Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 1 Summary of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

A Willingness To Resolve Or Work Around Obstacles

Extended-time programs for disadvantaged students face many challenges to planning and implementation, including problems with attendance, transportation, staffing, and safety during non-school hours. Many programs have found ways to resolve these problems. In some cases, the very elements that made a program successful--such as active community involvement or administrative partnerships between schools and community agencies or private educational organizations--engendered additional challenges and innovative solutions.

The key to successful implementation is flexibility and continual planning, according to one project director: "While other after-school programs figure out what works and then do it over and over, we keep looking for new projects and new materials to keep students interested. We follow their lead as to what they want to explore."

Building and Maintaining Attendance

Attendance could be a problem for voluntary, academically oriented programs that extend learning time, especially for students who lack transportation or face pressure to find after-school employment. However, none of the programs reported serious difficulties with student attendance. In fact, several programs--including Kids Crew, the Educational Program for Homeless Children and Youth, and Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement--reported difficulty in keeping up with demand. These programs attracted students by offering hands-on activities, enriched learning, flexible timeframes, and other incentives.

Hands-on enrichment activities complement the instruction students receive during the regular school day. These activities emphasize meaning and understanding, which research demonstrates is highly effective for inculcating advanced and basic skills, and engage children more extensively in academic learning.

Another key to maintaining good attendance is flexibility and creativity in handling time conflicts with other activities in which students participate. Some extended-time programs provide students with opportunities to enroll in other extracurricular or academic programs that may occur outside of the regular school day, such as competitive sports or theater productions; others make allowances for the financial and family needs of disadvantaged students. For example:

Several programs described here also rely on more traditional incentives to entice students to attend. Volunteers for Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement make more than 400 phone calls each week to maintain contact with tutors and tutees. The Summer Enhancement Program offers pizza parties and ice cream on Fridays for classes with perfect attendance.

Providing Transportation

Transportation can be a barrier to attendance in extended-time programs because disadvantaged students often lack cars, cannot afford public transportation, or live in remote areas. To solve this problem, many extended-time programs are either located within walking distance of most participants, or the program provides bus transportation, often at significant cost. Also, some districts help cover transportation costs. For example, participants in the Program for Homeless Children and Youth in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, receive transportation from a local agency serving troubled families. In other cases (such as the TAP Summer Youth Employment Program), students receive passes to use public transportation to and from the extended-time program sites.

Securing Staffing

The staffing concerns of extended-time programs revolve around two issues: Are there enough qualified staff, and will they stay motivated? One answer to both of these questions appears to be the fairly common and sometimes extensive use of volunteers as managers or instructional staff. Volunteer staff usually offer their services because they believe in--and are willing to devote their time and energies to--the goals of a particular program.

However, most extended-time programs need to pay some staff to oversee the program. For example, Omaha Housing Authority staff coordinate the after-school study centers, which otherwise rely completely on volunteer tutors. Even if funds, supplemented by volunteers, can provide adequate staffing, however, extended-time programs still must grapple with preventing burnout among staff who have other, usually full-time responsibilities during the regular school day, week, or year. Possible solutions include:

Ensuring Safety

Whether programs are located in cities, suburbs, small towns, or isolated, rural areas, students must be safe traveling to and from extended-time programs. Often, when participants walk or use public transportation, extended-time program staff maintain contact with parents or guardians to make sure that students do not need to take public transportation alone or after dusk. For example, staff of the Kids Crew program pair students who live close to each other and arrange for older students to walk younger participants home. Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement avoids the night-time safety problem entirely by scheduling its activities on Saturdays.

Additional Challenges Faced by Partnership Programs

Extended-time programs run by or in partnership with community organizations or private educational organizations illustrate additional challenges and solutions. Planners of the programs described here noted problems with coordinating regular school staff, establishing accountability, and dealing with the special needs of at-risk populations.