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After School Programs Will Narrow the Achievement Gap for Low-Income Students

To get low-income students to do their homework and also keep them off the streets, we must subsidize after school homework hubs: a variation of childcare services. These programs could run as late as 7pm and would accommodate children five to thirteen years of age, providing them with a safe space to continue learning after school hours.

The Ford Foundation’s commitment to extend school days that is backed with a $50 million pledge continues the conversation around longer days in the classroom. Last summer, I started a nonprofit called Practice Makes Perfect to help narrow the achievement gap. My conversations with many of the 4th graders in the program exposed me to the importance of the extended school day, and the creation of homework hubs.

According to the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting, homework teaches transferable skills such as time management, discipline, and work ethic, all of which have an impact on future achievement. However, children in low-income households with working parents are tasked with babysitting younger siblings and running errands alongside their parents, making it extremely difficult to find the time and the space to complete their homework, which results in lower academic achievement. The mere inability to do homework leads to low academic achievement, and deprives them of important life skills; like being accountable, taking on responsibility, meeting deadlines, etc.

In Ohio, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) came together to form Community Learning Centers, which essentially extends the school day by providing families with a one-stop hub for health, safety, social, recreational, educational, and cultural services. CPS Community Learning Centers have been successful in fulfilling their goal of supporting student achievement, revitalizing neighborhoods, and maximizing the community’s return on their financial investments. Each of which have been realized as a result of new young families moving into the neighborhoods, as well as increased property values, and a heightened sense of community. Keeping students in school longer also means they will have less time to spend in the streets and get into trouble.

All across the United States, when classes are over for the day schoolrooms become unused property. In particular, schools in low-income communities have fewer resources to implement after school programs. A program that will provide low-income working parents with a place for their five to thirteen year old children to complete their homework while they are away is necessary. Homework hubs would be an economical solution, creating a modified form of childcare services while also increasing academic achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. 

One cost-effective way that the Ford Foundation could create homework hubs is through partnerships with reputable childcare centers and schools in low-income neighborhoods. One of the largest costs to operate a childcare center is the rent expense. In exchange for the cost of one professional to oversee childrenfrom low-income families, schools can rent the childcare centers additional classrooms at a low cost. Ultimately, a decision could be reached on the number of rooms schools would need to operate “for-profit” childcare services to nullify the expenses of the professional provided to run the free classes. A snack and supplies for the classroom would be the only remaining expenses. Another option is to employ a teaching assistant to operate the educational program and have eligible schools that are not meeting Title I requirements in conjunction with small parental contributions to cover the costs of the program; however, the former suggestion is preferred.

Students within the eligible age range coming from low-income working families would be solicited for a minimal, to no, cost to their families to use the homework hubs. This will allow the children to stay in school longer and complete their homework, teaching them discipline, responsibility, and reinforcing concepts that were taught in school. Underage children will no longer have to babysit their younger siblings instead of doing homework.  

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