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Enrichment Program Design: Advancing Student and Teacher Skills

Whether designed for enrichment or remediation few would argue the value and need for quality school-based, after- and out-of-school programming. These types of summer and regular school-year opportunities provide some of our most at-risk students with a safe and nurturing environment where they can:

·    Expand their social networking skills, character and confidence;

·    Explore and develop new skills and talents through specialized enrichment programming;

·    Receive homework help; and/or,

·    Hone their repertoire of fundamental learning skills.

As noted by Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Center for Summer Learning, an effective summer learning program might be defined as one that, “successfully accelerates learning and supports positive youth development as part of a proactive approach to stemming summer learning loss.” Effective programs achieve and maintain high quality programming through, “strong leadership, careful planning, extensive staff development, strategic partnerships, continual evaluation, and a focus on sustainability.”

While the Center’s focus is on summer opportunities, the exemplary programs cited in their research all have complementary school-based, year-round programs. A second common feature among high-quality programs is the participation of parents along with a team of dedicated in-house professionals, including: school administrators, teachers, assistants and college interns.

The consolidation of summer and regular school year programs under a single administrative authority not only recognizes the shared mission and objectives, but also streamlines operational strategies, program and staff development, and other infrastructure requirements. This approach further allows stakeholders to evaluate program quality, better allocate resources, focus on staff development, facilitate the acquisition of student data, correlate academic achievement, and most importantly provide targeted student populations with the uninterrupted delivery of enrichment services. In this way, student needs can be formatively assessed, progress monitored, and priority can initially be given to at-risk students from all socioeconomic levels as well as a subset of high-performing, low-income students who might not otherwise have access to enrichment and/or remediation programs. By prioritizing and provisioning services for at-risk student populations, invaluable assessment data can be correlated to after-school and summer program quality, standardized test results, and overall student progress and achievement, both in school and beyond. Looking beyond the school environment, teachers and school administrators can further the home-school connection through parent involvement and family education, which in addition to supporting the individual student can positively impact and empower whole families, and communities, as well.

Out-of-school programming not only offers measurable benefits for participating students but for educators as well. Classroom teachers have an opportunity to advance their teaching practices by exploring innovative and creative strategies that can be applied in the classroom; and, can observe and experience student achievement and learning successes using differentiated (and sometimes non-traditional) assessment tools. This type of capacity building can increase staff effectiveness, realign goals and attitudes, build and strengthen stakeholder partnerships, and ultimately advance student learning throughout the year within the classroom setting.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that after-school and summer programs do not exist in a vacuum. Program quality and effectiveness should ideally be reflected in advancements in student skills and achievements in the classroom and beyond. Further, the outpouring of support and enthusiasm for out-of-school programs should be matched with an even more dedicated plan to ensure student learning in the classroom. In so doing, we can shift our focus from providing remediation services to offering students enrichment programs that help them discover and develop their creativity and talents.