Arizona Education: After-School Programs

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Research shows that quality after-school programming has a positive impact on school attendance, achievement and the likelihood of graduation. Arizona was recently ranked in a national survey as being in the top ten of all states for after-school program support and parent satisfaction. Also, nearly 500 programs in our state signed a pledge to commit to using quality standards developed by the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence and the Valley of the Sun United Way. We’ll look at one after school program run by the city of Tempe, KidsZone. Also, Melanie McClintock, executive director of the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence, and Chad Geston, a former Camelback High School principal who integrated after-school activities and programs on that campus and saw dramatic results, will talk about the value of after-school programs.

Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll talk about the importance of after-school programs in overall education. And hear about the variety of ways robotics are being used in physical therapy. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm ted simons. State senator Kelli Ward says she's considering taking on John McCain for the U.S. Senate next year. KPNX-TV reports that Ward, a Lake Havasu Republican, says she'd bring a Tea Party base in a run against McCain, who has been at odds with that wing of the party. McCain is expected to formally announce his re-election bid in a few months.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona education looks at the impact of after-school programming on school attendance, academic achievement and the likelihood of graduation. Arizona is ranked in the top by the after-school alliance, a national non-profit that promotes quality after-school programs The annual study finds that most Arizona parents are satisfied with the quality and variety of Arizona after-school activities. We'll discuss the importance of after-school programs in a moment, but first, producer Christina Estes takes us to the city of Tempe's kid zone enrichment program.

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In the after-school road, we've started to using the term out of school time because we're available during breaks, summers, before and after school, any time when school's not in session, we're usually running a program.

Jeremy key helps oversee kid zone programs at schools in the Tempe district.

Jeremy King We partner with the school and support the district's goals so that we're meeting things like educational goals with our homework club. We get to do a lot of partnering with what they're doing during the school day and actually do some of those hands-on activities that they don't have the time for during the school day.

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One more.

Jeremy King One of the nice parts about our program in particular is it comes right from the classroom to our program and we're able to keep them safe. No buses to travel in.

Jason Hill: I think it provides a nice transition thing between the school day and the academic part of their day and coming home. They're able to kind of ease into the evening a little bit better. They're a little bit more relaxed.

Jason hill's son and daughter have been attending kid zone for a couple of years.

Jason Hill: I think it's helpful for sure. It allows them an opportunity to see some of the kids that they are taking classes with but don't always get to socialize with. They form bonds in their classrooms and they're able to play out those bonds in a different way after school as opposed to just being a classmate, they're now playmates, they're friends.

Jeremy King We try to infuse excitement into every day because our goal is to make sure that kids don't want to leave our program. I kind of make it a gold star of a day if a kid is begging not to go home that day because they don't want to miss something that we have going on.

While the staff at this school cares for about 130 kids --

If you want all of it, put all of it. If you want a little, put a little.

The kid zone program serves about 2,000 every year.

And I can't tell you the number of kids who come back into our programs and volunteer or end up working for us because they had such an amazing experience in our programs that they wanted to come back and do the same type of thing for other kids.

Ted Simons: The kid zone experience will be on display at the city of Tempe's annual Play Day. The free event will feature classes and activities at Kiwanis Park on February 28th. Joining us now to talk about after school programs is Melanie Mcclintock, executive director of the Arizona Center for After-school Excellence, and Chad Geston, a former principal at Camelback High School, where he integrated after-school activities that produced encouraging results. He is now director of school leadership for the Phoenix Union High School District. Good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ted Simons: What justifies as an after-school program?

Melanie Mcclintock: Well, as was mentioned in the video, we are now substituting out of school time, children are only in the classroom six hours a day, 0 days a year. We're trying to get parents and the community to look at what is the child doing before school, after school, weekends, during summer break, during fall break, and then over that very long summer vacation when there's such documented learning loss.

Ted Simons: So compare an after-school program with an in-school program.

Chad Geston: Well, a couple of things. One, after-school program really allows you to focus on the interests of kids. Often kids come to school, take a math class, science, and that may not be what they're passionate about at the time but put kids in a theater program, get kids engaged in clubs and sports, that's often what drives kids to school.

Ted Simons: And as far as a typical after-school program, the things you were listing there, is that what you see?

Chad Geston: It can range from broadcast journalism where students create a weekly video to be broadcast across the school. Football programs, theater programs, art classes, poetry, runs the gamut.

Ted Simons: Are there standards in place for these programs?

Melanie Mcclintock: Yes, Arizona developed its own Arizona quality standards for out of school time programs, months ago. Those standards have been adopted by 550 out of school time programs statewide. And we're still welcoming more programs using the standards for continuous quality improvement.

Ted Simons: And what we saw with the kid zone story there, that's a pretty typical after-school program I would think correct?

They are known for one of the better programs and they adopted the standards early on. They've recently used our quality self-assessment tool to measure their quality, and now, they're developing a plan to continue to raise that program to even higher levels of quality.

Ted Simons: Is there such a thing as a low-equality after-school program and, if so, what would it be?

Chad Geston: Is I think there might be but let me tell you our perspective, which is let's do all we can, especially at the middle school and high school level to keep kids engaged after school, before school and on weekends. We know the vast majority of teenage arrests occur between 3: and 6: p.m. Monday through Friday. Keeping kids on campus, engaged, it was also about access. Quality is important but it's also about access to programs.

Ted Simons: Ted Simons: A low quality program would be something that just simply doesn't interest the kids?

Chad Geston: Or it could be just about engaging kids after school in more broad topics but not specifically into a skill set, arts, sports, that might drive them.

