Students Create Art: Expanding an After-School Program
Schwartz, Diane C., Pace, Darra, Teaching Exceptional Children
For the past 4 years the special education program at Hofstra University has partnered with a Long Island, New York school district in an after-school tutorial program for eighth grade students receiving special education services or considered "at risk." This partnership emerged as a result of a state improvement grant offered to "high need" school districts within the state. The grant required the school district to establish a relationship with an institution of higher education; hence, Hofstra's involvement. Together the district and the university crafted an afterschool program that would give district students support in areas of need. At the same time, preservice teachers in Hofstra's graduate special education program would be able to work individually with special needs students in literacy and math.
The After-School Program Partnership Design
In order for a program of this type to be successful, both the district and university must contribute to its administration. The school district provides bus transportation to and from the university. It also secures parent permission for student participation and for the release of individual student information so that the tutors can plan individualized programs. The university provides the tutors-masters' degree candidates who are working toward certification in special education. These graduate students in turn create materials for the district students, keeping in mind state standards and student individualized education program (IEP) goals when appropriate. Snacks are provided by the university, but reimbursed by the district.
University faculty administer the program. The professors teaching the methods course that incorporates the tutorial time as field experience monitor each session. The district provides three chaperones and a special education coordinator who observe and log the strategies used in each instructional period. The district chaperones serve as liaisons between the district and the university, providing the Hofstra faculty with feedback from the district teachers regarding the specific needs of the students. Specific responsibilities of each party are shown in Table 1.
Review of the literature
"After-school programs that provide additional learning opportunities for children are seen as potentially powerful opportunities to improve student learning and facilitate other positive youth outcomes" (McComb & ScottLittle, 2003, p. 2). In recent years these programs have emerged as a popular format for improving student academic performance. Because of funding support and no need for infrastructure change within the district school, these programs are a popular option (Miller, 2001). The increase in after-school programs has not come from policy decisions, but from a variety of groups including educators, child development experts, community development groups, and parent groups (Hollister, 2003).
The research in this area has not been conclusive, but it provides some important insights into the value of after-school programs. Some studies have found students in these programs have scored higher on math and reading assessments. In addition, participation in after-school programs has been associated with "improved attitudes toward school, higher expectations of school achievement, better work habits and higher attendance rates, especially for low-income students" (Miller, 2001, p. 11). Other studies have found that these programs affect "improvements in students' social skills, the ability to maintain self-control and avoid conflicts and make constructive choices about their personal behavior "(Lumsden, 2003, p. 4).
After-school programs are not necessarily only academic. Positive youth development programs are geared toward children in late childhood/early adolescence. It is during that time that children are developing their sense of self (Hollister, 2003). These programs attempt to guide children in a positive direction. …