Teachers made heroic efforts to meet the needs of students, but it became apparent very quickly how important teachers in classrooms were along with quality after-school programs.
I saw in my soccer class of 75 students how their grades and performance completely collapsed during the Pandemic. With their seasons, practices, and social events canceled, many players lost any and all motivation to do well in school.
We saw academic performance drop by an average of 30%. California had to pass a law saying that students could graduate with fewer credits so that we did not have a backlog of non-graduates. More students had to go to continuation school than we had ever seen. New online credit recovery programs were instituted to try and bridge this gap.
Now in 2023, we have been back at school for 2+ years and we are just starting to undo the damage from the school shutdowns for a year and a half.
Out of my 75 soccer players, I only have five who are not above a 2.0. Are the students better students in general than they were during the pandemic? I see no major noticeable difference in general abilities, the difference is the motivation.
For a lot of my students, after-school programs keep students engaged and motivated. I work with a lot of at-risk students who do not have great family or financial support. Sometimes, they live in garages, entire families rent a room in an apartment, no one speaks English in their home, and playing soccer every day gives them what they need to keep going.
Sadly, the trend these days is to give these programs less and less funding each year, at least in my area. Parents and families are asked to pay more for these programs despite rising demand for quality afterschool. Sports programs are now being asked to pay for the cost of busses out of the area, all tournament fees, uniforms, spirit wear, and more. An extra $100,000 per high school sports program or quality after-school program per school would be one of the best investments society could make.
Where Would We Get This Money?
My proposal would be the prison system. It costs approximately $106,031 to lock one person in a prison for one year in California. Estimates range from 1.5 to 2 million Americans in prison in the United States. How do we prevent this from happening? There is nothing that will give more return on investment than quality after-school programs.
How Do We Keep Kids in School?
After-school programs consistently lower the dropout rate:
A comparison of youth who participated for four years and those who did not found that QOP students graduated from high school more often (63% vs. 42%), went on to postsecondary education more often (42% versus 16%), and dropped out of school less often (23% versus 50%) (Hahn, 1994).DropoutPrevention.org
We are talking about saving almost 20% of kids from dropping out with quality after-school programs. What percentage of those dropouts turn to crime? The savings and productivity gains for society are huge with quality afterschool programs.
Most households have two parents working also, so trying to pick up kids at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon or 12:15 p.m. for every minimum day puts strain on families that could be avoided. Further, what are these children supposed to do with the rest of their day?
In summation, I would like people to be aware of how strong the correlation is between after-school programs and academic success. All the people who are incarcerated start out as children, perhaps if they had better options and influences at a younger age, things would have been different for many of them.
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Additional Resources for Researching the School-to-Prison Pipeline
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): The ACLU addresses various civil rights issues, including those related to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- The Sentencing Project: This organization focuses on criminal justice reform and provides research and reports on issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- National Juvenile Justice Network: This network focuses on juvenile justice issues, including the school-to-prison pipeline and alternatives to punitive school discipline.
- Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC): The SPLC monitors issues of racial and economic injustice, which often intersect with the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Advancement Project: They work on racial and civil rights issues and challenge the school-to-prison pipeline through research and advocacy.
- Dignity in Schools Campaign: Advocating for alternatives to punitive school discipline and the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline is the primary goal of this organization.
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: They address racial discrimination in education, including issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- National Center for Youth Law: This organization focuses on child and youth-related legal issues, including education and juvenile justice.
- Rethinking Schools: This publication covers a wide range of education issues, including articles and resources related to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Youth Justice Coalition: Advocating for youth and community empowerment and focusing on criminal justice reform, including the school-to-prison pipeline, is the primary mission of this organization.