Importance of In-School and Out-of-School Communication
Whatever the design of an after-school program, strong links between after-school and regular school programs and staff have also been found to yield the best gains for participants. The U.S. Department of Education echoes the importance of this connection. They found that without such a partnership, supplementary education programs were less able to align supplementary education with in-school learning. Many teachers and paraprofessionals in focus groups conducted for the AFT identified making links to both school day teachers and to parents as problematic areas. If staff served at the same school site during the regular day, the connection was easier. Otherwise it was difficult to exchange what would have been valuable information to make the after-school and regular day programs more coherent and effective:
For nearly all of the school staff with whom we spoke, the primary connection to the school-day is homework. A few have close contact with teachers who help them understand and act on the needs of students. But for many more, the level of contact and information sharing appear greatly lacking. Connections are stronger for those programs that take place in schools. (Belden, Russonello and Stewart)
One strategy for strengthening this tie is for the after-school provider to have a staff member whose job is to be a liaison between the two staffs—bridging the times when school and after-school staff are present. This person could be responsible for finding out what children are learning during various months and where the school day could use some emphasis. The liaison could also deliver reports on children’s after-school projects and behavior to the classroom teachers. The after-school staff gets a clue to a project topic that might support or enhance what children are learning in school. The regular teacher knows certain children are working on a topic outside her class. The regular teacher can choose which subjects to send information on. The form can provide a link between the two environments.