Academic journal article School Community Journal

Who Gets the Better Educators in Afterschool? an Analysis of Teaching and Learning Interactions and Student Economic Status

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Who Gets the Better Educators in Afterschool? an Analysis of Teaching and Learning Interactions and Student Economic Status

Article excerpt

Introduction

Multiple studies have examined the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and academic achievement (Jensen, 2009). Children living in poverty experience multiple environmental risk factors that can and often do adversely affect their academic skills (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). However, when economically disadvantaged students regularly attend high-quality afterschool programs, they experience significant gains in achievement, work habits, and reductions in behavior problems (Vandell, 2013; Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007). Meta-analyses conducted by Lauer and colleagues (2006) found small but significant positive effects of afterschool or summer school participation on reading and math achievement. Durlak and Weissberg (2007) found three areas of significant improvement for participants in afterschool programs: feelings and attitudes, behavioral adjustment, and school performance.

This leads to the question: What is "high quality"? Metz, Goldsmith, and Arbreton (2008) proposed six dimensions of quality-focused, intentional programming; continuous program improvement; exposure; supportive relationships; family engagement; and cultural competence. Of these six dimensions, Metz and colleagues asserted that two dimensions in particular-focused, intentional programming and continuous program improvement-were key in the formation of the others. Intentional programming is found in multiple reviews of quality in afterschool programs (Durlak & Weissberg, 2007; Little, Wimer, & Weiss, 2008). In an examination of the characteristics of quality afterschool programs, Durlak and Weissberg (2007) reported that they are SAFE-sequenced, active, focused, and explicit. Converting that to effective teaching, then, one would say that effective afterschool educators implement activities that are sequenced, active, focused, and explicit. Indeed, research has consistently shown that one of the strongest assets of high-quality afterschool programs are high-quality staff (McElvain, Judith, & Diedrich, 2005). For example, Little and colleagues (2008) found that high-quality programs were those that had appropriate supervision, structure, and well-prepared staff (Little et al., 2008). Similarly, Pittman, Garza, Yohalem, and Artman (2008) found that supportive relationships and safety are primary to quality.

In a multilevel analysis of the relationship between teacher quality and student achievement, Heck (2007) found that collective teacher quality was associated with differences in student outcomes such that students in schools with higher professional standards for teachers (i.e., certification, content knowledge, and performance criteria) had higher achievement levels in reading and math, compared to students in schools with lower professional standards. Notably, collective teacher quality made an even bigger difference in student achievement in school settings where targeted subgroups (i.e., low SES, underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds, ELL participants) were more prevalent, underscoring the importance of higher quality teaching for at-risk students. Further support for these findings comes from Woodland (2008), who found that the area of adult-child relationships was first among nine core elements of effective afterschool programs for Black youth. In sum, research shows that having higher quality teachers is associated with increased achievement in reading and math, as well as a reduction in the achievement gap between lower SES minorities and their White, higher SES counterparts.

Despite the plethora of research showing the positive effects of high-quality afterschool programs on children and families, research indicates that children in low-income families continue to face limited access to high-quality afterschool programs (Hipps & Ormsby, 2005, as cited in Norris-Holmes, 2008). For example, Peske and Haycock (2006) found that disadvantaged children were more likely to have less effective teachers. …

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