Few issues spark more debate in this country than education. With a system that contains blatant disparities, particularly in urban areas, and lags behind our western counterparts, it is no wonder that more attention is being paid to after-school programs and their potential to bridge the gap. Hosh Kids champions the need for enrichment education in the school-day and afterschool assuring subsidized programs for schools and parents. While studies conducted over the past decade have provided evidence that afterschool programs make a positive impact on the lives of children by sharpening the skills necessary for success in secondary school, college and work, the effectiveness of such programs vary. Those that have the greatest influence on student outcomes have been proven to follow a number of well-established guidelines. The purpose of this brief is to outline these guidelines and encourage all programs as Hosh Kids to strive to meet these standards.
5 Principles of Excellence in After-School
The Massachusetts After-School Research Study (MARS) and the Afterschool Alliance have determined that there are numerous program quality indicators, which separate the effective OST programs from the ineffective. Below is a condensed list that combines what are perhaps the most important qualities cited by the aforementioned studies:
1. Staff Preparedness/Engagement with Youth– Instructors should have experience working with children and more importantly should be given opportunities for continual staff development. Teachers teach as they know how and it’s key that teachers are provided with as much relevant teaching information as possible. Teachers must understand the context of learning in a school setting that precedes content and skill development of any learning environment. The first day and week of programming are very important to establishing class structure and rapport with students. It is critical that staff members have the ability to build a rapport with their students through positive communication and praise. It is essential for teachers to address student engagement and participation immediately. Negative student-teacher interactions can also result in a lower retention rate if the program is enrollment-based. Moreover, staff should always present themselves as positive role models with appropriate techniques and tools to address challenging class problems and behaviors. It is also important to note that staff members should be provided with adequate site support and appropriate compensation in order to maximize the success of the program and retain the necessary number of staff members. For example, Hosh Kids trains the teaching staff in understanding the importance of praise, self-esteem, and motivation in addressing participation and engagement. Teachers must also develop a practical education philosophy that is able to resonate with the class.
2. Parent/School Relationships– When the staff meets with parents at the end of the day for dismissal, they should offer constructive feedback regarding students, and interact positively with parents. Research shows that good relationships with parents greatly affects the success of programs and impacts the student retention rates in afterschool.
3. Sustained Student Participation/Engagement– Student attendance should be maintained by offering subjects and activities that interest students and by providing an environment that makes children feel comfortable and engaged. While academics are obviously important, a wide variety of subjects should be offered, such as dance, art, music, and physical education. These are areas that not only keep students engaged, but improve critical thinking skills, as well as health and wellness. According to a study by Jane Lanigan, “understanding and modifying child care providers’ beliefs regarding their role in children’s physical activity is a critical component for the successful implementation of obesity prevention initiatives designed to increase child activity levels.” It can therefore be concluded that after school programs that offer indoor physical education, in the form of yoga, dance, etc., can help improve children’s health as well as shape their attitudes towards exercise.
4. Intentional, High Quality Programming– The success of after-school programs depends largely on well organized activities that do not mark a break from school instruction, but are rather aligned with school. It is important that afterschool staff reinforce the same approach to reward, discipline, and structure as school day teachers. Programs should be designed to strengthen the skills, such as math, reading and writing, which students focus a lot during the school day. That being said, programs should also expand student’s horizons by offering enrichment courses of choice. Finally, programming should be developmentally appropriate, well thought out, and encourage critical thinking and/or physical stimulation.
5. Safety, Health and Wellness, and Appropriate Space– Programs should provide students with a safe, orderly, and comfortable learning environment. Students should be properly supervised at all times and made to feel secure. As prior mentioned, programs should offer physical activities to improve the health of their students, and it is encouraged that they provide nutritious meals.