Those uncertain about the educational value of afterschool programs should consider the story of six-year old Elvin Ponce-Rodriguez.
Elvin lives in Garden City, located in rural western Kansas. Elvin’s mother, Wendy, works in a meat packing plant and speaks English as a second language.
Elvin began Kindergarten at the Gertrude Walker Elementary School in the fall of 2016. He was screened for reading and was found far behind in language.
He was placed in the school’s most at-risk “Tier 3” group.
Elvin’s reading challenge was a concern because young children struggling with early literacy often struggle in life. Without strong early literacy skills, students are four times less likely to graduate high school on time. Not graduating can mean $400,000 less in lifetime earnings.
It is sobering to consider that a child’s entire life can be limited at such an early age.
Elvin might have been another depressing statistic. But instead, he made big reading gains and now has a better future.
One of the factors that made a difference for Elvin was afterschool. Tier 3 kids at Gertrude Walker receive extra help from teachers. But through the Reading Roadmap afterschool, the school’s intervention system continues even after Elvin’s school day is done.
In fact, what made afterschool so valuable to Elvin was its integration with the school’s intervention system. The targeted lessons he received afterschool were directed by his teachers and diagnostic data collected by the school.
With the right help at the right time, Elvin caught up to his peers in one year. He increased his ability to name letters and sound-out words to the point where he moved into Tier 2 in the winter and then to Tier 1, or grade-level, by the spring.
After his parent-teacher conference this spring, Elvin “graduated” the afterschool program and is now considered a student on-track for 4th grade-level reading. He continues to receive high-quality instruction and is being monitored closely to ensure his progress continues.
Afterschool played a critical part of Elvin’s progress and it can help young readers in many schools. Especially in high poverty communities, it is wrong to not leverage these types of programs to their fullest academic potential.