Journal Issue: When School Is Out Volume 9 Number 2 Fall 1999
Types of School-Based Programs
School buildings are being used for extended hours in a wide range of ways. Some schools adhere to the traditional "extracurricular activities" model; others house child care programs on site; still others provide comprehensive community education and services. Table 1 presents a simple typology delineating three major types of school-based programs according to the sponsoring agency: those administered by schools, those administered by community-based organizations (CBO's), and community/school partnerships.
All three types of school-based programs are described here, with attention to program goals, content, organizational structure, and evaluation findings. The new wave of school-based initiatives is sweeping in the demand for proof that these programs make a difference. While many research projects are under way, they are several years from results. Despite the limitations of available research, early evaluation results are reported for each type of program. Selected studies have shown that school-based programs of various types improve academic achievement, increase the amount of time spent on academic activities, help children adjust to school and learn new skills, prevent high-risk behaviors, and promote healthy youth development.16School-Administered Programs
The new generation of school-administered programs has branched out from the traditional provision of extracurricular activities and community events. Many now focus on educational enhancement and positive youth development. Schools are featured as lead agencies in the significant recent federal funding initiative to create more after-school services through 21st Century Community Learning Centers described in Box 1.19
Traditional Extracurricular Activities and Events
Many activities are carried on after school in school buildings. Athletics have always taken place in the afternoons and even on Saturdays, and gyms stay open longer hours than the rest of the school. In addition, school buildings often stay open after school for such activities as detention for behavior infractions, teachers' meetings, back-to-school visits and exhibitions, dramatic presentations, concerts, and school-sponsored dances.
Most schools probably do not report such extracurricular activities as after-school or extended-day programs. The 1994 survey of schools reported that only 7% of 12th graders were in schools that offered extended-day programs,20 but in a 1992 survey, 82% of high school seniors reported that they had participated in some extracurricular activity during the year, most often in sports.21 This survey of students showed a relationship between student achievement and participation: 92% of those in the highest achievement group were involved in some activity, compared to 75% in the lowest achievement group.
Formal Extended-Day Programs
Some school systems have organized formal after-school programs that they do report as extended day. These programs may offer child care, tutoring and enrichment, or youth development activities for older students. Teachers, college students, parents, and other volunteers in some school-administered programs conduct "homework clubs" and other after-school activities that are tied to the academic program.22
For example, in the Bailey Gatzert Elementary School in Seattle, the program is targeted to low achievers who receive one-on-one tutoring from volunteers and college interns. A Saturday morning session gives students and parents access to the computer lab or to classes in sign language and language arts. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, elementary schools remain open from 6:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. five days a week, all year long. In one such school, the Cason Lane Academy, college students supplement the teaching staff. More than one-half of the students stay through the afternoon to attend academic, art, recreation, and life-skills classes. At the Carmen Park Elementary School in Flint, Michigan, a computer lab remains open and supervised until 5:00 P.M., and classes are held during the summer to prevent learning loss in reading and other subjects. And in Chicago, more than 300 schools now have after-school programs offering dinner and recreation, along with an extra hour of math and reading instruction, in a program that serves close to 100,000 students.23
Many school systems are evaluating their extended-day enrichment programs, yielding some encouraging results. An evaluation of L.A.'s BEST, an after-school enrichment program in 24 Los Angeles elementary schools, compared outcomes for 80 fifth to seventh graders who participated in the program for two years with those for 66 non-participants. Results showed that 75% of the children liked school more after participating in the program; their parents reported less tension at home; teachers reported improved behavior; student grades improved; and school-based crime decreased by 40% to 60% in the participating schools.24 An after-school program in Waco, Texas, resulted in better school attendance and less delinquent behavior; juvenile crime dropped by 10% in the city following the start of the program.25 Of 40 schools involved in a citywide after-school program run by the Chicago Public Schools, 30 schools showed gains in students' reading scores, and 39 schools showed gains in mathematics scores.26 These promising results have played an important role in encouraging policymakers to invest increasing funding in school-administered after-school programs.Community-Based After-School Programs
Alongside the expansion of school-administered programs, the past 20 years have brought growing efforts by community-based organizations (CBO's) to organize activities for children and families in their local school buildings. Many of these are school-age child care programs, such as those studied in the 1991 National Study of Before- and After-School Programs. The school-based programs sampled for that study were as likely to be sponsored by community organizations as they were to be run by the host school. Within the past decade, a new type of school-based after-school program operated by CBO's has emerged that offers not only child care but also safe havens, positive youth development, educational enhancement, parent involvement, and community development.10
One prototype of a CBO-administered program is the "Beacon school," introduced in New York City in 1991 and replicated in San Francisco and around the country.27 The purpose of Beacons, also known as "lighted schoolhouses," is to allow CBO's to utilize school buildings during nonschool hours for youth activities and community enhancement. The Beacons include educational enrichment or tutoring, recreation and sports, arts, community service, drug prevention efforts, and creative activities suited to a culturally diverse population. (See Box 2 for a detailed example.)
