Education first: A safe place for our students

Vicki Barber

Education plays an important role in the future of our children, community, state and country.

At the El Dorado County Office of Education we use every resource available to ensure our students are better prepared and equipped to succeed in the future.

The people of California gave us one key resource when they approved Proposition 49, the After School Education and Safety (ASES) program. The earmarked funding makes it possible for us to provide a safe place for our students to go after the school bell rings where caring adults surround them. It has also turned the after school hours into a time of inspiration and achievement.

Through our collaborative partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club, the Extended Day programs, and others, more than 3,000 students in the county are able to participate in hands-on academic, enrichment and recreational activities. Many programs eliminated from the regular day because of time restraints and budget cuts are now available only after school.

Aligning the after school program with the regular learning day is key to student success. In most programs, credentialed teachers work with students on homework and provide targeted intervention — including a targeted literacy program for Kindergarten through third graders — to ensure the children get the attention needed to quickly close learning gaps. In these small-group learning situations student progress is closely monitored.

At participating school sites and at the Boys & Girls Club, enrichment activities turn classroom lessons into experiential learning that is tied to state curriculum standards. After school staff communicates directly with the teachers to prioritize areas of focus for each grade. Students build robots, program computers, enjoy one-on-one music lessons on their favorite instrument, learn photography and graphic and web design. With an emphasis on the whole child, health and life skills programs such as financial responsibility, eating right and staying physically fit are an important part of the enrichment program.

For students that participate in the three and a half extra hours of learning Monday through Friday, it adds up to 90 additional days of learning each school year. Children who regularly participate in after-school programs are more engaged in learning and often score substantially higher on California standards tests for math and English language arts. They also often have higher school attendance rates.

Since attendance is voluntary in after school, if students don’t like the program they don’t return. In El Dorado County not only do the students keep coming back, but also attendance has doubled over the past five years.

Think about the value of our after school program; now think about what it would be like for our students if they did not have this resource. We would all lose.

Vicki Barber is the Superintendent at the El Dorado County Office of Education. A column from the Superintendent’s office will run monthly.

Special to Village Life


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