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In an effort to counteract the "War on Poverty," President Johnson initiated legislation in 1965, called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which stated that all children should have an opportunity to have an education. The act consisted of five original titles: "Financial Assistance To Local Educational Agencies For The Education of Children of Low-Income Families, School Library Resources, Textbooks, and other Instructional Materials, Supplementary Educational Centers and Services, Educational Research And Training, Grants To Strengthen State Departments Of Education, and General Provisions" ().
An amendment for the aid of handicapped children was added in 1966. This amendment made the original Title V become Title VI. There was another amendment to the act in 1967 that implemented bilingual programs in schools. There have also been several reauthorizations of this act such as the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981, the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, and the most recent, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The No Child Left Behind revision was set forth by President George W. Bush. This act "provides afterschool advocates an opportunity to influence the legislation that authorizes several significant funding streams for afterschool, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Supplemental Educational Services, Title I and Safe and Drug-Free Schools" (America After 3PM). The Obama Administration has made significant and very clear recommendations for amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and has to be reauthorized by Congress.
According to the Afterschool Alliance Survey research, there are 15 million children who are unsupervised by an adult in 2009. Currently, about "thirty percent of middle school students 3,722,219 and four percent 1,133,989 are unsupervised when the school day ends" (America After 3PM). The hours of three to six p.m. are the peak hours during which children are at risk of becoming a victim of crime or participate in delinquent behaviors such as drinking, use of drugs, and gang activity. The after school programs are a deterrent to delinquent behaviors and provide a safe place environment for children to be in. During the last six years, there has been a significant increase of children participating in afterschool programs. The current enrollment of children in afterschool programs is "8.4 million" (America After 3PM).
One of the benefits of a good afterschool program is to promote academics skills. Research shows that participating in an afterschool program "improves children grades and test scores particularly for students of low income families" (Miller, 2003). Another benefit is to improve the graduation rates. A study of Chicago's After School Matters found that students who were in the ASM had higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates than non-participants. The students who had high levels of involvement in the ASM program had better odds of graduating of "2.7 times greater than the odds for students who were not involved in the program" (Goerge et al., 2007).
Also, afterschool program promotes personal development in children. The activities that children engage in afterschool programs give them critical thinking skills and using skills to solve problems. The afterschool program provides children with the social interaction among their peers and adults. In some of programs, volunteering at an organization is part of their curriculum to educate children that volunteering is rewarding and that they are contributing to society. Some of the activities in these programs focus teamwork activities such as putting a play by designing costumes, writing scripts, building sets. These activities teach children to work together especially children "who have been isolated from beneficial socializing influences" (Neuman, 2010).
Research shows that the effects of after school programs on children vary from mild to null, based on the specific program and children involved. Though it may be tempting to declare a certain type of program low quality, it is important to keep in mind that even the highest quality program may not have a staggering effect on students. Quality can vary within any given program, with some areas being more effective for certain children.
Research shows programs have been found to have few, if any, significant positive effects on their participants. Many programs "do not make a greater difference than other services in the community" (Granger, 2008, p. 15). Few programs, however, have been found to have a negative effect. Though many programs have a neutral effect on their participants, it is worth it to continue after school programs for the positive effects that they do have.
The education level of the staff has an effect of the efficiency of a given program. In a field where employees are often without academic degrees, "programs with more highly educated and trained staff, both program directors and direct service workers, demonstrated higher quality staff engagement, youth engagement, activities, and homework time" (Hall & Gannett, 2010, p. 13). Some after school programs are implementing a system of credentials to recognize individual skill sets, special training, and achievements. Programs that employ credentialed staff have "noted reductions in turnover rates and programs of higher quality" (Dennehy et al., 2006).
One factor often limited by funding that effects the efficacy of after school programs is the duration of the program. Limited funding can shorten the lifespan of after school programs. Other factors include "program time frame, grade level of participants, focus, and grouping strategy" (Granger, 2008, p. 8). Major funding for after school programs has been obtained through The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which helps subsidize child care costs for children 13 or younger.Â The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 allocated $2 billion for this fund through September 30, 2010.
With The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 approaching its expiration date, advocates are developing new tactics to influence public policy. For example, a contract clause could be used to direct funding into after school programs.Â Under current law, "CCDBG dollars can be used to contract after-school programs to provide slots for children needing care.Â This avenue provides use of funds to support programs outside the standard voucher system" (Barbagallo, 2009).Â This is an administrative decision that would be made in an individual state's legislature.
A different policy changing tactic entirely encompasses a change in licensing for programs. School based-programs, which are likely to already possess the qualities associated with high quality after school programs, could receive automatic licensure (Barbagallo, 2009). New and more appropriate requirements for programs could result in more funding being directed where it needs to be.
Like many afterschool policies, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been up for reauthorization since 2007 (America After 3PM). The Obama administration has been creating significant recommendations for changes to the ESEA. The central problem relating to the ESEA is the need for better funding. This influx of funding would be used to "increase learning time, make learning more relevant, strengthening learning and the teaching in the middle grades and investing in innovations by growing what works" (Recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA).
The ESEA has more funding outlets that formed more support than previous acts by including funding for Title 1 schools, safe and drug free schools, school improvement funds, and supplementary educational services (www.AfterschoolAlilliance.org). With the increase in funding schools would be able to hire better educated and quality afterschool educators. These educators should have "realistic expectations of a programs intended benefits [,]â€¦ [and to accomplish this] they need hands on training and ongoing technical assistance" (Durlack). Proper afterschool educators will achieve their intended goals and "increase students' academic performance while providing much needed supervision in the out-of-school hours" (Recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA).
While educators are always in need for improvement, afterschool programs should also be aware of what to achieve. They should "get youth actively involved, and if the program is academically goal orientated they should have programs that are explicitly academic" (Granger, p. 16).
In conclusion the ESEA reauthorization should consider and encourage an ongoing focus on program practices that will benefit today's youth and their development. Together, by accompanying the nation's goal for academic achievement, afterschool programs can consider, and rethink their initial intentions, and create a better educational future for our growing youth.