Fill gaps in access to out-of-school time (OST) programs
Many cities have conducted an inventory of afterschool and summer programs and then used geographic information systems (GIS) technology to map their locations. By overlaying additional data regarding child and family needs (e.g., rates of child poverty, youth violence or teen pregnancy) on the map of existing programs, cities can quickly determine whether OST resources are appropriately targeted and where new funding should be focused to reduce opportunity gaps. Taking this basic step helps city officials assess local needs while also generating a valuable new resource for parents: the information gathered through this process can be shared publicly through an online program locator to help families find appropriate afterschool and summer offerings based on location, fees, and program focus.
Combine summer learning and child nutrition efforts
Research shows that summer learning losses contribute greatly to achievement gaps by income and race/ethnicity. In addition, children from low-income families who rely upon school meals during the school year frequently are at risk of increased hunger and food insecurity during the summer months. Cities can tackle both of these challenges by expanding the number of summer programs that include strong learning components and ensuring that program sites serve nutritious meals, with the federal government reimbursing feeding sites for meal costs. During the school year, cities can play a major role in increasing the number of meals served by afterschool programs as well.
Take steps to improve the quality of OST programs
Afterschool and summer programs can vary greatly in quality and, as a result, in their contributions to student learning. High-quality programs promote healthy youth development, enhance students’ academic abilities, support social and emotional learning, help students cope with peer pressures and cultivate new interests and skills. In order to achieve more positive outcomes for children and youth, an increasing number of cities are seeking to improve the quality of OST programs by developing standards (typically in collaboration with local OST providers) and supporting professional development opportunities for frontline staff. Through a combination of partnerships and funding requirements, even modest steps in this direction can prompt local programs to focus more on quality, learn from each other, and join together for training and other activities.