In our previous posting, we discussed the importance of afterschool learning in continuation high school settings. Nowhere is the opportunity for afterschool learning more important. Many of these youth face a number of challenges in their lives and are often highly disengaged, having failed in and been failed by the traditional school system. These youth clearly need more – more caring adults who know them, more ways to complete the requirements for graduation, and more preparation for life after high school. Afterschool programs that model the Learning in Afterschool learning principles are well positioned to help this population of youth as well as the continuation schools that work to serve them.
Below are policy recommendations that will ensure the support of these programs.
- The expectations regarding program attendance, adult-to-student ratio, and cost per student should be amended for programs operating in continuation high schools. This is because they serve a higher concentration of high-risk youth, there are fewer resources afforded by the school, and the school structure and schedule is very different than a comprehensive high school.
- There should be a focused attempt to coordinate other relevant funding streams that target high-risk youth and which could bring supplemental services to the youth and the program. This includes funding that promotes healthy choices, the prevention of high-risk behavior, mental and physical health, career preparation, college access, etc.
- Because of the “last chance” nature that these settings represent, it is important that these afterschool programs work very closely, almost merging with the continuation school. This “extended day” way of working could be easily misinterpreted as using the afterschool resources to supplant the responsibilities of the regular school day. It is recommended that policies are in place that do not penalize stakeholders in developing a closely aligned, extended day model.
- Finally, there should be efforts to build bridges between the programs that serve continuation high school youth and those that serve young adults who are 19 years and older. Often, young people beyond the age of 18 are no longer supported by local programs. As a result, the only systems that exist for these youth are ones that come into play after they’ve gotten in trouble. A good example of a positive program supporting young adults is the Special Foundation Course and separate learning communities that exist at Las Positas Community College in Livermore, CA. This course and subsequent learning community provides extra support to high risk, disengaged youth who entered the college, many from continuation high schools.