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More than homework help: The critical role of afterschool programs for youth learning and development


Afterschool programs are increasingly recognized as valuable opportunities for learning that can create social capital, expose students to topics of interest, and build personal identities. Yet poor policies and ineffective practices driven by outdated ideals abound, including an emphasis on the caregiving function of afterschool programs for working families, as well as a focus on academic skill-building and remediation, often to the detriment of adolescents and students of color. I review historical trends and recent controversies alongside empirical and theoretical research to demonstrate the importance of afterschool for learning and development, particularly for students who are most likely to disengage from traditional school cultures. Using learning ecosystems models, I offer insights into how education leaders can leverage the strengths of afterschool programs to support academic achievement without simply extending the school day into afterschool. (author abstract)

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