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Visalia Unified's "The PULSE" Afterschool Academic Enrichment Centers Give Students A Boost PDF Print E-mail

LEARNFrank Escobar, afterschool program manager for Visalia Unified School District, oversees the implementation of ASES programming for four middle schools in partnership with community agencies. His program, called “The PULSE,” is known for high quality enrichment and recreational activities. But Frank was seeking ways to increase student academic improvement while getting the schools’ principals more connected to their afterschool program. He found a solution in the development of afterschool Academic Enrichment Centers (AEC).

On a chance site visit in southern California, Frank discovered a breakthrough academic support model being used afterschool at Granger Middle School and National City Middle School. Shortly thereafter, Granger’s developer and vice principal Bobby Bleisch was on his way to share the model locally, courtesy of the Region VII lead office and the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation.

How the AEC’s WorkVUSD AEC

The Academic Enrichment Centers (AEC) target students during the school day who are not completing their homework. The system holds these students immediately accountable for incomplete homework by sending students to the cafeteria and/or a classroom to complete their homework directly afterschool.

The system includes:

Step 1. Identifying Students. Teachers track students who show up to class with incomplete homework. This information is given to a clerk in the office who then creates the day’s roster for the AEC. During the last period of the day, a folder is dropped off to each student who did not complete their homework, which includes a notice that they are to report to the cafeteria when the AEC bell rings.

Step 2. Getting Students to the AEC. Approximately five minutes before the final school bell rings, the AEC bell rings and these students are released with their folders to the cafeteria. Administration and support staff are stationed around campus to assure all students escort themselves to the AEC. Upon arriving, students are sent to tables marked by core subject areas and asked to sit quietly to wait for teachers and tutors who will arrive to assist them with their homework.

Step. 3. AEC Homework Support. In the AEC, students are supported by credentialed teachers of various subjects, as well as tutors, and receive homework help until 4:30 pm. If a student completes the homework prior to departure time, he or she is expected to work on the current night’s homework or read quietly. This is done with parent permission, three to four days a week.

Results and Benefits Abound

The program was launched in the beginning of the 2009-10 school year. The result: a significant increase in homework completion, student responsibility and student academic performance.

  • Each school has decreased the number of class failures and students having to be retained to attend remedial summer school. 
  • Each school has jumped in API growth an average of 31 points. Two of the three schools have now eclipsed the 800 mark (Valley Oak and Green Acres).
  • Teachers are thrilled as more students are completing and turning in homework than ever before. Students also comprehend the homework and the content in class much better now.
  • As a result of integrating this model under the afterschool umbrella, afterschool program attendance has jumped almost 50% on average at each school site. During the 2008-09 school year, program attendance was at 70%. After the 2009-10 school year, program attendance was at 120%.

Not only do teachers and students benefit, but parents are happy too. Many students do not have adequate support at home to complete homework and this system allows that support to be readily available and utilized.

When asked how students like the AECs, Frank Escobar is candid, “Unfortunately, a system like this is not heavily favored by students. We have too many students who are content with not finishing homework. However, the AECs are built on the philosophy that ‘failure is not an option.’ This system of support is increasing student performance in school and while they may not always admit it, that’s a good thing!” 

From 4:30 pm to 6 pm, students have plenty of opportunities for fun in the afterschool program with clubs including The Pulse Afterschool Sports League, dance and performing arts, leadership, fashion, multimedia, martial arts, and fine arts. The AEC plus the engaging enrichment classes provide middle school students in Visalia Unified with an excellent chance to get connected to school in preparation for success in their high school years.

For more information:  Frank Escobar, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , (559) 730-7570