In 2010, Central Valley Afterschool Foundation collaborated with business students from Fresno State to interview 12 Fresno County middle school principals to explore afterschool program engagement.
The principals interviewed ranged from highly engaged, engaged and somewhat engaged in their afterschool program. Their involvement depended on a variety of factors: school circumstances, interests and background, resources, leadership style, time, and relationship with the afterschool program coordinator or director.
In summary, principals offered 10 points about what is important to them in their afterschool program:
- Seamless coordination with the school day. Apply classroom application to afterschool classes, value education and advance each student in some way.
- New experiences for students. Provide fun, positive experiences that keep students returning.
- Homework assistance. Make homework assistance and intervention an important part of the program.
- The right staff. The program should be run by qualified, enthusiastic staff.
- A safe place. Create a safe and healthy place for students to go afterschool.
- Give back to the community. Provide service-learning opportunities for students, connecting them to their community by serving others.
- Offer clubs. Clubs help students explore new interests, offer socialization and teambuilding, and teach students how to perform and compete with integrity.
- Parent engagement. Connect parents to the program, the school and what their children are learning.
- Promote the program. Regularly market the program to students, teachers and parents in creative ways. Coordinate with the school effectively, tapping into all the communication opportunities the school has to offer.
- Provide transportation. All students should have the opportunity to participate in the afterschool program and its enriching off-site activities.
Program coordinators are encouraged to meet with their principal to address how the program fulfills these 10 points. Find out what is especially important to your principal and show him or her how collaboration can increase student, program and school success.
Afterschool programs of the past faced a dilemma with middle school students. Usually elementary school curriculum was adapted for middle school, but students transitioning to high school would not engage.
Today, middle school students have exciting opportunities for exploration, autonomy and real-world challenges. In programs throughout the Central Valley, afterschool is cleverly connecting students to their schools and real lives outside the school walls.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 25 percent of older youth afterschool participants drop out of their programs within two months, citing disinterest in the activities.
“We don’t fully appreciate the unique nature of the social, emotional and cognitive development of middle school youth,” said Rico Peralta, director of program development at Central Valley Afterschool Foundation. “They are not being properly engaged so they vote with their feet.” (more…)
Frank Escobar, afterschool program manager for Visalia Unified School District, oversees the implementation of ASES programming for four middle schools in partnership with community agencies. His program, called “The PULSE,” is known for high quality enrichment and recreational activities. But Frank was seeking ways to increase student academic improvement while getting the schools’ principals more connected to their afterschool program. He found a solution in the development of afterschool Academic Enrichment Centers (AEC).
On a chance site visit in southern California, Frank discovered a breakthrough academic support model being used afterschool at Granger Middle School and National City Middle School. Shortly thereafter, Granger’s developer and vice principal Bobby Bleisch was on his way to share the model locally, courtesy of the Region VII lead office and the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation. (more…)
The middle school years are critical transitional years for students as they learn how to manage newfound independence, greater responsibility and higher academic expectations.
Consider these assertions from a 2009 Public/Private Ventures report:
- Graduation rates. There is a correlation between how prepared a middle school student is for the transition to high school and whether he or she ultimately graduates. The pathway to dropping out starts earlier than high school.
On the home page of Fresno Unified’s Elizabeth Terronez Middle School, you may find this prominent posting:
“After School Program Band: Third World Democracy (This is a large file, so wait about 90 seconds, but it’s worth the wait! Click the blue arrow.)”
Make no mistake, the enthusiasm for the Terronez afterschool program is front and center. It’s no wonder. Located in a low socioeconomic region of southeast Fresno, the school’s API scores rose 32 points after the first year of the program. They have been advancing students from low to basic to proficient levels ever since. (more…)
In a Harvard Family Research Project document entitled “Exploring Quality in After School Programs for Middle School-Age Youth,” seven insights are provided to ensure quality programming and youth engagement.
- Middle school youth “vote with their feet.”
The call to action: If you build it, they won’t necessarily come; but if students build it, they will come. Keep your program fresh and relevant so they will choose to be there. Give middle school students a voice.
- Middle school youth are active creators of their own afterschool experiences.
The call to action: Engage students in the development of and leadership roles within afterschool. Support their abilities. Model expected behaviors.
CVAF’s middle school specialist, Richard “Rico” Peralta shares six ways to engage middle school students in afterschool.
- Make it Hard to Walk Away.
Give students a sense of belonging by allowing them to participate in program design. Build classes with the student in mind through surveys, focus groups and lunch activities. Make the offerings fun and empowering. Set students up for success. Connect them with the people around them. Make it a big club developed around their culture.
The Central Valley Afterschool Foundation has the expertise to offer your middle school program highly specialized support and technical assistance. Programs serving older youth face unique challenges to successful program design and implementation. Our staff can help you address these problems by providing your program with practical, results-driven solutions.
We provide support and technical assistance by delivering training, coaching, program development, events, focus groups, communications, recruitment, mentoring, evaluation, and community partnerships. Your organization will benefit from the services we provide, whether operating a K-8 Elementary, Intermediate, Middle, Junior High, Charter School, or other Community-Based Organization that serves older youth ranging from 10 to 14 years of age.
The After-School Program at Granger Junior High School has become a popular model for its Academic Support Program component. It offers students a wide variety of academic and enrichment activities in order to meet their unique interest and needs. No student is ever turned away.
The “Granger Model” has proven to be effective at two of schools that have traditionally been the lowest performing schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District: Granger Junior High and National City Middle School (NCM). (more…)
The tools and examples below are designed to inspire middle school afterschool program development. Contact Rico Peralta at email@example.com or call (559) 326-2069 for more information.
- Sample Application Packet
- Parent Talent Survey
- Spring Sample Class Menu
- Spring Sample Schedule
- Fall Sample Class Menu
- Fall Sample Schedule
- Fall Sample Class Menu
- Engage, Recruit, Retain: Marketing Strategies for Middle and High School Youth
- Class Selection Form
- Marketing Flyer
- Slideshow from the 2009 Boost Conference