After-school activities, also known as after-school programs or after-school care, started in the early 1900s mainly just as supervision of students after the final school bell. Today, after-school programs do much more. There is a focus on helping students with school work but can be beneficial to students in other ways. An after-school program, today, will not limit its focus on academics but with a holistic sense of helping the student population. An after-school activity is any organized program that youth or adult learner voluntary can participate in outside of the traditional school day. Some programs are run by a primary or secondary school, while others are run by externally funded non-profit or commercial organizations. After-school youth programs can occur inside a school building or elsewhere in the community, for instance at a community center, church, library, or park. After-school activities are a cornerstone of concerted cultivation, which is a style of parenting that emphasizes children gaining leadership experience and social skills through participating in organized activities. Such children are believed by proponents to be more successful in later life, while others consider too many activities to indicate overparenting. While some research has shown that structured after-school programs can lead to better test scores, improved homework completion, and higher grades, further research has questioned the effectiveness of after-school programs at improving youth outcomes such as externalizing behavior and school attendance. Additionally, certain activities or programs have made strides in closing the achievement gap, or the gap in academic performance between white students and students of color as measured by standardized tests. Though the existence of after-school activities is relatively universal, different countries implement after-school activities differently, causing after-school activities to vary on a global scale.
Structure and organization
There are myriad organized after-school activities, for children, youth and adult learners. They can focus on a variety of activities or issues, such as:
- Reading, including book discussion club
- Sports, including soccer, baseball, scooter racing, hockey, swimming
- Performing arts, including dance, drama, ballet, choir, and band
- Creative arts, including painting, drawing, crafts
- Gifted/remedial education, including Kumon for literacy, mathematics, etc.
- Test preparation, including Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Sylvan Learning among others.
- Outdoor education, including Scouting, Girl Guides, Boys' Brigade, Camp Fire, 4-H, cadets
- Financial literacy, including Jump$tart, Junior Achievement, and others.
- Extracurricular activities in schools, including DECA, Future Business Leaders of America, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes
- Community outreach, including After-School All-Stars and Boys and Girls Club of America
Many elementary, middle and high schools host after-school activities. Some after-school activities are provided by community centres and teen centers which are free of charge, while others are provided by for-profit businesses which charge for membership. The organization and management of after-school activities often varies from country to country and depending on cultural background.
A number of players have started providing after-school support services, but the number is still very small considering India's large population and the importance of education to the Indian middle class and others. More players should be entering the market to provide quality support, which the normal schools with larger class sizes and traditional teaching techniques don't provide. From the existing set of after-school study providers the ones most sought after are the ones with individualized learning modules that complement the K-12 school syllabus. Way2Success Learning Systems is the first for-profit provider in India of academically oriented individualized after-school programs that complement the school syllabus. They operate in the New Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad areas. NutSpace Edtech Pvt. Ltd. uses its proprietary Inventive Thinking Methodology to build 21st Century Skills in Children. It helps children develop leadership qualities, enhance skills like: communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. They currently operate from Kanpur and Lucknow.
Many after-school programs in Taiwan surround academic enrichment and test preparation. Scholars Chen and Lu researched the impact of academic after-school activities amongst secondary school students in Taiwan, and their 2009 study showed that after-school academic enrichment programs and private cram schools in Taiwan increase students’ educational achievement but have a negative effect on students’ psychological well-being.
United Arab Emirates
In the United Arab Emirates, Afterschool.ae is an innovative online marketplace platform that allows parents to find, plan and book children's activities, and helps kids' activity providers to get found online.
After-school activities in Britain are typically organised commercially and paid for by parents. Many children attend several a week, and occasionally even more than one per day. Similar activities also occur at weekends.
There is typically less focus on the managed "enrichment" than in the US, beyond the basic choice of activity; for example football (soccer) is physically active and develops teamwork.
After school programs are very common today in the United States. The 40 largest national youth organizations today have a total membership of about 40 million youths. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America focus mainly on positive youth development. Their staff provides information, guidance, and emotional support regarding a wide range of issues that youths face in often high-risk neighborhoods. There are national after-school programs in place as well as national advocates for access to after-school programs, like Afterschool Alliance, but many after-school programs in the United States operate at the state level. The oldest after school program in the country, the Knickerbocker Greys, was established in 1881 and is located in New York City.
In Virginia, Beans and Rice Organization is a community economic development organization that builds assets and develops capacities in low and moderate income families through economic and educational programs. Beans and Rice offers afterschool programs in Pulaski and Radford, Virginia. Volunteers serve as mentors, tutors, and teachers. All volunteers receive training and close supervision from both Beans and Rice staff and experienced volunteers. Elementary students who participate in the Beans and Rice after school programs are given a snack, tutoring, active play opportunities, and positive role models.
