Out of School Time: A Golden Opportunity for Improved Public School Outcomes

With more than 60% of County residents commuting outside of Prince George’s for employment; and nearly 50% of families headed by single parents, the notion of ‘vulnerable children’ in the Prince George’s County context can be expanded beyond traditional indicators of income, access, and zip code. When it comes to childcare services – namely aftercare – in the County, the need spans a diverse socio-economic spectrum, as the vast majority of k-6 public school children are in some form of after school education, sports, or extra-curriculum activity between the hours of 2 PM and 6 PM. These children typically spend more than 40% of their day in aftercare (in a 10 hour day, 6 are spent in school and 4 in aftercare).

The aftercare ‘premium’ for parents is many-fold, the first of which is the extensive decision-making process in choosing an appropriate afterschool care option. The range of decision points include price, quality of care, safety, distance to school, transportation offerings, and hours of operation. The second key premium is quality of instruction, which typically does not factor high into choice, because there is no established standard.

For aftercare providers there are also premiums, as stretched families are heavily rely on them for a broad range of services, many of which fall outside of their core competencies. Based on demand, they are typically required to offer transportation, sports training, some instruction, and there is a high premium on homework help. The State of Maryland licenses providers and establishes safety standards and training that is affordable, accessible, and largely adhered to. But providers are left to their own resources when it comes to establishing quality standards of instruction and there is no direct or organized link to public school standards or best practice approaches.

We believe that a well networked aftercare system in Prince George’s County has the greatest potential to positively impact public school academic performance quickly. This system would equip aftercare providers with best practice tools and competencies in aftercare education in a way that supports and complements public school performance. This approach expands options for parents and equalizes a system where price is often an indication of quality, rather than quality performance standards directly.

The expectation is that children K-6 will demonstrate improved public school performance quickly when aftercare programs (public, private, religious, and non-profit) are equipped with common ‘best practice’ quality standards, trained on useful teaching techniques, have access to common tools, and shared performance outcomes.

In the spring of 2013, PGCSIF along with The Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce will engage countywide network organizations, out-of-school time providers, and the philanthropic community in order to effectively launch the ‘2 to 6’ initiative in Prince George’s County. For more information, contact us at info@innovateprincegeorges.org.

Tonia Wellons
Tonia is a 15 year resident of Prince George’s County, Maryland. She has served in various volunteer capacities and community boards/ commissions including Treasurer, Lake Arbor Civic Association; Vice President, Perrywood PTA; and Commissioner, Prince George’s County Solid Waste Commission. Tonia is a career professional in international development policy and administration, with a focus on organizational management and development. She currently serves as Senior Operations Manager for the World Bank Group and has administered innovation funds, grants, contracts and procurements on behalf of the World Bank Group and USAID for projects in developing and transitional countries. Inspired by community-based innovations in developing and transitional countries, Tonia launched the Prince George's County Social Innovation Fund to serve as a catalyst for civic engagement and community change.
Tonia Wellons
Tonia Wellons
  1. A Concerned Resident Reply

    Very well written article. I opted for an aftercare program directly through the Prince George’s County School system my elementary child attends. So far the care and focus my child has received has been remarkable. However, my concern is why doesn’t the Prince George’s County school system offer Headstart or Pre-K enrollment for children who are above the income guidelines. Why are all the available services provided for those who are below income. I thought the global effort was “No child Left Behind”. (Charles County has no income requirements for a child to attend Headstart/Pre-K.)

    Just because of over income guidelines my child(ren) has to suffer and be left behind because I am (only) able to afford to feed and house and cloth him…I am a working, taxpayer…..who must house, feed and cloth my children, however they can not be afforded a Headstart or Pre-K education unless I cut back on those necessary expenses. While those that don’t work and live off my taxpaying dollars, thus whom meet the ‘very low’ income guidelines, surpass my child. Seems so UNFAIR! I’m a “struggling” above income guidelines, middle-class, ‘single-parent’, but nonetheless, poor when working to pay for Headstart/Pre-K day care along with housing, feeding and clothing my chil(ren).

    While I may have just about finished and survived the struggle to pay for a “decent” child care center to assist my child with entering into Kindergarten, maybe the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund can help to innovate change to this non-productive system that P.G. County has in place.

    Just a long-time (born & raised), concerned resident of P.G. County who feels that P.G. County should do away with the income guideleines to send a child to Headstart/Pre-K.

    Much Love…. Keep on Innovating Change!

    • Tonia Wellons Reply

      Thanks for this post. It accurately describes the challenges that families across income spectra face. Child care is expensive and we all need it especially since so many County parents commute outward for employment. I think the County has tried to balance offering pre-k in public schools against the huge demand and need; and creating income guidelines was perhaps the most appropriate way to manage.

      PGCSIF’s position is that if we have to pay, we should minimally have a consistent level of quality standards that both prepares children for school and reinforces what happens in public schools. We will continue to explore this topic. It’s important for us all! Thanks for engaging.

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