Academics After-school Style
Many adults today consider the hours after school to be an opportunity for students to squeeze in a little more help with schoolwork. For most children, though, that final bell rings freedom. The last thing they want is more school, and faced with an after-school program that looks like an extension of their school day, they’ll opt out.
But while young people, especially in the upper grades, want freedom from the confines of formal schooling, they do like to learn and for the most part would rather do well in school than fail. How can we provide the after-school academic support young people need without making it seem like an extension of school? How can we establish programs that young people walk to rather than run away from?
Programs that actively consider young people’s growth across social, emotional, physical and academic arenas are more likely to feel different from the school day. Successful school-based after-school programs address young people as developing adults, not solely as students, by blending academics with youth development skills such as independence, time management, leadership, decision making, teamwork and communication. They are learner-centered, complement the school setting and engender support of school administrators.
After-school programs are ideal for more informal, experiential approaches to learning. Schedules are more flexible, groups are smaller and the atmosphere is more relaxed. Academic and developmental objectives merge in well-designed hands-on projects and program activities.
It is easy to blend academics with project-based activities such as sports, arts and music. But how do you blend the “soft stuff” that keeps kids coming—the teamwork, social skills, leadership opportunities—with clearly academic programs such as homework help or skills remediation? The School District of Philadelphia invited New Jersey-based Foundations Inc., to do just that in the city’s 38 lowest-performing high schools.
Two Foundations-designed programs illustrate this blended approach: a program for 9th graders failing English and/or math and a homework program. The programs demonstrate the importance of a true partnership in creating effective after-school opportunities for the community’s young people. Foundations develops the school-based programs, provides professional development and supporting program manuals, provides student materials and manages operations. The schools recruit, hire and pay the teachers for their work in the program as well as for associated professional development time.
Before the launch, Foundations staff members meet with each school principal to coordinate operations. The principal typically designates an assistant principal as point person. Foundations site coordinators conduct a training session with all teachers and administrators, then visit and observe programs weekly or bi-weekly as needed to provide feedback and operational support.
On the Subject
Reprinted with the permission of the American Association of School Administrators. © AASA
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