Designing an After-School Program to Maximize Student Achievement

Guest post by Abbey Duggins

Saluda High School (SHS) works hard to ensure that all of our 600 students in rural South Carolina receive a high-quality education and possess the world-class knowledge and skills described in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate. To accomplish this goal, we’ve expanded our academic programing so that all of our students—from the academically motivated to our most at risk—can access appropriate learning experiences that will help them realize their full potential. 

While on this mission to improve our academic programing, our administrative team knew that we needed to find a way to support all of our students outside of the classroom to maximize their achievement. To provide this support, we decided to enhance our SCORE program. SCORE stands for “Saluda Creates Opportunities for Real Effectiveness.” The original structure of SCORE was a traditional after-school tutoring center that met two days a week for one hour. Since it was relatively well attended, our administrative team saw an opportunity to align this program with our goals and tailor it to provide all students the necessary academic support to become our model South Carolina graduate.

Since its inception in 2011, SCORE has consistently shown to be an effective way to maximize student achievement. SCORE underwent a rigorous Program Assessment in 2012 conducted by the National Dropout Prevention Center and exceeded expectations. More recently, the data shows increases in on-time graduation rates (from 77.7 percent to 82.6 percent) and decreases in the drop-out rate (from 3.5 percent to 1.6 percent). So, what makes SCORE successful?

Why SCORE?

The purpose of SCORE is to promote positive relationships between students and adults, as well as increase student access to quality academic and extracurricular programs. It aims to provide assistance to every learner, giving access to the people and resources to support their needs.

How SCORE Works

SCORE meets after school on Mondays and Thursdays in the media center from 3:30–5:00 p.m. The program is voluntary and students can simply walk in to attend—no prior registration is necessary, unless transportation is needed. The transportation department has a quick, one-week turnaround to add our students to the SCORE bus route.

Our lead SCORE teacher, media specialist Deborah Bailey, has students sign in on a Chromebook. In addition to their names, students enter their reason for attending (e.g., AP Biology, homework help, type a paper, wi-fi access). We are able to maintain a searchable database and track attendance to ensure that we have the right resources in place to support our students’ needs.

During SCORE, teachers and resources are available to help students meet a variety of academic needs. For our high-achieving students, AP teachers are on hand to provide support. We have added enrichment components, such as a Robotics Club, which gives our computer science students a place to apply their new knowledge in a fun way. Our striving students have access to Chromebooks and can work with teachers to refine their work. We provide school supplies for students to use during SCORE and take back to their classrooms. In order to support SHS’ growing ELL population, which includes Guatemalan children who speak very little English and have had a disrupted formal education, we added a Spanish-speaking teacher to the SCORE staff. We now have students attending SCORE just to engage in conversational English.

An after-school program only works if students attend. Since our program is completely voluntary, we work hard to make it attractive and engaging for students. Here are some ways we work to draw students into our program:

  • Collecting feedback and implement ideas—We survey parents, students, and teachers to find out what is working and what needs improvement. Through their suggestions, we have added guitar and piano lessons, access to school supplies, and a makerspace.
  • Hosting the program in a comfortable place—The media center is the heart of Saluda High School, so that makes it a natural “home base” for SCORE.
  • Letting the data speak—If test scores are low in a certain area, add teachers of that content area to your after-school staff.
  • Conducting needs assessments and then giving students what they need to be successful—This assessment can tell you what you need to provide whether it is access to internet and devices, school supplies, or the right content-area teacher.
  • Collaborating with others to encourage attendance—Our supportive football coaches changed team practice to 6 a.m. one day a week so players can attend SCORE.
  • Observing your students—We believe every student needs a “place” and if they don’t have one, we try to create one. An example of this mindset is the recent addition of Music Club to the enrichment component of SCORE, during which students engage in guitar and piano lessons.

How would you improve your after-school program using some of the methods that support SCORE?

Abbey Duggins, PhD, was recently named director of curriculum and instruction for Saluda County Schools, where she has worked for the last 15 years as an English teacher, literacy coach, and assistant principal. Follow her on Twitter @asduggins.

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