Introduction: Increasing Student Success Beyond the School Day

Published in SEDL Letter Volume XX, Number 2, August 2008, Afterschool, Family, and Community
Even if it doesn’t take a village to rear a child, it may take a village to raise academic achievement. In recent years, researchers have published numerous studies identifying family and community involvement as important factors in student success. Researchers have also been scrutinizing afterschool programs. They have suggested that well-implemented programs can have a positive impact on kids—academically, socially, and emotionally.

In light of these findings, we have devoted this issue of SEDL Letter to topics centered around afterschool and family and community involvement. We focus on the research, presenting a summary of two systematic reviews—one on afterschool and one on parent involvement—and a summary of a research synthesis on afterschool programs, originally published by the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP). In the synthesis, HFRP discusses the importance of having well-prepared staff working in afterschool programs. This has been a primary focus of SEDL’s work as the lead organization for the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning, so we also include an article that discusses the Partnership’s approach to staff development.

Because family involvement has proved so important to student outcomes, the U.S. Department of Education has ramped up its support of the Parental Information & Resource Centers (PIRCs) nationwide. In 2006, SEDL and partners—the Harvard Family Research Project and the Miko Group—were awarded a contract to serve as the national coordination center for the PIRCs. In this issue, we have included an article about the PIRC program, looking at how the work and influence of the centers has changed in recent years.

Two other articles in the issue feature examples of how family members and community organizations work with schools in Austin, Texas. Finally, because homework help often has a prominent role in afterschool programs and because it is often the vehicle for parent involvement, we present an article on homework. Written by national homework expert, Dr. Harris Cooper, the article discusses how homework supports student learning and recent research around homework.

As you prepare for the new school year, we hope you will keep in mind the crucial roles that afterschool programs and family and community members can play in improving student achievement. With all of us working together, improved student outcomes can become a reality.

Next Article: What Rigorous Research and Reviews Tell Us: Impacts of Afterschool Programs and Parent Involvement on Student Outcomes