This year’s plenary session at the Afterschool for All Challenge highlighted some of the most compelling research that finds that afterschool programs improve attendance, student behavior, graduation rates and more.
Afterschool Works: Understanding the Evidence & Transforming Research into Action drew attention to the following recent findings:
After introducing the research, Afterschool Alliance Board Chairman Terry Peterson moderated a panel discussion with Joe Davis, Florida Afterschool Network; Carol McElvain, American Institutes for Research; and Richard Tagle, Higher Achievement. Each of the panelists shared their first-hand experiences with program evaluation and data collection and pointed out how afterschool providers should use data to support the compelling stories of their programs.
During the discussion, the experts analyzed the components of quality programs, the importance of continuous improvement and the necessary steps to take afterschool to the next level.
McElvain emphasized the benefits of sustaining program attendance. She called it one of the key factors in determining student interest and said that good attendance leads to other benefits as well.
Davis called afterschool “the missing link toward students gaining academic achievement.” He emphasized educating decision-makers on the successes of afterschool and the importance of intentional programming that complements but does not replicate the school day.
“Don’t be afraid of evaluations,” but embrace them, was the advice from Tagle. He emphasized that negative evaluation findings can be helpful in bringing a board and staff together and in dictating how to change a program to make it more successful.
Eric Gurna, executive director of Development Without Limits and host and producer of the podcast Please Speak Freely, responded to the panel’s remarks with his take on the educational climate in the United States. Gurna’s comments focused on the dangers of high-stakes standardized testing and the value of the multiple benefits afterschool programs provide. Gurna taped the plenary session for a future podcast.
The plenary session kicked off with an extended trailer for the acclaimed documentary Brooklyn Castle. After the trailer, the film’s producer, Katie Dellamaggiore, encouraged afterschool providers to use the documentary in their own advocacy to show that afterschool programs are a valuable tool and a key to success.
This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 13, Issue 5).
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