In Texas, a statewide program exists for creating after-school programs: Texas Afterschool Centers on Education, or Texas ACE. Texas ACE is a part of the Texas Education Agency, funded by the U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which sponsors afterschool enrichment programs at under-resourced schools in the U.S.
In California, after-school programming at the secondary level is funded primarily with 21st Century High School ASSETS (After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens) program grants. These grants stipulate programs must include academic, enrichment, and health and nutrition components. The after-school programs at California's elementary schools are predominantly funded with ASES (After-School Education & Safety) Program grants mandated when voters statewide approved California's Proposition 49 (2002). These grants provide for much of what the ASSETS grants provide at the secondary level, though there is an added family literacy component. Throughout Southern California, non-profit providers work in partnership with school districts to provide after-school programs for k-12 students. Typically school districts apply for the grants to fund the local after-school programs. Then districts either elect to manage those program internally or outsource management to a Community-based organization (CBO), Non-governmental organization (NGO) or other local non-profit provider. Beyond the Bell is a district run and managed after-school program offered to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). THINK Together, California's largest non-profit provider, contracts with approximately 20 Southern California school district partners to run and manage academically oriented after-school programs at approximately 200 school sites located across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
Benefits of after-school activities
Positive use of time
Some working parents wish for their children to be more supervised during after-school hours, which Mahoney, Larson, and Eccles's 2005 study discovered to be a leading reason for student enrollment in structured after-school programs. Likewise, in a 2010 article, scholars Wu and Van Egeren found that some parents enroll their students in after-school programs in order to give them a supervised, safe place to spend time. Many after-school activities take place in the afternoons of school days, on the weekends, or during the summer, thereby helping working parents with childcare. While some after-school programs serve as a day-care facility for young children, other programs specifically target adolescents in middle and high schools—providing opportunities for children of all ages.
Some proponents of these programs argue that if left unsupervised, children and adolescents may fall into undesirable activities such as sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, or gang-affiliated activity. Since adolescents are old enough to be left unsupervised, they have a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior than young children do, which may increase the perceived need for constructive after-school programs, as Cook, Godfredson, and Na argue in their 2010 article in the journal Crime and Justice. In the United States, interest in utilizing after-school programs for delinquency-prevention increased dramatically after research found that juvenile arrest rates peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on school days. By keeping students involved in school related activities, it lessens the chance for them to get involved in criminal activity or abuse drugs and alcohol. Involvement with after-school programs has led to students obtaining of more negative view on drugs. A study of positive outcomes from after-school program involvement shows that there are lower uses of drugs such as "alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use" (Kraemer, et al. 2007) after being involved with an after-school program.
Studies show that afterschool programs are beneficial for both children and adolescents. A 1994 long-term study by Posner and Vandell found that children in structured, academic afterschool programs had increased academic achievement when compared to their peers. Researchers chose a pool of children who had taken part in some sort of after-school program and another pool of children who did not take part in a formal after-school program as a control group. They gave assessments to the children, their parents, and their teachers in order to determine the children's levels of academic achievement, and the results showed that students who had taken part in a structured after-school program were more likely to have better grades and to perform higher in math and reading tests than those who had not taken part in an after-school program. Similarly, a 2010 study by Durlak, Weissberg, and Pachan showed that both children and adolescents experienced significant academic gains by taking part in afterschool programs.
Several other studies (e.g., Morrison, Storino, Robertson, Weissglass, & Dondero, 2000; Tucker et al., 1995) have found that after-school academic tutoring or homework assistance may not result in an improvement in academic performance, but, rather, prevent a decline in performance that is evidenced by many at-risk youth. Morrison et al. (2000) studied 350 at-risk students, half of whom participated in an after-school program that provided homework assistance, tutoring, and cultural enrichment activities. They found after 1 year that students in the program maintained their initial levels of school bonding and teacher ratings of student behavior, while a matched cohort of students who did not participate in the program showed decreases on these measures over the same period of time. Tucker et al. (1995) evaluated an afterschool tutoring program serving low-income African American students. After 2 years, participants did not show significant increases in grades, but students who were not in the program showed a significant grade decrease. Together, these studies indicate that after-school academic support may play a protective role by helping to prevent a loss of school engagement even if it doesn't result in higher levels of functioning.
Minority, low income, urban settings, "at-risk", and other negative connotations labeling youth's hinder academic achievements. Effective after-school programs can try to bridge the gap between education achievement and the negatively-labeled student.
