The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the urgency for local and state policy makers to take steps to address the unfinished learning needs of Alabama’s students. This challenge will not be solved solely during the normal school day. Students will need more support in their communities to catch up.
In our new report, A+ Education Partnership proposes a new state grant program to expand high-quality summer and afterschool learning opportunities for PreK-12 students in Alabama. This grant program aims to accelerate student learning in reading and STEM through a combination of evidence-based academic curricula and engaging enrichment activities aligned to student interests. Similar to Alabama’s nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program, this program would be a diverse delivery model that could include partnerships of public schools, nonprofits, faith-based programs, and other community organizations. It also places equity and equitable outcomes at the center of the program. Involvement in high-quality out-of-school learning experiences both accelerate learning and help put students on pathways to the workforce, careers, as well as technical and 2-4 year colleges.
Communities across the state are eager to partner with schools to support their most precious resource:our kids. One promising partnership is through creating and expanding community-based summer and after school programs. The research is clear. Children that regularly attend high-quality out of school time programs have improved academic outcomes, school attendance, and social and emotional learning.
Overcoming challenges, both new and old, requires a coordinated effort of state and local communities. To accelerate learning, particularly for our most vulnerable students, Alabama should make the expansion of high-quality, community-based summer and afterschool learning a priority.