A needs assessment of a specific population provides a solid foundation for planning an effective extended-time program. As a summer program in Tallahassee, Florida, found, a thorough needs assessment requires the concerted efforts of local school staff:
The Summer Institute for At-risk Migrant Students evolved from a 1985 pilot project in a single Florida county. A needs assessment indicated that a majority of migrant high school students lacked credits needed for graduation and were missing as much as one third of the school year. When the program expanded statewide in 1986, it sought to provide at-risk migrant students with the chance to: earn academic credits toward promotion and/or graduation; receive extra help in reading, math, and other academic areas; develop study and life management skills; and improve self-esteem. Recognizing that migrant students have differing needs, the program targeted specific grade ranges and goals. Each student meets with a guidance counselor to set short-range goals, such as obtaining a specific course credit, and long-range goals, such as planning for college or a vocational program. Teachers may prepare five or six lesson plans each day to meet their students' varying needs. Each student's home school district provides an instruction plan along with the student's application to the program, and institute staff follow these plans closely.
In addition to a formal needs assessment, extended-time programs may evolve from strongly voiced local concerns that define the education problems and identify appropriate goals. For example, planners of a summer youth employment program in Roanoke, Virginia, added a classroom academic component when local employers made it clear that they would not offer job training to students who lacked sufficient academic skills to communicate effectively with others in the workplace.
Clearly established needs and goals may also rest on broad-based educational research findings that apply to a local population with similar demographics. Extended-time programs based on this type of needs assessment include ASPIRA's after-school programs in Chicago and Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement in Silver Spring, Maryland--both of which address the academic and social problems faced by many Hispanic students across the nation. The Association of Junior Leagues International's Teen Outreach Program in Sonora, California, addresses nationwide problems with school dropout and teen pregnancy by teaching problem-solving and decision-making skills as well as providing youth with meaningful community service experiences.
Determining the best time to offer extended-learning opportunities requires careful examination of the needs of the population served and the resources available. School-based programs often are limited to operating during those times when custodial or security staff are normally present--between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., for example. Extended-time programs offered at non-school sites may have greater flexibility in scheduling than do school-based programs; the Brooklyn Children's Museum, for example, offers students several choices of times they may attend. On the other hand, school-based programs usually have immediate access to varied school materials and facilities, although program planners may need to look beyond the schools for resources.
Participants or their parents or guardians in the Omaha Housing Authority's after-school study centers, the TAP summer youth employment program in Roanoke, and the Yuk Yau Child Development Center in Oakland also have some choice regarding the length of their participation in each session. The housing development's study centers are open from 4:30 to 7 p.m., two days each week, and students may come for all or only a portion of that time. The TAP summer youth employment program varies the academic portion of students' days by up to five hours a week, depending on students' needs and job schedules. The Yuk Yau center stays open approximately 10 hours a day, and school-age students can participate before or after school--or both.
The cost of instruction per student hour is a more accurate comparison across programs than the per-pupil expenditure. Among those programs that incurred monetary costs and for which accurate cost data were available, the cost per student hour of instruction was no more than $12. Many programs that operate without a defined budget rely on extensive volunteer efforts of school or sponsoring agency staff and community members, or on contributions of equipment--such as computers and software--from local business and philanthropic organizations.