McClintock/Smith: Quality learning away from school carries significant weight, too - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

McClintock/Smith: Quality learning away from school carries significant weight, too

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Melanie McClintock is the executive director of the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence.

Jeffrey Smith, Ed.D., is superintendent of Balzs School District.

Posted: Saturday, March 24, 2012 9:47 am | Updated: 8:37 pm, Sat Jul 28, 2012.

The simple fact is: Young minds don’t stop learning after the school day ends.

This powerful premise drives our commitment to ensure that students across Arizona have access to a broad base of quality out-of-school time programs that align with and complement classroom learning.

That premise also provided the foundation for the first-ever comprehensive out-of-school time program survey to assess programming, location, access, and strengths and weaknesses of these vital teaching and learning opportunities in Maricopa and Pima counties.

The survey, “Young Minds Keep Learning Even After the School Day Ends,” was a partnership of the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence, Valley of the Sun United Way, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Research on out-of-school-time programs clearly indicates the benefits of quality, strategic programs on attendance, achievement, behavior and student engagement.

We also know the importance of afterschool youth development programs moving beyond simply providing a safe place to focus on specific outcomes critical to a young personal’s academic, social and emotional development.

For example, the Balsz Elementary School District, a five-school inner-city district serving nearly 2,900 mostly low-income students, extended the school year an extra month and included strong afterschool programming.

Teachers, administrators and parents in the district understand the critical value of having more time for teachers to teach and students to learn.

That value also is demonstrated, by a partnership with Social Venture Partners that supports afterschool math tutoring for Orangedale Junior High School students by Camelback High School students. These types of programs mean that hard-working parents don’t have to worry about what their kids are doing after school and strengthens their child’s connection to the school and the community.

The goal of Young Minds Keep Learning Even After the School Day Ends was to collect factual rather than anecdotal information about current programs in Maricopa and Pima counties.

More than 680 program managers and site coordinators responded to the 55-question online survey of programs that serve students before and after school, on weekends and during school and summer breaks.

The results were both revealing and anticipated, but in total offered an important framework to empower our children to become more engaged in their education to be better prepared for school, work and life.

Among the key overall findings of the survey:

• Nearly two-thirds of the programs (64 percent) operate during both the academic year and summer months.

• 76 percent of the programs chose “tutoring/academic enrichment” as their top activities followed by “arts and culture” (72 percent) and “sports and recreation” (66 percent).

• Public-school based afterschool programs are the most common type (64 percent) followed by community-based programs (25 percent) and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (16 percent).

• While many afterschool programs collaborate on some level with school and district staffs, 67 percent of respondents expressed a need to strengthen this area.

• Only 34 percent use a formal assessment tool to evaluate their program, 24 percent use informal assessments and 34 percent use parent surveys, which actually reflect more client satisfaction.

• 37 percent of the respondents cited “fees” as the biggest barrier to operating at full capacity. Those programs not charging fees cited “children lose interest” among the biggest barriers.

• While most programs provide snacks, only 36 percent offer breakfast and 6 percent offer dinner.

Ensuring the success of out-of-school-time programs is crucial for the future of our young people. The effort requires educators, businesses and parents to push to strengthen program quality and maximize youth participation.

Every child has the capacity to succeed, but as a community,we must set high expectations for our youth and prepare them academically and emotionally for the demands of a 21st century workforce.

We know that schools cannot do this work alone when most youth are only in class six hours a day, 180 days a year. But we also know that our children rely on our educators and leaders to provide them with the tools, the direction and the maturity to move on with their lives.

Young minds don’t stop learning at the end of the school day. Neither can our vision or our efforts.

To see the complete survey, visit www.azafterschool.org.

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