"President Trump wants to eliminate after school program” CNN (March 2017)
That was the headline I woke up to the other day, maybe you saw it too, or something like it? Apparently, President Trump believes after school programs don’t work.
As someone who has worked in the field of after school, more recently termed Out of School Time (OST) for nearly twenty-five years, I KNOW that #afterschoolworks.
Our field has spent decades conducting research and collecting data that shows the various short term AND long term ways OST programs positively improve the lives of youth, communities and families. Cuts to OST programs would be disastrous and would have BOTH short-term and long-term negative consequences. Even on families like the Trumps'.
While those of us who work in OST programs want youth to do well in school, and can show evidence of improvement for many children in school because of their participation in after school programs, the goals of many OST programs are broader than academic improvement. We KNOW and can PROVE there is more to successful OST programs than whether youth improve in academics, and how many meals they provide to youth who may not otherwise eat at home(1). Both of those things are incredibly important; AND OST programs do even more(2).
Youth.Gov provides numerous examples of how and why after school programs are a benefit to youth and communities(3). After school programs and the talented, committed, under-paid and under-valued staff, serve many roles in the life of children every day, such as (4): coach, tutor, music/dance/art/drama, etc. instructor, child care provider, counselor, mentor; as well as the less professional or widely used terms as “connector” and “door-opener”.
Perhaps most important, is that youth programs (true, some better than others), serve to develop protective factors that ultimately enable many youth to do better in school. Those protective factors, as demonstrated by research include(5):
Caring relationships with adults & peers
Clear, fair & high expectations
Opportunities for youth to connect, navigate and be productive.
Those very protective factors (I believe), even more than “grit,” enable youth to work towards academic improvement as well as helping them to meet basic early adult outcomes like being an engaged citizen, being connected to others, and more(6).
After school programs do this important work on a shoestring. They cost less to fund per child, per year than what it costs to send them to prison. In 2014, US news reported it cost “$148,767 per person per year when the most expensive option is used.(7)” A 2009 report from The Wallace Foundation, a leader in research of, and funding for, OST programs reports that OST programs cost around $2,640 per youth, per year (it was slightly higher for teens and rates differentiate in the summer months). ANY adult I’ve ever met who was formerly incarcerated that I had the chance to talk with about after school programs, has said to me: “Maybe if I had a youth program I wouldn’t have gotten into the situation I got in to.”
Youth development professionals or youth workers (common terms for the professional title of those who work in youth programs) have spent decades working to professionalize the field through rigorous research, by developing National Core Standards for Program Quality, Core Competencies for youth works; as well as certificate to master’s degree programs.
I know I am preaching to the choir; I know you care about advocate for quality OST Programs, and so I am urging you to contact your State Representatives and insist that they fight to keep funding for OST. Remind them that you are watching and will remember their actions in the next election. Use this time as an opportunity to educate those in your life who routinely ask you: “So what exactly do you do when you say you work with kids?” When posting on social media use the hashtag: ##afterschoolworks.
I am happy to talk with anyone who wants to learn more about the history and importance of after school programs in our country. Feel free to contact me or share my contact information with those who would like to learn more.
Sample resources for more about OST/Afterschool Programs
A Different Kind of Child Development Institution: The History of After-School. A “Seminal” article by Robert Halpern, Programs for Low-Income Children a “seminal” article (2002) in understanding the history of after school programs in the US.
Afterschool Programs Make a Difference: Findings From the Harvard Family Research Project
National Organizations & Professional Journals:
National Institute on Out of School Time
National Afterschool Association
National Summer Learning Association
Afterschool Matters Journal
New Directions for Youth Development
Degree Programs & Credentials for Youth Workers:
CUNY Center for Professional Studies
Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies
Out of School Learning, EDd program at University of Pittsburgh
Staff Competencies Research
Cost of OST programs:
US Prison Culture http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/2010/07/03/how-much-does-it-costs-to-incarcerate-a-youth/
(1)Last accessed online March 19, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-lunches-saved-me-fromRebe-starving_us_58bf0be8e4b06660f479e5c4?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003
(2)Last accessed online March 19, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-strong-afterschool-programs-matter/2011/12/14/gIQAvtUpuO_blog.html?utm_term=.55d78456b407
(3)Last accessed online, March 19, 2017 http://youth.gov/youth-topics/afterschool-programs/benefits-youth-families-and-communities
(4)Last accessed online March 19, 2017. Retrieved from http://scholarsarchive.library.albany.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=edpsych_fac_scholar
(5)Last accessed online March 19, 2017 http://johnwgardnertestsite.pbworks.com/f/CNYD-The_Youth_Development_Approach.pdf
(6)Last accessed online March 19, 2017. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED518715.pdf
(7)Last accessed online March 19, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/12/09/what-youth-incarceration-costs-taxpayers