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Enriching Children's Out-of-School Time (page 2)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Mar 8, 2010

Academic Enrichment Programs

Increasingly, parents want after-school programs to provide homework help. O'Connor and McGuire (1998) caution, however, that a balance between remedial tasks and informal learning is needed to motivate and challenge children. After a full school day, children need time to blow off steam, have snacks, play with friends, and build consistent relationships with caring and competent adults. These hours provide not only a time to address the day-to-day needs of completing homework and practicing academic skills, but also an opportunity to develop talents and hobbies to enrich children's lives over the long term. LA's BEST--"Better Educated Students for Tomorrow"--takes the mandate of "balance" seriously. While the overall program goal is to increase educational achievement for 5,000 children in the Los Angeles Unified School District, many enrichment activities, involving computers, music, science fairs, camping, video productions, and field trips, are offered. A 1995 study by the UCLA Center for the Study of Evaluation found that children participating in LA's BEST showed more improvement in grades than children in a control group (Brooks, Mojia, & Land, 1995).

At a time when basic skills development, calls for academic excellence, and standardized testing are increasingly in the forefront of school reform, academic enrichment programs are increasing in number. Voyager, Sylvan Learning System's Mindsurfing USA, and EXPLORE are for-profit companies providing school districts with prepackaged, school-led or teacher-led curricula that can extend the school day for up to 3 hours. The military, the largest provider of out-of-school time programs, has also established homework centers as part of the mentoring, intervention, and support services provided to children and youth during parental work hours. The training of program staff and volunteers to implement these academic programs is key for their success. The BELL Foundation, which provides tutoring for low-income children, requires tutors to attend a 2-day orientation plus monthly training workshops (O'Connor & McGuire, 1998).

Funding

Enrichment programs are usually fee based and most accessible to middle- and upper-income families. The MOST (Making the Most of Out-of-School Time) Initiative, however, has demonstrated that community collaboration can increase options to extend out-of-school time opportunities to all children. The cities of Boston, Chicago, and Seattle have developed innovative funding strategies to support enrichment programs (Halpern, Spielberger, & Robb, 1998). For example, the Boston 2:00-to-6:00 Initiative supported new programs located in the public schools, leveraged over $3 million from public and private sources to help expand the number of children served, and worked with the Private Industry Council to create over 600 after-school jobs for high school students.

Tucson's Art WORKS, a summer job training program for at-risk teens, illustrates how the budgets of various public agencies may be redirected to support an arts program. A recent Art WORKS project aimed at improving public housing neighborhoods paid youth to design, construct, and install 100 mosaics on the exterior of a 34-unit apartment building, permanently replacing the graffiti that plagued the complex. The following funding streams support this program: Tucson Transportation Department, Community Development Block Grant, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Housing Rehabilitation Funds, Drug Prevention Funds, City of Tucson golf tax, School Title I funding and construction budgets, Pima County Parks and Recreation, Highway User Revenue Fund, and private corporations and foundations.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, funded through the U.S. Department of Education, enables schools to stay open longer; offers safe havens for children; and provides intensive tutoring in basic skills, drug and violence prevention, and counseling. The program also provides opportunities to participate in supervised recreation; chorus, band, and the arts; technology education; and programs and services for children and youth with disabilities. A private partnership through the MOTT Foundation supports and trains the staff of these programs (U.S. Department of Education & U.S. Department of Justice, 1998).

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