The after-school field is different from regular day in a number of ways.
- The people who serve in after-school programs are as diverse as the programs themselves.
- There are probably more non-certified staff in such programs than certified.
- Many individuals volunteer or collect little pay.
- For volunteers, three hours of professional development is a lot to ask.
- In many programs, student attendance is voluntary and class composition varies from day to day.
- There are often mixed ages in classes.
- Too often there is no connection when content is addressed between the goals of regular school programs and after-school programs and methods taught to children may be in conflict.
- In some programs there is not even a specified curriculum or guide for after-school staff.
- The essential knowledge for effective after-school frontline staff to be successful is extensive and includes many components that relate to learning academic content indirectly (e.g., the needs of adolescents).
Many of the nonacademic components that staff need are already being addressed by after-school organizations. The area least addressed by others is academics.
It would require a complete college course to address the breadth and variety of professional development needs necessary for an effective focus on academics given the wide diversity of staff. The AFT focuses these professional development modules on our area of expertise—professional development focused on academics for teachers and paraprofessionals who work in after-school programs. We make the assumption that these staff have adequate knowledge of the academic content that will be addressed.1 However, this work should also be valuable to non-school day staff who do not have preparation in education. It can help focus attention on some critical needs of children and provide some beginning structure and guidance for after-school curriculum. It can help build bridges between the formal school community and the wider community to work together in the interest of children’s learning—both academic and social.
1 For those who do not have sufficient content knowledge or seek to broaden the strategies at their disposal or deepen their knowledge, we recommend participation in professional development such as AFT’s Educational Research & Dissemination training in reading and mathematics, as well as other courses in this research-based program.