Roughly eight in 10 school districts spent some of their federal coronavirus relief funds on after-school and summer learning, according to one study.A recently released report by the nonprofit organization Afterschool Alliance.
The report found that the majority of school districts focus these programs almost entirely on tutoring and other academic supports, rather than combining academic learning with enriching experiences such as the arts, sports, and career exploration. It turned out that
However, Jen Reinhart, senior vice president of strategy and programs at the Afterschool Alliance, says that a primary emphasis on academics without other types of programs in afterschool or summer programs can help increase interest in school. He said it would be a missed opportunity to reach students he may have lost.
“We’re hearing that kids really want opportunities to connect, explore things that interest them and get excited about, and play with content in a low-risk way,” she said. “If you’re just talking academically, that’s difficult.”
The Afterschool Alliance reviewed the plans of more than 6,300 school districts to spend more than $120 billion in federal relief funds, including plans for school districts in all 50 states and public schools in the District of Columbia. Nearly 4,000 of the proposals mentioned some form of after-school or summer learning, the report said, but in some cases the specific funding was unclear.
Of the 3,988 plans that mentioned using funds for after-school programs, more than half (53%) specified that the funds would be spent only on tutoring and academic programs, such as teacher-led extended reading and math tutoring programs. .
Almost one in five districts (19%) reported spending money on programs that included both academic and enrichment components. For example, certain districts cited in the report offered components such as physical fitness, drug and violence prevention, nutrition, service learning, and art and music alongside tutoring.
Of the 4,632 plans that listed summer programs, 46% offered programs that focused solely on academics. For example, certain school districts cited in the report emphasize credit recovery for high school students.
About a quarter (27%) of school districts described combining academics and enrichment in their summer programs. For example, he created a free six-week summer program for students in one school district. While mornings focused on schoolwork, afternoons allowed students to explore interests such as art or participate in outdoor recreational activities and her STEM studies.
The report recommends that school districts use comprehensive after-school and summer programs that combine academic learning with enrichment activities as part of strategies to accelerate student learning and increase engagement. It also suggests working with community partners to provide after-school and summer learning opportunities.
Why do schools feel pressured to focus solely on academics?
Reinhart understands why districts feel pressure to focus primarily or exclusively on academics.
Latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores; Fourth- and eighth-grade math scores showed the largest decline since the testing program began in 1990. In reading comprehension, fourth- and eighth-grade students performed on par with students in the 1990s. About a third of students in both grades were unable to read even at the “basic” achievement level, the lowest level on the test.
Reinhart said part of the reason districts are focusing on learning recovery with after-school and summer programs is likely to be to make up for lost academic foundations.
“I’m not saying tutoring isn’t a good use of money,” she says. “I think this is saying that incorporating tutoring into these other more comprehensive approaches could be a better use of the funds.”