Thursday, January 20, 2011

Value-Added After-school Programming

We are living in a results-oriented environment. People are happy to listen to the anecdotal stories of youth who have developed confidence, or a skill in dancing or drama, or even those who have developed a core set of character traits. However, decisions are being made on the way that young people are scoring on standardized tests. If we agree with Stephen M. R. Covey, trust is developed in part because an individual has the skills needed to achieve positive results. The question is “are you achieving positive results?”

Surely you want to measure youth development, behavior, leadership and resiliency goals, but you also want your program to make a difference in the academic performance and/or achievement of the students you work with during program. You can look at benchmark scores, homework completion rates, and report cards, but the real indicator of success is certainly standardized test scores in English Language Arts and Mathematics.

After-school cannot be exempt when pressure is being put on teachers to provide value-added performance. Currently teachers in LA have been given performance scores based on how effective they were in boosting student scores in ELA and Math. In an article entitled, “Should a Teacher's Value-added Score Be Made Public?” published in the LA Time on December 10, 2010, the United Federation of Teachers unequivocally says that reporting data about a teacher’s performance score based on standardized test scores is "fundamentally flawed" value-added data, which were found to be inflated and inaccurate." Yet, many in the public want this information published and say that this is because the public must be watchful of how well students are performing academically in school.

Take a look at the students who were in your program last year. Were they more successful than similar students who were not in your program? If a student attends an after-school program for a year, he/she is receiving approximately 540 additional hours of practice time to master grade level skills. This is a large commitment of time and the results should be tangible. Spend some time analyzing the results from last year and then chart a course for this year. Set a goal. Engage staff and students in accomplishing the goal. Establish benchmarks so you can see if you are making a difference along the way. Remember, school performance is a critical part of every student’s day and our job in after-school is to help students be more successful in all aspects of life.

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