The Case for Afterschool
What a Difference a Decade Makes
Ten years of national research confirms that well-implemented, high-quality afterschool programs promote healthy learning and development. Plus, continuous participation improves academic, social and emotional, and health and wellness outcomes. These evaluations also prompt discussions about how to improve school-age care in a global world.
Academically, participants demonstrate more positive attitudes, higher school-attendance rates and better achievement test scores than nonparticipants. Socially and emotionally, attendees experience less behavioral problems, depression and anxiety; improve communication skills; and feel more confident. They also tend to avoid drugs, alcohol and sexual activity.
Next year, about 50% of America’s children will battle obesity but they’re not alone: Out-of-school time teaches better food choices, increases physical activity, instills nutritional knowledge and reduces body fat.
Source: Issues and Opportunities in Out-of-School Time Evaluation, After School Programs in the 21st Century; Harvard Family Research Project
High-quality afterschool programs lead to positive development and baseline standards are needed so all sites can diagnose, improve and set priorities. Assessing and raising standards
• improves grades
• attracts youths and
• maximizes benefits for kids, relieves parents’ safety concerns and builds school partnerships to bridge achievement gaps.
Of 96 high-quality programs studied, their common features are
• enriching activities
• skill-building experiences
• relationship building
• strong managers, staff with different talents and support for line staff, and
• partner organizations’ support.
Safety, structure and supportive relationships are common settings at top-notch sites. Two ways of measuring quality include staff and program management practices, and communications with other organizations.
Source: Research-to-Policy Connections, The Quality of School-Age Child Care in After-School Settings; Columbia University and University of Michigan
Looking for Links
Parents make wishes, too, and 22 million K-12 kids have parents who want afterschool programs made available for their children. Beyond the 6.5 million students who benefit from afterschool programs nationally, nearly triple that amount – 19 million youths – would participate if their communities offered them.
Afterschool programs’ greatest benefits according to these parents are enjoyment, keeping safe, staying out of trouble, academic enrichment, improved social skills, and better health and fitness. An overwhelming 91% of parents feel very satisfied with their programs. However, supply falls short of demand and parents continue looking to their communities for help.
This survey is reportedly the most comprehensive conducted on America’s 57 million K-12 youth and their parents.
Source: America After 3 PM: A Household Survey on Afterschool in America; Afterschool Alliance
Pay Now or Later
California’s Three Strikes Law pales in comparison to afterschool programs when it comes to preventing serious crime: School-age care is five times better at deterring crime. In addition, for every $1 invested in out-of-school time, program participants and the public benefit $3.04, and funding these expanded learning opportunities saves lives and tax dollars.
Afterschool programs reduce juvenile murder, rape, robbery and assault during the 3-6 p.m. peak on school days. This is also the prime time for gang-related violence and when youths are most likely to become victims of crime and car crashes, experiment with drugs, have sexual intercourse and get pregnant. Americans face a choice: Pay for afterschool programs now or victims of crime later.
Source: America’s After-School Choice: The Prime Time for Juvenile Crime, or Youth Enrichment and Achievement; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids
Let’s Get Physical
Physically active students with healthy weight-control behaviors often earn the highest grades while their classmates who don’t get physical at least three days a week and who practice unhealthy weight-control habits get the most D’s and F’s. Adverse weight-control behaviors include fasting for 24 or more hours and consuming diet substances to manage weight.
Besides working up a sweat for at least 20 minutes, students who received the highest passing grades were most likely to play on a sports team, and spend less than three hours watching TV and playing video games on school days. Whether failing grades lead to inactivity and harmful weight-control behavior or vice versa is still unknown.
Source: Physical Inactivity & Unhealthy Weight Control Behaviors and Academic Achievement; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Afterschool Offers Solutions to CA Education Challenges
About one in four high school students drop out in California. Seeking a solution, 66% of Californians favor providing mentors, counselors and social workers, even if it cost more.
The next top challenges were student achievement and teacher quality. California’s fourth through eighth grades rank near the bottom nationally in reading and math scores. And almost 50% of parents lack great confidence in schools’ resources.
Among concerns needing the most improvement are discipline, values, safety, gangs, drugs, health and parental involvement.
Source: Californians & Education; Public Policy Institute of California
Better than the Rest
Enjoying the great outdoors is the ideal that 98% of parents have for their 5- to 15-year-old kids during the summer. They consider it most important for this age group, which numbers 6 million-plus in California. Parents’ satisfaction with existing summertime programs in the Golden State rates 64% and eclipses other parents’ approval rates of programs across the nation, which is only 50%.
Still, there’s enough parental worry to last year-round. Their biggest concerns are affording summer activities (7 in 10 parents); children falling behind in academics (57%); and boredom (54%). Interestingly, finding child care during these off months is not a big concern statewide.
Source: Just the Facts, California Youth and Summer Activities; Public Policy Institute of California