Ted Simons: I ask you about this because it sounds like a really good thing but you've got to make sure the good thing is a good thing.

Melanie Mcclintock: Well, as chad said earlier, these have to be programs that cater to the interests of the children. The school day is dictated to them. After school should not be dictated, a quality program is all about youth voice and choice that we listen to what they want and they have their choice of what they're going to engage in.

Ted Simons: And as far as the impact on let's start with school attendance, what are you seeing out there?

Melanie Mcclintock: It's tremendous. The data shows that for kids who participate in after-school programs, that they have regular attendance in school and sometimes, they come to school because they want to go to the after-school program.

Ted Simons: Do you see the same thing?

Chad Geston: In high school we didn't go up excited to go to English class but we showed up excited to go to band, sports, that's what drives kids to school and that gets them there and once they're in the seats, it's our job to educate them.

Ted Simons: As far as after-school programs, what kind of results, what kind of impact are you seeing with achievement?

Chad Geston: So you could take a look at a school like camelback high school that has seen drastic increases in attendance, the dropout rate from 6% to 2% over a five-year period. But then you also see test scores increase. You see graduation rates increases. There's a direct correlation between connecting kids with after-school time and their academics.

Ted Simons: That graduation is very important, isn't it?

Melanie Mcclintock: Absolutely. And where we talk about the three r's in the classroom, we talk about the two r's after school and they're relevancy and resiliency, that we make relevant the concepts that are taught in the classroom because of the nature of the hands-on projects the kids work on after school and resiliency because the classroom can be a harsh place when you're graded a, b, c, d but it's okay to fail in an after-school program and redesign your rocketship or your race car. It's all about knowing you have another chance and you pick yourself up and you do it again and you do better the second time.

Ted Simons: And that does make a difference in achievement and in graduation, doesn't it?

Chad Geston: Absolutely, and part of what it does is it connects kids to adult who have similar passions, similar interests and you look at all the research around the country where kids who are connected to a caring adult, especially in urban America who don't oftentimes have that at home, not just the club or the sport or the activity after school but someone who they look forward to seeing every day.

Ted Simons: Which age groups show the best results for after-school programs?

Chad Geston: The research shows across the board there's kind of a misnomer that after-school programs are for elementary school students and we've been finding that is not the case and kids in high school are looking I would argue having been an elementary school principal, middle school, and high school principal, high school kids are looking for them, too.

Melanie Mcclintock: There's a misbelief that kids age out, you get to be in sixth grade, you think you know it all and you'll be safe at home hanging out with your friends. That's a big fallacy and so they need it all the more in the transition years and in high school because it really does open up their students for career and college majors.

Ted Simons: They need those after-school programs more, is it harder to attract them in those later ages?

Melanie Mcclintock: Not when you again have used voice and choice. Chad, you expanded the number of options to your students.

Chad Geston: Yeah, at camelback we made a requirement, every kid has to join a club or a sport after school, it's a mandate and told the kids if we don't have the club or sport that you want, let us know and we'll create it for you. I've expanded clubs to have a sand volleyball club, and opened weight room and a weight room club, whatever it took to keep kids after school, you have to meet their interests and when you do that, they stay.

Ted Simons: Same thing with students of the greatest risk? Some of these kids --

Chad Geston: Even more so. Even more so. If you engage kids in activities they don't otherwise have access to, a lot of these kids aren't going to go home and play on a computer, they don't have one at home but if you open up your computer lab in a gaming club or coding club, it's very easy to attract kids.

Ted Simons: Arizona ranks among the best in program support, parent satisfaction, what is Arizona doing, right?

Melanie Mcclintock: I think we're getting the message out. I think providers are tapping into the needs of children and serving the needs of children and so it really is that cafeteria approach, so children can be exposed to activities they may not know anything about. They then in the course of that find what they're passionate about and we get them an opportunity to run with their passion.

Ted Simons: As far as again, what Arizona is doing right, what are we doing, right? What can be improved?

Chad Geston: We need to continue to make sure that we have the funding and the structure around after-school programming, whether that's community support, we as Phoenix school district get worried about things like Senate bill , they're going to get rid of d seg and that will decimate programs, not just improve upon but that we support these programs because the learning doesn't just take place in the first six hours.

Ted Simons: Give us an overview framework of how the programs are funded.

Chad Geston: Various resources. Some school districts go out for an override and get funds for after-school programs. Some of it's through federal dollars, private grants like st century learning communities, some of it is just volunteering and teachers know we have to connect kids after school to make sure their focus during school.

Melanie Mcclintock: According to the Arizona survey, % of parents want their children in a program that aren't there now and they cite both geographic barriers and financial barriers. Some of these programs have a cost attached and we have to be careful that we don't price out the very families where the children will benefit the most.

Ted Simons: Last question, we hear a lot about accountability in education, a lot about accountability. What kind of accountability for after-school programs?

Melanie Mcclintock: That is taking off like gangbusters. We have the new Arizona quality standards but just in December we rolled out a new quality assessment tool, a program can literally use this tool to measure their own quality, come up with their own continuous improvement plan and so we encourage the funders who are backing these programs to use these tools to make sure that they are funding and they are expecting quality in what they are funding.

Ted Simons: Agree with that?

Chad Geston: Absolutely. And for us it's also looking at individual kids who may not have made it to that graduation stage and to do the postgraduation interview, what was it that kept you in schools and it was the clubs, sports, after-school activities that engaged our kids.

Ted Simons: All right, very good. Good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Melanie Mcclintock: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you.

Melanie McClintock:Executive Director, Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence; Chad Geston:Former Principal, Camelback High School;

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