them to not realize that is what is occurring. OST’s informal yet innovative educational practices encourages engaged participation.
  • Understand the schools’ culture, vision, and goals: Your OST program will have its own culture, vision, and goals. However, understanding those components as they relate to the school, will better help you to determine where you can create synergy between the two. For example, a school may have a strong PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) program that you can carry through to your program. Or perhaps, your OST program has a strong service-learning component that can work in conjunction with the school’s culture.
  • Programming that directly related to curriculum: Consider Virginia State level standards and county-level curriculum while developing programming. This will strengthen the ties between program goals and school learning objectives thereby resulting in a seamless transition in learning. Information on The Standards of Learning Tests (SOL) including the curriculum frameworks for English, Mathematics, Science, and History/Social Science, and enhanced scope and sequence guides, can be found on the Virginia Department of Education’s website.
  • Programming that supports learning: One of the biggest assets of OST programs are the freedom to support soft-skills for success. For example, during the SOL’s a programs could offer stress-reducing activities such as mental health-related programming or short physical activity breaks, to help students to not be overwhelmed by testing. In this way, programing supports the testing but is certainly not more testing and is fun. Another idea would be to help students with organizational skills such as preparing for school the night prior, using agendas or planners, cleaning out their binders, etc.
  • Using School Data: Use the school data available to you, such as grades and test scores, to inform which students you should target. For example, students not passing Math or Science SOLs could benefit from a fun STEM program.
  • VA Profile of a Graduate: The Virginia Board of Education has recently developed The Profile of a Virginia Graduate, a framework for diploma standards to ensure that high school graduates are prepared for success in life after high school. The Profile of a Virginia Graduate becomes effective with first-time ninth graders in the fall of the 2018-2019 school year or the graduating class of 2022. This framework describes the knowledge, skills, experiences, and attributes that students must attain to be successful in college and/or the workforce and to be “life-ready” in an economy and a world characterized by rapid change. The board has determined that a life-ready Virginia graduate must:

Achieve and apply appropriate academic and technical knowledge (content knowledge);

Demonstrate productive workplace skills, qualities, and behaviors (workplace skills);

Build connections and value interactions with others as a responsible and responsive citizen (community engagement and civic responsibility); and

Align knowledge, skills and personal interests with career opportunities (career exploration).

With this framework, there is flexibility among counties to define what the profile looks like, as it certainly will vary by different parts of the state. The elements of the profile, along with its adaptability makes for a natural pairing to OST programming in many facets.  Expanded Learning opportunities supports the content knowledge characteristic. A direct line can be drawn from OST college and career readiness to the profile characteristic of workplace skills and career exploration. Just as the same direct line can be drawn from the community engagement and civic responsibility to service learning in OST.

  • Programing that supports special populations: Work with school staff to ensure that you are making appropriate accommodations for specialized student populations such as English Language Learners or Special Education students. When appropriate, attend 504 and IEP meetings. To support special populations through program offerings you include activities that are accessible or tailored to various populations. Likewise, offer programing that allows integration of various student populations that otherwise are isolated from one another. Team up with Special Education or ESOL educators to provide informational meetings to OST program staff. This is also a great place to utilize community partnerships that can address specific needs of students.
Communicating with School Staff
  • Communication and Working with School Staff: Teachers and counselors are can provide recommendations on which students could benefit from OST programming. Specifically, unlike school data, they can clue you into the more nuanced ways that students need support. For example, counselors could refer students struggling with social-emotional issues for character development or mentoring program. It can help to frame your communications to school staff that such that your program is a valuable resource to help them address student issues. Lastly, make sure to collaborate with teachers on OST curriculum.
  • Gain Support of School Leadership: The support of a school principal and other members of school leadership is a critical component of successfully linking with the school day. School leadership sets the tone for teachers and other school staff, as well as with the students at the school. If the school’s leadership is supportive and finds value in your OST program, then they will be reinforcing meaningful participation. They can provide insight as to how to marry the vision of the school-day and OST program. Furthermore, they can grant access to a wealth of resources, including school space, supplies, and equipment, the opportunity to be a part of key meetings and to network with educational leaders.
  • Be your own Advocate: When communicating with school staff, teachers and leadership, don’t be afraid to ask for a seat at the table of important meetings or committees, such as staff meetings or student conferences.
  • Share Data and Success Stories: Use your data to highlight the positive impact of OST programming. Share success stories with school staff to further foster support and investment. For example, students that regularly attended afterschool were X % more likely to see improvement in SOL scores. If possible, get teachers, parents, and students to speak out support for your program or share positive praise you receive.
  • Keep them Informed: Share current events in school staff meetings, newsletters, blogs and more. The school staff that are informed are more likely to be invested.
  • Invite School Staff to your program: Invite school staff to observe or participate in programming. It can be as simple as getting them to participate along-side of students in fun activities like playing sports or singing karaoke. This is a teacher favorite because it allows them to build a positive rapport with students where they aren’t in the role of the authority figure. For OST staff, it gets school staff involved and further devotes school staff.