Keeping School Open After School Lets Out
A new guidebook, available on the Internet, can help school leaders in establishing programs that keep kids off the street and benefit all members of a community.
Many children in the United States struggle to learn in the face of enormous challenges, including learning disabilities, violence, drugs, and lack of supervision by adults. Dynamic Community Learning Centers can help these children and their communities, asserts the new guidebook Keeping Schools Open as Community Learning Centers: Extending Learning in a Safe, Drug-Free Environment Before and After School. The guidebook outlines the steps in converting a school into a Community Learning Center and lists resources for further information and assistance
Children, parents, and other community members use Community Learning Centers, which provide a haven from violence, drugs, and lack of supervision for children. "Community Learning Centers get us 'back to basics,' back to active community involvement in raising and educating all of our children," the guidebook concludes.
Why are Community Learning Centers needed? According to the guidebook, as recently as the 1993-94 school year, "only 3.4 percent of children in public elementary and combined schools were enrolled in the 18,111 before- or after-school programs at public school." In many cases, there are no organized before- and after-school programs available to children in public schools. In addition, less than 1 percent of 7th and 8th graders were in programs in 1991, despite what the report cites as substantial need for programs serving older children.
Working parents often want their children to have learning opportunities that extend beyond the school day. In a 1994 survey, 56 percent of parents said that many parents leave their children alone too much after school. A 1989 survey of school principals showed that 84 percent believed there is a need for before- and after-school programs.
SPOTLIGHT ON THREE COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTERS
Three profiles demonstrate the wide range of programs Community Learning Centers can offer. Essentially, a Community Learning Center needs to reflect and meet the needs of the whole community it serves.
Safety. The city of Madison, Wisconsin, operates a Safe Haven after-school program at three elementary schools in communities with high crime and poverty rates. More than 200 children participate in the program. The program offers homework help, academic enrichment, arts and crafts, supervised games and physical education, and field trips. Each school integrates its own approach to conflict resolution into the program by linking after-school activities to such in-school strategies as peer mediation and a drug-prevention program. The results: As Safe Haven enters its third year, Safe Haven schools report improved attendance and reduced conflicts during after-school hours. Children in the program also demonstrate increased interest in their homework.
Family focus. The Twilight Family Learning Center in the Elk Grove (California) Unified School district consists of programs at four large elementary schools in the district. The Learning Centers are open year round, as are the schools that house them; all the schools have school-wide Title 1 programs. Centers offer homework/tutoring, preschool classes, and a variety of classes for adults on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. The programs emphasize literacy development because many participants are recent immigrants. The overall program focuses on improving student performance through parental involvement. Parents can choose from a variety of classes, including ESL, citizenship, parenting, and other adult education classes. Participants take a break at 5:30 to eat soup donated by Campbells, a large local employer.
The basics. Carmen Elementary School in Flint, Michigan, serves 280 students in grades 4-6. The principal, teachers, and parents who operate the school developed an after-school and summer program that focuses on educational opportunities for all students. The program assists many students who are at-risk for dropping out of school. Student instruction includes the use of computers for learning as well as workshops in reading, science, math, and social studies. Program funding comes from the Title 1 program, a state program for at-risk students, and the school district's general fund. In the state assessment, students score near the 80th percentile on reading, writing, math, and science tests.
WHY COMMUNITY CENTERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Public schools, the guidebook says, are uniquely suited to provide before- and after-school care because:
HOW TO ESTABLISH A COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER
Practical tips for how to create a community learning center abound in the guidebook. The suggestions include:
These organizations are involved in extended-time learning programs and can be resources in the efforts of others.
Corporation for National Service
1201 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20525
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
1230 West Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
National Community Education Association
3929 Old Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22030
National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts
P.O. Box 8018
Englewood, NJ 07631
School-Age Child Care Project
Center for Research on Women
Wellesley, MA 02181
Click here for additional organizations involved in extended learning-time programs that can serve as resources.
PUBLICATIONS FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The following are among the publications that can be ordered free, while supplies last, from the U.S. Department of Education by calling 1-800-USA-LEARN.
The following is available free of charge from the U.S. Department of Education by calling 1-800-624-0100:
Creating Safe Schools: A Resource Collection for Planning and Action This resource package of seven previously published documents provides school administrators and community leaders with an effective way to view, select and integrate violence prevention policies and programs in schools. (1996)
OTHER RESOURCES FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Partnership for Family Involvement in Education
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-8173
Making Schools Safe and Drug Free
The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act provides
funding through the U.S. Department of Education.
21st Century Community Learning Centers
Article by Sharon Cromwell
Copyright © 2006 Education World