There's mixed evidence as to whether afterschool programs positively impact youth behavioral outcomes. The Posner and Vandell study showed that students who had taken part in an after-school program also exhibited more emotional stability and signs of social adjustment than their counterparts. In particular, students in an after-school activity behaved better and adjusted more smoothly when transitioning to new grades or new schools, most notably in the transition from middle to high school. Other studies provided quantitative data in support of these behavioral benefits by showing that students who participate in an after-school program on average have less disciplinary citations, are suspended less, and are expelled less than their peers who do not participate in any activity. On the other hand, a study of after-school programs in Maryland found participants to engage in more rebellious behavior than non-participants.
Closing the achievement gap
After-school activities have had proven impacts on decreasing the gap in academic achievement between white students and students of color in the United States. In her 2005 study of efforts to address the racial achievement gap in urban areas, psychologist Julie Bryan noted that after-school activities can strongly benefit a student's socio-emotional health and academic performance. The students that she worked with identified extracurricular activities, after-school opportunities for academic aid, and summer enrichment programs as important contributions to their academic success and personal growth. One aspect of this success is that after-school activities give students the opportunity to deepen relationships with adult mentors, such as sports coaches, teachers, and community leaders. Research shows that having caring and supportive adult presences in the lives of students greatly increases their sense of self-worth, academic achievement, and capabilities for resiliency in the face of adverse circumstances like poverty and abuse. A 2000 study by Gutman and Migley connects the benefits of students having close relationships with caring adults with a decrease in the achievement gap.
Summer learning loss
After-school activities can play a role in combatting summer learning loss, which refers to the amount of academic skills that students lose during the summer holidays due to a lack of exposure to academic material. According to a series of 39 meta-analyses collected by Harris Cooper in a study on elementary and early childhood education, students' test scores drop significantly from the last day of school in the spring to the first day in the fall; on average, the summer break sets students back over a month. For primary and secondary school students, reading comprehension, in particular, is highly affected by summer learning loss. If students are able to participate in academic activities during the summer months, they are less likely to be at risk for summer learning loss. Currently, students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have access to and participate in academic activities during the summer months, which gives them an advantage in academic achievement during the school year when compared to their peers with lower socioeconomic statuses.
Criticisms of after-school activities
One criticism of after-school activities is that they provide too much rigidity within a child's life. Advocates of slow parenting believe that children should be allowed to develop their own ideas. Getting bored is a step towards having an idea for something else to do, and having little or no adult interference allows children to express their own creativity. Proponents of this theory argue that structured after-school programs have the potential to take away avenues for such creativity and self-expression amongst children. Similarly, the Taoist concept of wu wei, literally translated as "non-action," supports spontaneity in daily life. Thus, while there may be some children that benefit from being supervised and pushed towards didactic goals through organized after-school activities, others might end up achieving more on their own, or with minimal supervision.
Indicative of overparenting
Another criticism of after-school activities is that participating in them has the potential to lead to increased stress and anxiety amongst students. Children participating in many organized after-school activities is one common symptom of overparenting. In overparenting, which is more common among middle or upper-class families, parents tend to heavily monitor their child's schedule for the sake of protecting their child or improving their social skills, academic development, and/or future prospects. This has the potential to lead to lasting psychological issues amongst children, such as poorly developed independence and coping skills, low self-esteem, and stress- and anxiety-related disorders. In her study The Price of Privilege, psychologist Madeline Levine examined the psychological effects of overparenting on socioeconomically privileged children, including the impact of participating in after-school activities. She found that children of wealthy families were more likely to suffer psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. By spending so much time in organized after-school activities that their parents signed them up for, the children that Levine worked with failed to adequately develop self-management, which is a powerful precursor to both psychological inner strength and academic achievement.
- Extracurricular activity
- Achievement gap
- Summer learning loss
- Soccer mom
- Concerted cultivation
- Parenting styles
- Slow parenting
- After-School All-Stars
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
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- AfterSchool.gov - US Government website for after-school programs
- Way2Success Learning Systems For-Profit After School Program in India
- Afterschool.ae - a web and mobile platform in the United Arab Emirates dedicated for after-school activity booking and browsing.
- Afterschool Alliance
- International Research Network Extended Education
- Willamette After School
- Center for Afterschool Education
- National Institute on Out-of-School Time at the Wellesley Centers for Women
- Out-of-School Time at the Harvard Family Research Project
- The After-School Corporation
- Hot Topic: Character Education - Service-learning-related after-school program information at Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
- Ways to Keep Your Kid Interested in Learning After School
- Climbing & Caving Programs