Why this work is important

Extended learning opportunities include a broad range of programs that provide children with academic enrichment and/ or supervised activities beyond the traditional school day and, in some cases, beyond the traditional school year. Programs that provide extended learning opportunities can be categorized by the targeted age group: school-age (typically children up to the age of 12) or adolescent (children 12 and older). They also can be grouped according to their purposes— such as child care (before and after the school day), youth development, or extra time for learning. Well planned and coordinated learning opportunities can support learning while providing safe, positive activities for children and young people to explore their interests and develop their talents.

Why are extended learning opportunities so important?

Students come to school from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences. Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and children from low-income households often enter kindergarten less prepared than their white middle-class counterparts and often lag behind in school throughout adolescence. For students who need extra support to be successful academically, what happens before and after school can be as important as what happens during the school day. The children who could benefit the most from Cool Smart Kid, however, typically have fewer opportunities to participate in high quality, affordable extended learning programs. When school-age children and teens do not have access to such programs and are left unsupervised after school, they are more likely to receive poor grades, drop out of school, and engage in high risk behaviors than children who participate in constructive activities supervised by responsible adults

Why do we Help struggling students?

Extended learning opportunities for middle and high school students have benefits beyond academic improvement. Programs that serve adolescents are valuable to the community because they have been linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, vandalism, and juvenile crime. The programs for adolescents that are most effective focus on service learning and personal development; they have been found to boost academic achievement, build leadership, and strengthen ties to the community.

What do high quality extended learning opportunities look like?

Researchers and educators agree that effective extended learning programs combine three components—academic enrichment, cultural activities, and recreational opportunities—that guide learning and engage children and youth. Our high quality programs:

• Enrich learning opportunities for students by complementing rather than duplicating school learning;

• Employ and adequately compensate qualified staff and management;

• Provide regular professional development and career advancement opportunities for staff and volunteers;

• Develop partnerships between community organizations that share the goals of promoting learning and community engagement;

• Create relationships between staff and school staff so that the use of resources and facilities are coordinated and maximized;

• Place appropriate attention on safety, health, and nutrition;

• Emphasize family involvement in children’s learning and development;

• Receive adequate and sustainable funding;

• Evaluate program effectiveness and seek continuous improvement.