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A researcher's view: 21st CCLC programs "play an invaluable role"

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A researcher's view: 21st CCLC programs "play an invaluable role"

Students and staff at a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program in Oakland, Calif.

Yesterday, the administration’s FY2020 budget proposed elimination of funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs.

Below is a blog by Corey Newhouse, founder and principal of Public Profit, a firm that has evaluated hundreds of afterschool programs, including 21st CCLC funded programs. We asked Corey to speak to what their work as independent evaluators of afterschool programs has found regarding the impact of 21st CCLC programs on the children and communities they serve.

I’m the founder and principal of Public Profit, a consulting firm that evaluates hundreds of school-based afterschool programs each year. We collect information about young people’s participation patterns, their experiences in afterschool, and their school performance.

The programs we evaluate are all publicly-funded afterschool programs that serve kids from low-income families. About a third receive 21st Community Learning Centers funding, the others receive similar grants from our state department of education. These are the programs that the president’s budget aims to cut entirely.

As independent evaluators of school-based afterschool programs, we’ve observed a few consistent patterns that show that 21st Century Community Learning Centers play an invaluable role in the neighborhoods they serve:

  • Afterschool keeps kids safe. At a time when children’s safety is headline news, we know afterschool plays a critical role. Our recent evaluation of the ExCEL afterschool programs in San Francisco found that more than nine in ten students knew an adult who cared about them in their program. And 98 percent of their parents reported that their child was safe while in the ExCEL program. In Oakland, a city struggling with violence in many communities, 78 percent of students in afterschool report feeling safe in their program.
  • Afterschool helps students to complete homework. Nearly all school-based afterschool programs provide homework help and completing homework is a key to earning good grades. Our study of the ExCEL programs found that 86 percent of students got help with their homework while in afterschool. And 77 percent of students said they are doing better in school because of their afterschool program.
  • Afterschool helps students who are learning English. We know that English Learners thrive when they have more time to practice speaking, reading and writing English. Our study of ExCEL programs found that students who are English Learners attend school and afterschool more often than their peers, offering more opportunities to master their new language.  In Richmond, California, English Learners who attended afterschool 100 or more days were substantially more likely to be re-designated as fluent in English, a key milestone.
  • Students in afterschool come to school more often. School day attendance is related to better grades, test scores, and high school graduation rates. Students who attend the school-based afterschool programs we evaluate attend school more often than their peers, and are much less likely to be chronically absent.
  • Parents and families value afterschool. In the communities we work with, the afterschool programs are full, and most have waiting lists. This shows that families need care for their kids in the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. Surveys show that parents value their child’s afterschool program: in Richmond, California, 98 percent of surveyed parents agree that afterschool helps them keep a job.

And while I could write many more blog posts about the ins-and-outs of afterschool programs – and Community Learning Centers programs in particular – the big ideas remain the same. High-quality afterschool keeps kids safe, helps them to succeed in school, and supports working families. That’s what every community wants for its kids and families, and what our public dollars should support.

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