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Study: After-School Programs Help Kids Living in Poverty

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A new study on afterschool programs found that nearly one in three Utah students living under the federal poverty level is at risk of continuing to live in poverty as adults. (Pixabay)
A new study on afterschool programs found that nearly one in three Utah students living under the federal poverty level is at risk of continuing to live in poverty as adults. (Pixabay)
April 20, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – After-school programs are boosting academic performance for Utah students living below the federal poverty level, according to a new study by the Utah Education Policy Center.

After participating in music, sporting or other organized activities for one to three years, kids made significant gains in language arts, math and science scores.

Tracy Gruber, senior advisor at the Intergenerational Poverty Initiative of the state's Department of Workforce Services, says academic success is critical for increasing opportunities for students once they leave school and enter the workforce.

"Kids who are participating in these programs can have opportunities to learn how to play violin or participate in a sporting activity,” says Gruber, “and they're also being supported in their academic achievement for school."

In 2014, the Utah Legislature passed a measure designed to break the cycle of poverty by setting aside funds for students to take part in after-school programs.

The University of Utah study looked at 29 programs that have served some 10,000 kids from 2014 through the 2016 school year. Researchers found that students' test scores improved after just one year in the program. After three years, test-score improvements nearly tripled.

Gruber points out that extracurricular activities provide safe and healthy settings after school lets out, and result in less time spent at home alone.

"After-school programs have really been shown to increase engagement in the school day,” says Gruber, “increase attendance, and also reduce risky behaviors at the end of the school day."

The study found that nearly 60,000 children in Utah experienced intergenerational poverty in 2016, and nearly one in three kids is at risk of continuing to live in poverty as adults.

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox paid a visit to the Guadalupe School and met families taking part in the Intergenerational Poverty Afterschool Program.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT