The Power of After-School Programs

Written by Tami Barlow

On October 10, 2017

When you were a child, what was an after-school activity?

Depending on your age, it might have been the cheerleading squad, a sports team, or band practice. In other words, there might not have been an after-school program per se.

after-school programs with enrichment activitiesAfter-school programs abound today. Just between 2004 and 2014, enrollment in after-school programs skyrocketed from 2.5 million to 4 million children.

Increasingly, parents are relying on schools to meet their needs and their children’s needs after 3:00.

These programs are allowing single parents to work business hours without worrying about where their children are. Most after-school programs provide physical activity, homework assistance, STEM learning opportunities, reading and writing help, and even meals.

Parents living in communities of concentrated poverty report that they appreciate the after-school programs their children attend. In one survey, 91 percent said they are satisfied with the services provided for their children.

Studies have also demonstrated the academic and behavioral value of after-school programs. They generally improve learning outcomes because of their hands-on, project-based focus.

Enrichment Activities Add Value
In the after-school programs offered by Charleston Promise Neighborhood, this includes dance, robotics, entrepreneurism, boat-building and more. Students enjoy the balance of academics and extracurricular fun, remaining engaged longer and performing better in school than when provided only with academic support.

Research finds after-school programs achieve their best results for children when five tests are met:

  1. Access to sustained participation – children learn more and perform better when their after-school participation is more frequent and lasts longer.
  2. Programs tailored to students’ needs – when children’s interests and schedules are accounted for, there is a better likelihood of academic progress.
  3. Strategic program creation with outcome targets – well-organized activities with clear vision and goals, strong leadership and sustained support for staff.
  4. Staff who develop positive relationships with students – when staff listen attentively to students, provide feedback and guidance, and generally model good behavior, the outcomes improve.
  5. Partnerships with schools, communities, and most of all families.

Charleston Promise Neighborhood partners with Charleston County School District and approximately 20 additional businesses and nonprofit partners to deliver high-quality programming to about 500 students each weekday through its Expanded Learning Time after-school programs.

Expanded Learning Time helps bridge the learning time gap between children from middle income homes and children living in poverty, which reaches 6,000 hours by middle school.