Project Aims to Strengthen Cities' After-School Efforts
Mayors in six cities will soon receive new support to help develop after-school services through a National League of Cities project that seeks to strengthen the connections between learning that take place during the regular school day and in after-school programs.
Mark Ouellette, a senior program associate at the league, said mayors are uniquely positioned to draw attention to after-school services because their offices usually control funding for a variety of youth-development and crime- prevention programs. He said they can also work with city parks and recreation departments to improve the quality of programs for school-age children.
"They're more concerned [than educators] with safety, and with economic development," Mr. Ouellette said. "And they can use their bully pulpit to raise awareness."
Cities involved in the 18-month effort are Brockton, Mass.; Cleveland; Little Rock, Ark., Norfolk, Va., Pasadena, Calif.; and Waco, Texas.
Through the $550,000 project, staff members from the Washington-based league's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families will review the existing after-school programs in the cities and suggest ways for them to improve their homework components and integrate academic standards.
Staff members will also work with the cities to form regional networks so people working in separate cities can learn from each other. A report on the progress of the project is expected in the fall.
The new project—underwritten by the Flint, Mich.-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation— builds on past work that the National League of Cities has done to improve after-school programs in eight other cities. That initiative, which also was financed by the Mott Foundation, is now ending after almost three years.
Project officials said it helped cities write academic standards for their after-school programs, devise financing plans, involve local businesses in their efforts, and survey residents on their opinions and perceptions of after- school programs.
The new six-city initiative will help address an issue highlighted in a report from Mathematica Policy Research Inc., of Princeton, N.J., that examined schools involved in the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
In their first report, the Mathematica researchers found that while academic achievement increased for some groups of students, children overall who participated in the $1 billion after-school program did not improve their performance. ("Study Critiques Federal After-School Program," Feb. 12, 2003.)
Vol. 22, Issue 43, Page 15