High-quality out-of-school time programs offer excellent opportunities for youth to develop skills in supervised, safe, and engaging environments. As schools struggle to meet federal achievement standards, after-school programs are increasingly viewed as a potential source of academic support for youth at risk of school failure. The hope is that after school programs can partially compensate for the inequities that plague our nation’s schools and play a role in efforts to narrow gaps in achievement between more and less advantaged students.
Far too many children enter school not prepared. When unprepared children begin school behind, they tend to fall further and further behind. Expanding access to high quality early childhood education is among the smartest investments that we can make. Research has shown that the early years in a child’s life—when the human brain is forming—represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in school and in life.
No matter how well teachers are prepared to teach, no matter what accountability measures are put in place, no matter what governing structures are established for schools, educational progress will be profoundly limited if students are not motivated and able to learn. Health-related problems play a major role in limiting the motivation and ability to learn of urban minority youth, and interventions to address those problems can improve educational as well as health outcomes. Healthier students are better learners.