Intermediate Unit 1: After-School Program Boosts Academics for School Improvement

Sometimes, the school day isn’t long enough to keep every student on track, and schools struggle to achieve AYP, the state’s adequate yearly progress on achievement tests.

“It becomes apparent that so much of the work done in school is wonderful, and the teachers are doing a great job of getting the kids to proficient level, but there are some kids that just need the additional hours,” says Charles Mahoney, executive director for Intermediate Unit 1.

With school improvement in mind, IU 1 pursued and won a federal $755,000 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant that reshapes after-school time into learning time at four economically disadvantaged elementary schools.

At no cost to schools “except for their sweat and hard work,” teachers and aides help students, individually and in small groups, overcome their math and reading weaknesses, says Hazen, outreach and development specialist for Intermediate Unit 1. Students also get a substantial and nutritious snack, recreation, and time to create art and learn computer skills.

Boosting students’ academic performance improves attendance by making school “a more positive experience,” Hazen says. The program also strives to improve behavior by teaching children alternatives to lashing out in anger.

Learning continues in the summer months – bolstering baseball-themed math lessons by taking students to root for the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, bringing students face-to-face with re-enactors at Fort Necessity, where young George Washington led battles that launched the French and Indian War.

IU 1 officials are working with California University of Pennsylvania on unpaid, credit-earning placements for students seeking classroom experience. Critically, the program also works to boost parental involvement, “so parents can think positively of schools,” says Donna Whoric, program coordinator for the grant. “That part is essential to the future growth of these students.”

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