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Afterschool programs are a proven method of helping to improve a school's performance. Studies show that afterschool programs improve academic achievement, reduce grade retention and increase student attendance and interest in school. Across the country, afterschool is a key element in strategies to turn around under-performing schools. The superintendent of Philadelphia and the governor of Virginia have used afterschool to turn their schools around. Congress recognized the benefits of afterschool by mandating provision of extra learning opportunities in afterschool hours through the creation of the Title I Supplemental Educational Services program.
According to state departments of education, more than 7,000 schools in the United States are considered in need of improvement.1 Some characteristics of successful schools include high academic achievement, clear standards and evaluation processes, community involvement and students who are engaged in learning. Afterschool programs offer a chance to reinforce and supplement the curriculum by offering new and different opportunities for learning that further engage students in school. Community involvement frequently is built in, as many afterschool programs are partners with community- and faith-based organizations.
Of Principal Importance
Principals and superintendents acknowledge that afterschool plays an important role in turning around failing or under-performing schools.
Blue Ribbon Success
Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Schools program has honored schools that meet high academic standards or have shown significant improvement during the past five years. Studies show that afterschool programs help schools develop qualities necessary to win a Blue Ribbon designation, namely high student retention and graduation rates; challenging standards and curriculum; excellent teaching and an environment that strengthens teachers' skills and improvement; school, family and community partnerships; and good student performance on measures of achievement. In 2001, 264 schools were selected as Blue Ribbon Schools. What do many of them credit for their success? Afterschool programs.
1No Child Left Behind, Supplemental Services, "How many schools are in need of improvement?" 2002, available from www.nochildleftbehind.gov/parents/supplementalservices/index.html
2National Association of Elementary School Principals, Principals and After School Programs: A Survey of PreK-8 Principals, August 2001, available from www.naesp.org/afterschool/report.pdf.
3Paul G. Vallas, "Saving Public Schools," Civic Bulletin No. 16 (Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, March 1999), available from www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cb_16.htm.
4Stephen Terry, "With 'everything in place,' school wins Blue Ribbon," Dallas Morning News, 3 June, 2001.
5Shay K. McKinley, "2 schools in community earn national award," San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 December, 2001.
6Los Penasquitos Elementary School Web site, Student Achievement Section, SAT-9 Test Results: National Percentile Ranking, 2001, available from www.pusd.info/pusdlpes/Sachievement.htm.
7McKinley, San Diego Union-Tribune.
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