- Two new RAND Corporation publications emphasize the role of out-of-school time programs, such as summer learning and after-school programs, in contributing to students’ academic success.
The first focuses on the efforts of school districts in Dallas, Pittsburgh and Rochester to connect summer learning programs to broader district priorities and operations as a way to sustain the programs, detailing strategies that include making sure all relevant district departments were involved in summer program planning and involving expert staff members in making use of district systems to support summer learning. Challenges included waiting to look at student data before deciding on the need for summer programs and making sure staff members didn’t see tasks related to summer learning as “add-ons.”
The second report reviews the benefits of out-of-school time programs, in light of the Trump administration’s earlier budget proposal to cut funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and the authors recommend that policymakers consider all the potential benefits of such programs when making funding decisions, that funders and program leaders provide incentives for programs to meet high standards, and that they better understand the type and quality of activities students are experiencing in the programs.
In recent years, attention has increased to the reality that the learning and enrichment experiences children and youth have outside of the classroom can affect their achievement just as much as what takes place in the classroom. This "opportunity gap" means that students growing up in lower-income homes often don’t have schools with the same resources or the chance to participate in lessons, activities, traveling and other knowledge-building experiences as those in more affluent homes.
In targeting summer and after-school programs to students who need the additional support, these two reports provide lessons for administrators on how to ensure summer and after-school programs are of high quality and are viewed as connected to the teaching and learning that occurs during the school day. This brief from the Afterschool Alliance provides examples of how to reach this alignment. One common practice tends to be to make sure that regular classroom teachers are involved in either planning or providing instruction during after-school or summer programs.