Menu
[This is an archived article]

Schools as Community Learning Centers

By: Adriana de Kanter, Leila Fiester, Andrew Lauland, Valerie Romney
When schools are community learning centers, their doors don't lock at 3:00 p.m. Learn facts about the importance of and need for extended day and summer programs in schools.

The need for increased opportunities for children to learn and develop in safe and drug-free environments outside of regular school hours is clear.

Without affordable, high-quality after-school care available to parents who work, many children must care for themselves or be supervised by older siblings. Lacking constructive community activities to engage them after school, children are vulnerable to drug use and gang involvement outside of school hours.

By keeping neighborhood school buildings open as community learning centers, we give our children opportunities to enhance their learning and be involved in enriching activities in convenient, caring environments.

Research shows the importance of keeping schools open as after-school and summer Community Learning Centers:

  • Few opportunities exist for young people.

    While there has been a growth in the availability of after-school care programs for children over the last 20 years, relatively few organized, extended learning opportunities exist. Seventy percent of all public elementary and combined schools did not offer before- or after-school programs.

  • Parents want more access to extended learning opportunities but may face barriers in accessing them.

    A 1994 survey of parents found that 56 percent think that many parents leave their children alone too much after school. And principals have long seen a need for extended learning programs; in a 1989 survey, 84 percent of school principals agreed that there is a need for before- and after-school programs.

    Studies have identified some barriers to participation(e.g., hours of the program, transportation, concern over program activities and quality), the most frequently mentioned barrier being parents' inability to pay the tuition and fees charged by programs. Other barriers to offering programs include the unwillingness of unions (teacher, paraprofessional, and custodial) to extend the hours of their members and the charging of high rental rates for the use of the school facility.

  • Youth are at greatest risk of violence after the regular school day.

    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are most at risk of committing violent acts and being victims between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., a time when they are not in school at the end of the regular school day.

  • Organized activities help children resist unsafe behaviors and enhance learning.

    Children under adult supervision in formal programs that exhibit quality indicators (lower student staff ratios, age-appropriate activities, academic and enrichment activities) demonstrate higher academic achievement and better attitudes toward school than children left alone or under the care of siblings.

  • Children in quality programs do better in school.

    Research indicates that program quality is very important. Students have more positive interactions with staff when student to staff ratios are low, staff are well-trained, and a wide variety of activities are offered. Students in quality programs may have better peer relations and better grades and conduct in school than their peers in other care arrangements.

  • Teachers and principals are recognizing the positive effects of good quality programs on their students.

    The Cooperative Extension Service found that in programs that had received their assistance, teachers reported that the programs helped the children to become more cooperative, handle conflicts better, develop an interest in recreational reading, and earn better grades. More than one-third of the school principals stated that vandalism in the school decreased as a result of the programs.

  • Youth need opportunities outside of the regular school day.

    Programs can offer youth the opportunity to be mentored by adults and introduced to new activities that they can master. Research clearly shows that positive and sustained interactions with adults contribute to the overall development of young people and their achievement in school.

By offering a safe learning environment before- and after-school and during the summer, schools can become community learning centers that help children read, learn more, and avoid destructive or dangerous activities.

The programs can be simple, focused on a single goal, and funded by reallocating existing resources. Or they can address an array of conditions, involve many community partners in a systems-building approach, and attract support from many sources.

In both cases, after-school and summer learning opportunities in a safe, drug-free environment can make a profound difference in children's lives.

References

Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Baden, R.K., Genser, A., Levine, J.A., and Seligson, M. (1982).
School-age child care: An action manual. Dover, MA: Auburn House Publishing Company.

Carnegie Corporation of New York. (1994).
A matter of time: Risk and opportunity in the out-of-school hours. New York: Author.

Carnegie Corporation of New York. (1996).
Years of promise. New York: Author.

Children's Aid Society. (1993).
Building a community school: A revolutionary design in public education. New York: Author.

Corporation for National Service. (1996).
Expanding opportunities in out-of-school time: A national forum on service and school-age care. Washington, DC: Author.

Decker, L.E. and Boo, M.R. (1996).
Community schools: Linking home, school, & community. Fairfax, VA: National Community Education Publication Series.

Decker, L.E. and Romney, V.A. (1990).
Community education across America. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Mid-Atlantic Center for Community Education, National Community Education Association.

Drug Strategies. (1996).
Making the grade: A guide to school drug prevention programs. Washington, DC: Author.

Dryfoos, J. (1994).
Full-service schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Edwards. P. and Biocchi, K. (1996).
Community schools across America. Alexandria, VA: National Community Education Association.

Fiester, L. and Marzke, C. (1996).
Linking community health centers with schools serving low-income children: An idea book. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Funkhouser, J., Fiester, L., O'Brien, E., and Weiner, L. (1995).
Extending learning time for disadvantaged students. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Funkhouser, J., Humphrey, D., Panton, K., and Rosenthal, E. (1992).
Educational uses of time. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates.

Metropolitan Life. (1994).
Metropolitan Life survey of the American teacher. Violence in America's public schools: The family perspective.

Miller, B.M. (1995).
Out-of-school time: Effects on learning in the primary grades. Action Research Paper #4. Wellesley, MA: School-Age Child Care Project, Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.

Muraskin, L. (1993).
Understanding evaluation: The way to better prevention programs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Ringers, J., Jr. and Decker, L. E. (1995).
School community centers: Guidelines for interagency planners. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Mid-Atlantic Center for Community Education, National Community Education Association.

SAGE Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Newbury Park, CA 91320; (805) 499-0721
[various publications on how to conduct evaluations].
School-Age Child Care Project and National Association of Elementary School Principals. (1993).
The public school involvement in school-age child care project. Wellesley, MA: Authors.

Seligson & Fink. (1989).
No time to waste: An action agenda for school-age child care.

In Smith, Fairchild, & Grodinsky. (1995).
Early childhood care and education: An investment that works. National Conference of State Legislatures.

Seligson, M. & Allenson, M. (1993)
School-age child care: An action manual for the 90s and beyond. Westport, CN: Auburn House.

Seppanen, P., Love, J., deVries, D. and Bernstein, L. (1993).
National study of before- and after-school programs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

State of Maine. (1993).
School-age child care technical assistance papers. Maine: Maine Department of Human Services, Office of Child Care and Head Start.

Trost, C. (1994, September).
Isn't it time to change school hours? Working mother magazine, pp. 40-42.

U.S. Department of Education. (1996).
Putting the pieces together: Comprehensive school-linked strategies for children and families. Washington, DC: Author.

de Kanter, A., Fiester, L., Lauland, A., & Romney, V. (July, 1997). The Benefits of Schools as Community Learning Centers. Keeping Schools Open As Community Learning Centers: Extending Learning in a Safe, Drug-Free Environment Before and After School. National Community Education Association; U.S. Department of Education; Policy Studies Associates, Inc.; American Bar Association, Division of Public Education.

Add comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Sign up for our free newsletters about reading
Advertisement
Reading Blogs
Start with a Book: Read. Talk. Explore.
"There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away" — Emily Dickinson