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Answers About the City’s After-School Programs

Resource type: News

The New York Times - City Room blog | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

By The New York Times

Following is the first set of answers from Lucy N. Friedman, the president of a nonprofit organization that provides children with after-school programs.

We are no longer accepting questions on this feature.

With all that is offered to kids in this City, why do they fail and drop out at such alarmingly high rates? Who pays for your company’s services? What does it cost per child? Do you coordinate with teachers regarding children who need extra help?

— Posted by Lyle Vos

I can’t address all the reasons why kids fail, but I can point you to a growing body of evidence that shows that when kids attend high-quality after-school programs, they improve their work habits, their attitudes toward school, their attendance and academic achievement. You can find one summary of the research here. [pdf]

Middle-class families know their kids benefit by getting involved in music and debate teams and all that goes into a broad education. Kids discover their passions and talents, and they make the connection between hard work and moving on to college and careers. That’s why middle-class parents pay for those experiences, and well-financed suburban schools offer them.

Of course all families want those opportunities for their kids, but there’s a pattern of what the Harvard Family Research Project calls “winners” and “losers” in after-school availability. Kids whose families have higher incomes participate in more after-school activities, and with greater frequency. They sample a greater variety of programs and are more likely to participant in “enrichments” like music and art, while less-affluent kids are being tutored. Read the full report here. [pdf]

About TASC: We’re a nonprofit, not a company selling services. We help create partnerships between New York City public schools and community organizations that operate programs inside those schools. Then we support the programs by training their leaders and staff, offering high-quality curriculum and developing new models for achieving program quality.

It costs about $1,600 to $1,700 for an elementary or middle school kid to attend an after-school program that meets every school day for three hours a day and offers academic support and enrichments such as arts and sports. (The cost is closer to $2,000 for high school students.)

In each school, the after-school staff works closely with the principals and the school-day staff to create the after-school curriculum and direct help to students who most need it. In the best programs, the school-day and after-school staff members are true partners.

What is on your education/child care policy wish list for President-elect Barack Obama?

— Posted by Jonathan L.

As it happens, my colleagues from Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Providence, the District of Columbia, the Bay Area and Palm Beach County — all partners in the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems — were here in the TASC office today. So I put this question to them. Without trying to make official CBASS policy, here is what I heard:

President Obama needs to invest in the success of high school-age kids, and to have a strategy that crosses the different government agencies that preside over education, health and labor. The millions of kids who are not finishing high school — and the millions more who make it to community and four-year colleges, but never earn a degree — need to be with adults who can help them through all facets of their development: social and emotional health and resiliency, readiness to join the work force and academic success. There needs to be one agenda for their success, not separate agendas for schools and all the other organizations in their communities.

Frankly, the after-school field is further along in developing effective programs for younger kids than teens. There are many promising models, but President-elect Obama could provide a push toward greater success and accountability by persuading some of his backers to invest private funds in innovative initiatives.

Another small thing: in a country with a goal of full employment, we have yet to figure out how to provide for kids when all adults in the house are working. And kids need safe places in summer, too, not just after school. As a start, we hope Mr. Obama will keep his commitment to double financing for the main federal support for after-school programs, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and to continue the work he began in the Senate to expand summer learning.

We need his leadership to reach the day when after-school programs are woven into the fabric of school and community life so parents can depend on programs to be there year after year.

What are factors that determine a “quality” after-school program? How do you balance the decide of support a program that has the capacity to impact tens versus hundreds of children?

— Posted by Farren

Quality after-school programs are not baby-sitting services, where someone opens up the gym door and lets all the kids play. Programs should have full-time directors, varied activities and planned curriculums where kids can work to complete projects or achieve goals. The staff should be well trained, and we think it’s a good idea to mix teachers with community members including parents, specialists like artists or martial arts instructors, and college and high school students (there is even research that says younger kids benefit more often when programs employ these young role models).

As for numbers, you’re getting to the reason TASC was founded 10 years ago. George Soros, who got us started through the Open Society Institute, wanted to achieve social justice by reaching large numbers of kids who otherwise went home and watched TV or hung out on the streets. So our goal has been to develop a model that serves hundreds of kids within each school and opens enrollment to all. The common thinking is that you have to give up on quality to achieve quantity. Not so. When you serve large numbers you achieve economies of scale, you develop a bit of clout and you get access to opportunities tiny programs miss out on, such as partnerships with great cultural institutions.

When you consider that about six million kids in New York State need after-school programs, it’s unconscionable not to try for both quality and quantity.

Is there a clearinghouse of information about after school programs, enrichment courses, and best practices in the after school realm?

I coordinate after school enrichment courses at Public School 372 in Brooklyn, K-5. Could you help establish an interactive online site?

— Posted by Henry C. Linhart

Is there one central source with all the information you seek? Not one that I know. But bear with me as I offer many places to begin.

If you want to find all after-school programs in your community, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, which administers the city’s network of Out-of-School Time programs, hosts a clearinghouse.

You should join the New York State Afterschool Network, and take advantage of the free tool Nysan developed and so you and your staff can assess where you’re doing well, and where you could improve the quality of your program.

Try the National Center for Quality Afterschool at SEDL to find resources on best practices and guides to quality after-school curriculum in topics including literacy and math. If you’ve got the time to peruse the research and papers on what works, try the National Institute on Out-of-School Time.

TASC has lately put great effort into convincing principals, community leaders and others who run programs that after-school is the perfect place to get kids elbow deep in science inquiry and technology projects. Yes, we know many after-school staff members worry that they lack the science know-how to lead activities, but it’s not true. With great training, we’ve seen them succeed terrifically with highly enthusiastic kids. I urge you to find good curriculum through the Coalition for Science After School.
And here is a tiny sampling of after-school curriculum we love and make available to the programs we support: AfterSchool Kidzlit, AfterSchool Kidzmath, After-School Science Plus and the Comic Book Project.

You can find grants and other financing ideas on our Web site.

You’re suggesting an interactive site where after-school professionals can discuss what works? Great idea. I’ll work on it.

As a senior in college, I am seriously considering the Peace Corps for my next learning experience. How has your experience in the Peace Corps made a significant impact on your ability to positively connect with and educate American young people?

— Posted by Dave Weinreb

I love this question. People who have gone to the Peace Corps, Vista, or other “service projects” will tell you that when you serve, you always help yourself more than the people you think you’re helping. I had to teach English, which helped me learn Spanish, and I am grateful for that. My biggest project was creating a well clinic, and I experienced that excitement of turning an idea into a reality. That’s the kind of work I’ve wanted to do ever since.

I’m all for the Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act and Mr. Obama’s proposal to give college students a chance to do service in exchange for help with college tuition. In the past eight years, nearly 2,500 AmeriCorps members have worked in after-school programs TASC supports, mostly helping younger kids do service in their communities. I’m thinking of people like Yegzeru Amare, who started out as a senior in high school working at the Maspeth Town Hall after-school program at P.S. 229 in Queens. His service there through AmeriCorps helped put him through college. He’s now back at the school, in his fifth year of teaching sixth grade.