Nearly three dozen public and private organizations in Connecticut are sharing $4.7 million in grants to open more after-school and expanded-learning programs at low-performing, high-poverty schools.
“Setting our students on a path to success sometimes requires providing extra support outside of the typical school day,” said Governor Dannel Malloy in a statement announcing the grants. “Quality after-school programs provide an important opportunity to deliver extra help to our students who need it.
The funds are part of the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers competitive grant program, which gives money to states to distribute to schools and community organizations for new programs that provide academic, enrichment, and counseling services to disadvantged students.
Without support from the 21st Century program, the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) in Hartford might not be able to run its current after-school centers, let alone start any new ones.
“It’s difficult to find funding because we’re magnet schools,” said CREC superintendent Dina Crowl, even though nearly half the students enrolled in each school are low-income.
CREC, which manages 19 magnet schools for students in 35 school districts in Hartford and surrounding communities, will be opening three new after-school programs at arts academies that haven’t had any programs like this before.
“The students we serve will probably be our neediest students,” Crowl said.
Crowl expects each site to serve about 60 students, at no cost to their families, with targeted academic intervention to help those who are falling behind meet state and local standards. The centers will also work with students on social-emotional and character development and will provide enrichment activities in art, music, dance, and sports, plus hands-on academic projects in science and other subjects.
The goal is to help close both the opportunity gap and the enrichment gap that, over time, puts these students at a disadvantage academically and socially, explained Crowl.
By the time a low-income child reaches 6th grade, he or she has spent about 6,000 fewer hours engaged in such learning and enrichment activities as being read to by parents, attending preschool, spending summers at camp, and visiting museums, than middle-class and wealthier children, according to The After-School Corporation.
“High-quality, after-school programs have the potential to help improve academic achievement while also broadening the horizons for our students,” said Connecticut’s State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.
In all, Connecticut is awarding 26 grants to groups creating before- and after-school programs. Half the grantees are schools in districts serving low-income students, including Bridgeport, where 98 percent of students are eligible for free- or reduced- price school lunches; Hartford, with a 90 percent rate; and New Haven, where more than three-quarters of the students are from families whose income qualifies them for the lunch program, according to Kids Count.
The other half receiving funds for before- and after-school programs are community organizations, such as the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and the Hispanic Health Council. Awards range from $54,000 to $180,000, with the majority at the upper end.
The 21st Century grants are for five years; after that, programs either need to try for another round of federal funding or hope that they’ve established themselves well enough to survive on private and foundation support.
Seven additional schools are each receiving between $99,630 and $123,000 to extend the school day, week or year to add 300 or more hours of instruction.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.