Ten Ways to Promote Educational Achievement and Attainment Beyond the Classroom.

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Boccanfuso, Christopher.
Moore, Kristin Anderson.
Whitney, Camille.
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Getting a good education and doing well in school are widely regarded as critical preparation for most types of success in life. However, academic achievement depends on more than what takes place within school walls. Research generally indicates that characteristics outside the formal educational setting--or non-school factors--also have a lot to do with whether children and adolescents are successful in school. Therefore, it seems important to examine not only how schools can be improved but also how non-school factors can be enhanced to foster learning and educational attainment. This examination has direct applicability to out-of-school-time programs and their staffs, participants, and funders.

Across the decades, links have been found between school success and various non-school factors, including poverty, race/ethnicity, family structure, child health, parenting approaches, and peer influences. In some cases--poverty, for example--the links suggest a cause-and-effect pattern; but breaking that pattern is difficult and expensive, requiring change at the level of the society or the economy. Other non-school factors, such as the influence of peer groups, appear to be easier to change, but research as yet offers little guidance on how or how much they can determine school success or whether these factors can be altered. Finally, research has identified some non-school factors that both appear to have a cause-and-effect relationship to school success and are malleable. The experiences of programs that have been rigorously evaluated and found to have significant impacts on educational outcomes are instructive in this regard.

This Research Brief brings together findings from a variety of research resources, including rigorous program evaluations, to identify 10 actionable, feasible goals involving non-school factors that affect educational outcomes and can be addressed through out-of-school-time programs. These goals are to: 1) Reduce unintended pregnancies; 2) Improve prenatal and postnatal maternal health; 3) Improve parenting practices among parents of infants and young children; 4) Improve young children's nutrition and encourage mothers to breastfeed; 5) Enhance the quality and availability of educational child care, preschool, pre-kindergarten, and full-day kindergarten; 6) Connect children and adolescents with long-term mentors; 7) Improve parenting practices among parents of school-age children and teens; 8) Provide family and couples counseling to improve family functioning; 9) Provide high-quality educational after-school and summer programs; and10) Develop positive social skills and reduce delinquency among adolescents. (Author abstract)

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