Afterschool Learning Is a Key to Student Success - Guest MINDSETTERS™ Casimiro and Hawkins

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

 

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After school focused on STEM

Everyone in Rhode Island wants our children to succeed later in life - that goes without debate. But how we properly prepare our children for successful adult lives often comes with varying opinions, facts and ideas. This question is a complex equation with multiple factors that lead to or diminish student success. 

We want to highlight a time-tested and proven investment that has shown continuously to give our children the opportunity to better their current and future lives – afterschool learning programs.

The statistics are clear that afterschool learning programs are an essential key to our children’s future success. For instance, 65 percent of youngsters in these programs improve their homework completion and class participation, and one in two students improve their reading and math grades in school.

Also, more than 70 percent of students who engage in STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) afterschool programs gain more interest and knowledge about careers in science. If we truly want the next generation of STEM and STEAM workers in our society, the high-paying and dynamic jobs of the future, there is no better place to foster these career paths than in dedicated afterschool learning programs.

The financial return on investing in these programs is also impressive, with research demonstrating that with every dollar invested, these programs save taxpayers at least $3 by expanding children’s learning potential, improving school performance, and reducing juvenile crime and wrongdoing. A healthy society is predicated on the premise of its citizens, current, and future, being prosperous and productive.

If this is our goal as a society, then it is quite clear from the data that investing in and implementing afterschool learning programs is a prudent, fiscally responsible, and beneficial path toward this societal goal.

Unfortunately, there is still a shortage of quality afterschool learning programs in our society. It is estimated that for every student enrolled in such a program, two more students would participate if an afterschool program was made available to them. This lack of afterschool programs for our kids is effectively telling them that they are on their own and they are not worthy of our funding to ensure better lives for themselves and our society as a whole.

Clearly, we strongly disagree with this sentiment and believe that it is wrong to send this message to our children, so let’s fix this for the sake of our kids and invest in these beneficial programs.

The benefits of afterschool learning programs are clear. They lead to stronger social, school, and work skills. They improve grades, school day attendance and lead to higher graduation rates. They expand the minds of our children and encourage them to explore different areas, topics, and possible career paths. They keep our kids off the streets and from getting into needless trouble and they offer preventative activities against substance abuse and other risky behaviors relating to mental health and bullying. They provide peace of mind to hard-working parents who often aren’t home from work when the school day ends.

Investment in these programs leads to financial savings for the taxpayers while also laying the groundwork for these future adults to having successful and prosperous lives. The evidence is clear and we must invest in afterschool learning programs for the sake of our children, ourselves and our society.

In order to accomplish this, we are proposing a legislative study commission to further the conversation so that we as a state can look at different outcomes for quality programs, extending already existing programs, and give our children and their working families the opportunities to succeed well into the future.

Rep. Julie A. Casimiro is a Democrat representing District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.  Courtney Hawkins is the Director of the RI Department of Human Services.

 
 

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