Another model of a CBO-administered program is "Bridges to Success," which originated in Indianapolis in 1991 and is also being replicated at sites across the country.28 Bridges to Success brings the local United Way together with schools, community-based organizations, and other public and private institutions to deliver services to youths in public school buildings. The main thrust is to promote youth development during nonschool hours through educational enrichment, career development, arts and culture, life-skills training, counseling, case management, health and mental health services, and recreation.
Research on CBO-administered school-based programs such as Beacon schools and Bridges is fairly limited, although a number of the models are being studied now. Preliminary evidence from an evaluation of Beacon schools suggests that some schools have been successful at improving the school climate and at reducing fighting and suspensions.29 In one Beacon school in New York City, reading test scores inched up from 580th out of 620 elementary schools to 319th over a three-year period.30
Even without a Beacon or Bridges to Success program, many CBO's use school buildings to provide youth development services after school. For instance, the pioneer New Jersey state-supported School-Based Youth Services Program combines after-school youth development activities with in-school enrichment and prevention services. In New York City, 200 public schools have been transformed into "virtual YMCA's" that offer literacy training, character education, and drug prevention.16 Boys and Girls Clubs, Girls Incorporated, 4-H, and the Police Athletic League also may offer their programs on school property. Several of these large youth-serving organizations have evaluated their youth development programs, showing reductions in high-risk behaviors among program participants. (See the article by Quinn in this journal issue for more information on these evaluations.) Although the studies did not focus on school-based versions of these programs, it is reasonable to assume that holding the program activities at school sites would produce similar positive results.Community/School Partnerships
Some practitioners have pushed the youth development concept further to integrate classroom and after-school activities in a unified program that touches on school reform. These efforts create partnerships in which the school is seen as a resource to the entire community, and the school perceives the community as integral to its efforts to increase student learning and enhance the development of children and youths.31 The goals of enhanced education and access to needed human services are joined in schools that serve as community hubs. Three community/school partnership models are discussed here: (1) the Children's Aid Society's "Settlement House in a School" program; (2) university-assisted schools; and (3) "CoZi" schools (named for James Comer and Edward Zigler, whose ideas are merged in this program model).
Settlement House in a School
A total school reform approach permeates this program model developed by the Children's Aid Society in conjunction with the local community school district in the low-income immigrant New York neighborhood of Washington Heights. The "Settlement House in a School" model combines quality education with an array of health, mental health, social support, and recreational services in four community schools. These sites include primary health and dental health clinics, family resource centers, preschool programs, and community service projects. A study of schools implementing this model found that the percentage of elementary school children who were reading at grade level increased from 10% in grade three to 35% in grade five, and middle school math performance rose from 37% of students scoring at grade level in 1994 to 51% in 1996.32 Attendance levels in the evaluated program are now among the highest in New York City, student behavioral problems are lower than in similar schools, and parent involvement is high. The "Settlement House in a School" model is being replicated in St. Paul, Minnesota, and other sites throughout the country.33 A technical assistance center organized by the Children's Aid Society serves hundreds of visitors each year.
Another approach that combines school improvement with after-school programs builds community/school partnerships by linking schools in disadvantaged communities to nearby universities that are interested in supporting community development.34 The "University-Assisted Schools" program developed by the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Community Partnerships helps universities to establish formal relationships with designated schools and then sponsor a range of activities in the schools. For instance, university faculty work with teachers on curriculum and with school administrators on school restructuring; university students do practice-teaching in the schools and volunteer in after-school activities. This effort is under way in more than a dozen comprehensive community schools in West Philadelphia, where evaluators are finding higher test scores, improved attendance, and lower suspension rates.35 Observers also note changes in community climate that reflect the program's focus on neighborhood enhancement.
The Comer School Development model has been integrated with the Zigler Schools of the 21st Century model to integrate education reform ideas with school-based child care and family support. Schools implementing this model offer home visits to parents of children from birth to age 3, all-day child care for children ages 3 to 5, before- and after-school and vacation care for children ages 3 to 12, support and training for family child care providers, and attention to nutrition and health. CoZi schools also have strong parent involvement in the schools, a school-planning management team, and extensive mental health services.36 This model is being tested in Norfolk, Virginia, where a parent survey attests to the popularity of full-time child care services at the school site. Both replication and evaluation efforts are under way.Summary
The types of school-based programs discussed in this section span the continuum from traditional extracurricular activities, to more formal extended-day programs, to restructured, full-service community schools. All of these programs help to fill the gap outside regular school hours, yet each has a different purpose and vision. Extracurricular activities are primarily intended as enrichment, while extended-day programs respond to the increased demand for child care and safe havens. The most ambitious approach is that of community schools that integrate advanced thinking about both quality education and support services into their programs.