The hours that children spend out of school are ripe with opportunity to explore, grow, create and learn in ways that the school day does not allow time and space to accomplish. From the earliest years, children learn by experience. When well implemented afterschool and summer programs provide both the time and space to allow for fruitful exploration and experience. High-quality, multi-faceted programming that supports a range of positive learning outcomes, including academic achievement, are more successful at increasing academic accomplishments than programs that focus their efforts solely on remedial skills.
Peter Gordon of Columbia University asserts that increasing access to supplementary education is a key to closing the achievement gap. According to Gordon, high achieving students have access to additional learning outside of the school day through exposure to the arts, travel, dance, scouting, tutoring, music, summer camp and other activities that contribute to the growth of the child. New findings indicate that students who participated in high-quality after school programs alone or in combination with other activities demonstrate significant gains in standardized math test scores when compared with classmates who were regularly unsupervised after school. In addition, children who participate in summer enrichment programs to a greater extent avoid the “summer slide.” The most promising long-term outcomes of all out of school time programs are those that show children gaining competency on a broad array of life-skills that are necessary for school success but are not measurable by exam scores.
The relationship between afterschool programs, schools, community organizations and parents form the foundation of a successful program. A number of studies have revealed favorable results in children’s academic achievement when positive relationships exist with the school. Programs with ongoing community partnerships also gain additional resources for programming as well as opportunities for youth to experience community service projects and skill enhancement, ensuring that young people stay engaged.
Ensuring the success of children remains a team effort, in a game that we cannot afford to lose.