Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995
A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
ASPIRA After-School And Summer Programs And Clubs
ASPIRA Association, Inc.
- Cultural focus
- Emphasis on math, science, and leadership skills
ASPIRA Association, Inc., is a national organization that promotes education and leadership development for Hispanic youth. More than 13,000 students nationally are involved in ASPIRA through after-school and summer programs or clubs. Programs address local needs, including school dropout and teen pregnancy prevention, leadership development, and AIDS awareness. Activities include leadership clubs, counseling services, and tutoring programs in science and mathematics. Because ASPIRA students may be the first in their families to attend college, the program focuses on introducing students to various professions and postsecondary opportunities.
ASPIRA has a national technical assistance office that monitors federal policies, conducts research on the needs of Hispanic youth, and advocates on their behalf. Independent but affiliated state offices are located in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico. ASPIRA's Chicago program, begun in 1968 and profiled below, provides after-school and summer programs at three schools, targeting math and science education for middle school students. This program's goal is to connect students with enriching academic and social opportunities.
All schools with ASPIRA programs have a high concentration of Hispanic students and are located in disadvantaged communities; in Illinois, ASPIRA programs are located at schools where at least 20 percent of the students are Hispanic. Most ASPIRA students are in middle school, high school, or college. After-school programs and summer technology institutes for grades 4-12 are in place in Chicago; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Dade County, Florida.
The Illinois chapter of ASPIRA works closely with Chicago public schools to involve about 780 students in leadership development and community activities. Three schools offer an after-school program in math and science for 120 students, and 600 students in Chicago Public Schools and surrounding districts participate in ASPIRA clubs. ASPIRA also organizes a six-week summer program with fall semester follow-up. More than 80 percent of these students come from families living below the poverty level, and they often are identified by teachers as being academically at risk. Many have limited English proficiency. The ASPIRA programs seek to improve academic achievement and interest in school by introducing students to exciting math, science, and technology topics.
Major Program Features
- Planning and design. ASPIRA was founded in 1961 in New York City by parents, educators, and community leaders trying to address the high dropout rate among Hispanic high school students. In 1968, the Illinois chapter received startup funds from the New York ASPIRA for a program targeting high school students. Because ASPIRA leaders believed that students should receive intervention at an earlier age, they joined ACCESS 2000, a consortium of higher education institutes in Chicago trying to increase the number of minority and disadvantaged students entering math and science professions. As a result of this collaboration, in 1990 ASPIRA established after-school math and science tutoring programs in three public schools and a summer institute for middle school students. Most ASPIRA students are selected on the basis of teacher recommendations, with an effort to ensure a combination of highly motivated students and those considered at risk for dropping out.
- Academic focus. The Illinois after-school math and science programs begin in the fourth grade. Students at each of the three Chicago schools that house ASPIRA Learning Centers work with one or two teachers for one-and-a-half hours, two or three days a week, during the school year. ASPIRA teachers use a Family Math and Science Program curriculum, developed by ASPIRA Illinois and other local groups through the ACCESS 2000 consortium. Students work alone and in groups; up to 10 students may receive individual tutoring and attention for up to four additional hours each week. Teachers follow the school curriculum, selecting hands-on activities that augment what students are currently learning. For example, students at one ASPIRA school constructed robots to learn about math and science in a hands-on, integrated manner; math and science classes have taken field trips to local museums and an aquarium.
Through ASPIRA clubs that meet at the schools at least once a week, before or after school, middle and high school students explore the contributions of Latinos to U.S. culture with the goal of increasing self-esteem, building leadership skills, and developing a commitment to community empowerment. One club "adopted" an orphanage, and students provided tutoring and recreational activities throughout the year; another club held a conference on the local political process. Each ASPIRA chapter also has a resource center, funded through collaboration with Educational Testing Service, that provides information on college entrance test preparation. Delegates from each club meet weekly at the Chicago ASPIRA office for discussion and guidance.
- Organizational management/structure. ASPIRA's national organization provides technical assistance to six state offices. The entire association consists of 225 staff members and many volunteers. Each school with ASPIRA activities has an ASPIRA counselor and a student leadership club serving between 25 and 200 students. The state offices develop, coordinate, and implement programs. In Chicago, teachers in the schools with tutoring and enrichment programs receive stipends, as do some who advise the clubs; other teachers are volunteers. ASPIRA also provides staff to supervise the after-school clubs. Former ASPIRA students who are successful in high school may become tutors for the after-school programs.
- Parent and community involvement. ASPIRA emphasizes family and community involvement in all of its programs. In Chicago, school staff work with students and parents to identify academic and personal goals and to provide the support necessary to achieve these goals. After-school social activities play an important role in developing a trusting relationship between parents and teachers. Parents often accompany teachers to workshops and conferences and then report back to other parents. In addition, each of the ASPIRA clubs selects a community issue to address through its activities each year. For 30 students at high risk of school failure, Chicago ASPIRA has implemented TOPS--Teachers, Organizations, and Parents for Students. The students and their parents, teachers, and counselors sign contracts that address behavior modification through individual goals. For example, a student may aim to raise a "D" grade in mathematics to a "C." Each group meets biweekly to monitor improvement in grades, behavior, attendance, and communication between home and school and between parents and students.
