Academic Effects of After-School Programs
The current emphasis on performance standards and testing has led schools to look to the after-school hours as time that can be spent developing children's academic skills (National Institute on Out-of-School Time, 2001). Previously, principals and teachers tended to focus on after-school programs as a means to provide supervision for children whose parents were employed during the before- and after-school hours. Research has substantiated educators' concerns that children who are unsupervised during the after-school hours can suffer an array of negative developmental outcomes, especially when those children come from high-risk circumstances.
Few children attend after-school programs. Fourteen percent of primary grade children attend formal after-school programs compared with 27% of children who are cared for by relatives or by family child care providers after school (Brimhall, Reaney, & West, 1999). Most families who need care for their elementary school children depend on a patchwork of programs, lessons, structured activities, and self-care each week. Although federal government and private foundation funding has increased recently for after-school programs, research indicates that there are not enough programs available to meet demand (Halpern, 1999; National Institute on Out-of-school Time, 2001). This Digest describes types of after-school programs and discusses recent research on who participates and the effects of participation on children's school performance.
Types of After-School Programs
After-school programs are sponsored and operated by for-profit businesses, community organizations, public schools, private schools, church groups, and by government agencies such as municipal park and recreation departments. More importantly, with respect to the impact of school-age programs on children's academic adjustment, after-school programs vary in terms of their philosophy, goals, and programming. Many programs continue a tradition of providing safe places for children to have fun. Such recreational programs tend to emphasize sports activities. Other programs focus on academics by providing tutoring in school subjects and by assisting with homework completion. Yet other programs center on enrichment, providing children with opportunities to develop skills and interests in activities such as dance, music, science, or arts and crafts. Some programs pursue multiple goals and offer an array of activities.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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