The readers’ forum

Quality after-school programs a smart investment

 

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is to be applauded for his quick response to allegations of widespread fraud by private, for-profit providers of supplemental educational services in Florida.

These services, which can also be provided by nonprofits, school districts, faith-based organizations and others are intended to provide low-income students in poorly-performing schools with additional educational support to help meet minimum academic performance standards.

Ensuring every child has access to quality educational opportunities is essential to Florida’s economic stability and future growth. However, I believe the tens of millions of dollars in education funding being steered to private tutoring firms could be better spent.

While tutoring can be a powerful tool for many children, quality afterschool programs provide opportunities that not only support children’s cognitive development, but their physical, social and emotional development as well.

Directing families and resources to providers of proven, high-quality services, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, Communities In Schools and accredited quality afterschool providers is a solution worthy of consideration.

Children attending quality afterschool programs attend school more regularly. They perform better on tests. They have fewer behavioral problems and are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol or drugs.

Quality afterschool programs also provide a safe, nurturing environment that decreases the likelihood that children will become victims or perpetrators of criminal activity.

Here is just some of the research:

• The Legislative Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability found that elementary and middle school participants in the Boys and Girls Clubs performed better on the FCAT in reading (elementary school only) and math at grade level versus a comparison group of students who were not in quality afterschool programs.

• A Florida TaxWatch study of Boys and Girls Clubs found gains on reading and math standardized test scores.

• The Ounce Prevention Fund of Florida’s evaluation of the YMCA Reads program found reading improvement across the board regardless of grade level, gender, or race.

• The National Institute on Out of School Time’s evaluation of Jacksonville TEAM UP found gains on standardized tests of reading and math.

Supplemental education services provided as part of a high-quality afterschool program help bridge the gap for disadvantaged children, which is crucial to Florida’s ultimate economic success.

Let’s be smarter about how we spend our limited dollars by investing in providers that have demonstrated success in improving student outcomes.

Larry Pintacuda, CEO, The Florida Afterschool Network, Tallahassee

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