Chicago ASPIRA also runs APEX, a training program in which parents attend eight two-hour workshops to learn advocacy skills. The goal is to create a network of parents who are actively involved in their children's education and in school decision making. Some parent trainers receive a stipend of $30 for every workshop they hold that is attended by five or more parents. As a result of this training, 10 ASPIRA parents have been elected to school boards and other planning groups.
- Professional environment. Chicago's ASPIRA program emphasizes training for elementary and middle school teachers in using a hands-on approach to science to make it relevant to students. This staff development extends beyond the three schools involved in tutoring and enrichment programs to about 10 public schools, which pay to have their teachers participate in staff development activities. Teachers who participate in ASPIRA's training sessions must agree to provide staff development for other teachers at their schools. Teachers earn continuing education credits for attending the workshops.
Some teachers are involved with the summer enrichment program, which also draws on the expertise of college faculty from the ACCESS 2000 consortium. DePaul University in Chicago has provided ASPIRA with professional expertise in training school faculty and has worked with some ASPIRA parents. DePaul faculty are assembling a hands-on math and science curriculum, using existing resources and curricula, that ASPIRA plans to use in the after-school and summer programs.
- Funding. Because of the high demand for ASPIRA services, ASPIRA requires school districts to provide some funding unless grants are available. In Chicago, funding comes from: the national organization; locally secured federal grants from National Talent Search ($210,000 in 1993-94), the U.S. Public Health Service ($34,000), and the National Science Foundation; and the schools themselves. ASPIRA estimates that a math and science program for 40 students costs approximately $45,000 a year, including class time, individual instruction, parent and community contacts, and other activities. Schools may be asked to provide all or some of the funding. School contributions include space, supplies, and teachers, whom ASPIRA will train to implement instruction. A club costs about $50,000 a year for 50 children; funding strategies are similar to those for ASPIRA Learning Centers. Schools may work together to raise the necessary funds and sponsor joint programs.
- Cultural inclusiveness. Many activities provided by ASPIRA clubs emphasize cultural awareness. In addition, the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) plans to conduct a one-day workshop in Chicago during its national conference, which ASPIRA teachers may attend. The workshop addresses incorporating cultural aspects into the teaching of science to make it more relevant to minority students. Teachers will receive continuing education credit.
- Assessment and accountability. Northwestern University is developing an evaluation component for Chicago ASPIRA's after-school and summer programs. This longitudinal study will monitor student grades, academic progress, high school dropout rates, and postsecondary education rates. ASPIRA also plans to evaluate its parent involvement program in Florida and Puerto Rico, both of which are federally funded sites.
Several ASPIRA leaders cited student mobility as a problem, because staff members make deep commitments to students who then leave the school. Teacher mobility can also be a problem; one school has had four ASPIRA teacher sponsors in as many years. Stimulating parent involvement was a problem during the program's early stages. Many schools send letters to identified students' parents at the beginning of the year requesting that their children participate in ASPIRA; those who return the letters join the program. Word-of-mouth communication among parents whose children have participated also attracts new participants. Some ASPIRA programs have waiting lists.
As one program leader noted, "It is very important to enlist the full support and cooperation of principals and teachers--to get them out of their little boxes and think[ing] creatively." The schools and the ASPIRA organization must become full partners, which includes a financial commitment by the school. In sites where obtaining this level of commitment was difficult, it was frequently because teachers did not fully understand their role under ASPIRA--which is to cultivate leadership among students, rather than to lead students themselves. In these cases, ASPIRA staff returned to the schools to reinforce the importance of teacher involvement and the significance of the teacher sponsors as facilitators, not leaders.
Evidence of Success
Although there has been no systematic, national evaluation of ASPIRA programs, all of the new federally funded programs have an evaluation component built into their implementation plans. In Chicago, the program established a computerized information collection network in early 1994; these findings were available:2
In 1992-93, ASPIRA of Illinois served 1,112 students; 907 stayed in school. Approximately 350 parents and 420 volunteers were involved in the program. There were at least 22 ASPIRA clubs, involving 410 students. Of 410 high school seniors who participated in ASPIRA, 312 were accepted into postsecondary institutions. Twenty-four ASPIRA students graduated from the alternative high school.
In addition, the national ASPIRA headquarters has collected evaluation data showing that 90 percent of ASPIRA participants continue their education in college or postsecondary programs such as technical training, compared with a national average of 45 percent for Hispanic students in general.
2 Some of these statistics on participation are lower than those cited earlier, which are 1993-94 data. Data from 1992-93 have been used to show evidence of success because that school year is the most recent one for which complete figures are available.
[Using Time in New and Better Ways]
[Title I Summer Program For Private School Children]