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Volume XII, Number 1 & 2, Fall 2006
Issue Topic: Building and Evaluating Out-of-School Time Connections
Nathaniel Riggs describes the implementation and evaluation of the Generación Diez program, which connects Latino families with after school programming, social services, and the school community.1
Community leaders throughout the country face two common challenges: identifying the populations in greatest need of social services, and providing and evaluating appealing, culturally relevant services for these populations. Generación Diez (G-10), a comprehensive, school-based after school program, addresses these challenges for Latino children and families in one Pennsylvania county. Established in 1999 in response to an influx of primarily Mexican immigrants—whose children had limited English proficiency and were often at risk for academic and behavioral problems—G-10 operates through a highly integrated collaboration between a Pennsylvania community-based organization, Hempfield Behavioral Health (HBH), and multiple community and state agencies.
By working closely with area schools, HBH learned that schools were struggling to meet the needs of new Latino students, most of whom were eligible for free lunches, missed as many as 89 school days per year, and were academically behind their peers. Upon discovering that few existing local resources addressed the after school needs of this population, HBH responded by connecting with area schools, social service providers, and Pennsylvania State University's Prevention Research Center to create the G-10 after school program.
As designed by HBH, G-10 has three specific aims: (a) to improve Latino children's academic achievement through an intensive academic curriculum that parallels lessons taught during the school day; (b) to improve social adjustment through the Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS) Curriculum, developed by researchers at Penn State and the University of Washington;2 and (c) to promote school success and well-being through home visits by Latina social workers. These home visits establish linkages between families and the schools, which often face linguistic and cultural barriers to communication. They also provide parents with information about the American educational system, their children's educational needs, and strategies for promoting school success at home. When necessary, the home visits provide social services to families experiencing poverty, illness, abuse, and other stresses.
Led by bilingual staff, the G-10 program operates for 3 hours per day from Monday through Friday, provides supplementary Saturday art and music sessions, and offers an all-day summer session. From 2002–2006, G-10 home visitors provided an average of 22 contacts per year for each G-10 family. The program currently serves more than 225 children and families from four school districts.
To evaluate the effects of G-10 on children and families, HBH and the G-10 program have partnered with an external evaluator. To ensure objectivity, the evaluator conducts data analysis and produces annual reports, while HBH helps collect data, distributes reports to state funders and policymakers, and uses the findings for program improvement. University researchers extend the impact of the evaluation by distributing the findings to the academic community.
The aims of the evaluation and the use of its findings for program improvement correspond with the three aims of the program. Standardized measures of proficiency, administered in the fall and spring of each school year, assess G-10's effect on youth academic performance. Comparisons among these surveys over time show significant growth in children's academic development. Upon entry into G-10, children typically score in the bottom 15% when compared to their peers in reading and spelling. Those scores generally increase to the bottom third by spring, with students demonstrating average reading and spelling proficiency by the end of the second year. As a result of these evaluation findings, G-10 makes every attempt to ensure program enrollment for at least 2 years.
Teacher surveys, meanwhile, assess the effect of G-10 on youth social competence. Findings from these surveys highlight the importance of taking strict attendance data. When youth were separated into three groups by attendance rates (infrequent, moderate, and frequent attendees), those who attended G-10 frequently (more than 100 days) demonstrated significant increases in standardized measures of prosocial behavior.
Parent surveys provide insight into the link between the family's well-being and the child's school success. Initially, most G-10 parents report little connection with their children's school. However, over 2 years of enrollment, parents whose children frequently attend G-10 are significantly more likely to report increased quality of relationships with their children's teachers, frequency of parent–teacher contact, and engagement with their children's schooling. These findings suggests that G-10 is succeeding in connecting parents with their children's regular-day school context.
Over the past 7 years, HBH has learned a great deal about supporting the Latino community—thanks to the hard work of HBH leaders, G-10 after school teachers, and external evaluators. Integral to this support are G-10's connections with local schools, social service providers, and institutions of higher education, which have greatly facilitated the positive effects of G-10 on the lives of youth and their families.
1 The author wishes to acknowledge Dr. Howard Rosen of Hempfield Behavioral Health, Dr. Mark Greenberg of the Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University, and Ms. Carmen Medina of the Pennsylvania Department of Education for their contributions to this work.
2 Kusché, C. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (1994). The PATHS Curriculum: Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies. Seattle: Developmental Research and Programs.
Nathaniel R. Riggs, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Prevention Research
Keck School of Medicine
University of Southern California
1000 S. Fremont Ave., Unit #8
Alhambra, CA 91803