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Good After-School Programs Don't Resemble School

To be successful, after-school programs need to complement, but not resemble the school day, a new article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development says. While improvements in academic performance may be the effects of good after-school programs, those that have the strongest impact on achievement do not make academics the focus.

The article, written by Jane David, appears in ASCD's May issue, "Schools, Families, Communities," and reports that though there has been a significant increase in after-school programs in the past decade-plus, the quality is very disparate.

Analyzing several past studies on after-school programs, David found strong community partnerships and a curriculum that provides participants with varied and new experiences underemphasized in the school day are characteristics of the best programs. Many also focus on building students' social and behavioral skills. Programs that lack sustainable funding, community support, and highly trained staff, on the other hand, are often unsuccessful.

"The strongest programs complement rather than duplicate school activities and knit families, schools, and community agencies together around student interests and needs," David writes. "Designing enticing and effective after-school programs is not easy. Such programs require thoughtful planning based on knowledge of the students, as well as collaboration with community agencies and families."

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