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Leadership, School Ties Key to NYC Middle School Initiative

Strong leadership and supportive ties between middle schools and a New York City expanded-learning program helped boost students' enrollment in the after-school effort, a recent report says.

The report on the second year of New York's Beacon Community Centers Middle School Initiative was highlighted in an e-newsletter sent out by the Wallace Foundation this week. The Middle School Initiative was launched in 2007 and served 21,000 middle-grade students between July 2008 and June 2009. Before 2007, the Beacon centers—which are located in New York City schools—already served younger children and older youths and adults after school and on weekends. New York City implemented the middle school initiative to target structured programming to adolescents.

In studying the various Beacon center programs around the city, researchers found common elements in the ones with the highest overall ratings for participation and quality. Specifically, the strongest programs were likely to be: in community centers located in middle schools; supported by the host schools' administrations; and, run by more experienced Beacon center directors.

The researchers recommended that the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, which runs the Beacon centers effort, should:

  • Continue to work on building relationships between Beacon centers and their host schools.
  • Offer technical support to improve the content of the programs the middle school initiative offers, which the researchers found lacking in some cases.
  • Develop more leadership opportunities for young people in the Beacon effort.

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