The YMCA of Greater New York's after-school program, Virtual Y, has had positive effects on students' math scores, classroom behavior and school attendance, according to a report released in May by Fordham University's National Center for Schools and Communities (NCSC). Researchers also found that the program improved home environments by easing the anxieties of over-taxed parents.
“This study will make a significant contribution to the field of after-school services,” said Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “It has helped the YMCA of Greater New York to create a model that we believe is highly replicable in other urban settings, and the YMCA will use these data to add to the body of proven best practices associated with the field of after-school programming.”
The Virtual Y, a free, literacy-based after-school program, has served more than 50,000 elementary school children on a daily basis in more than 80 New York City public schools over the past eight years. According to Lund, the program was designed to help meet the needs of thousands of lower-income families, and to provide a safe and stimulating environment that reinforces school learning and cultivates qualities not explicitly developed in school. The education component includes homework help and activities such as reading, drama clubs, math and strategy games, and journal writing. The physical fitness component includes sports leagues, dance and karate, with a focus on health education.
“What makes the Virtual Y approach particularly interesting is that it gives kids the opportunity to engage in physical activity, artistic and cultural exploration, and social interaction that are markedly different from their regular school day,” said Gillian Eddins, senior research associate at the NCSC and author of the report. “The Virtual Y has a positive relationship to the students' success during the school day, and parents tell us that the program frees up time and energy that make evenings more relaxed and stress free.”
From 1997 to 2000, public school teachers completed the Teacher-Child Rating Scale, an instrument measuring the students' acting out tendencies, shyness and anxiety, learning skills, frustration tolerance, assertive social skills, task orientation, and peer social skills. In each year of the study, Virtual Y participants showed improvement on the overall classroom behavior scale.
The National Center for Schools and Communities at Fordham University provides data and policy analysis and evaluation services to support community-led school reform efforts and high quality, school-based child and youth development programming. Established in 1992, the NCSC is a joint project of the Graduate School of Social Service and the Graduate School of Education. An early proponent of community schools that co-locate a robust array of social services and youth development activities within public school facilities, the NCSC was a co-founder of the national Coalition of Community Schools.