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AZ parents support after-school efforts

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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At a time when many experts are concerned that U.S. students are not prepared for a changing economy that relies on science, technology, engineering and math, most parents in Arizona say they believe after-school programs should provide opportunities to explore and engage in hands-on STEM learning, according to a household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance.

A report, Full STEM Ahead: Afterschool Programs Step Up as Key Partners in STEM Education, finds broad support among Arizona parents for providing such STEM learning after school.

However, parents of children in Arizona programs say that their children's after-school programs do not provide all the STEM opportunities they would like.

Findings from the report are based on responses collected for America After 3PM from 30,000 U.S. households, including in-depth interviews with more than 13,000 parents and guardians, and 261 parents in Arizona.

"Innovative STEM education has become a key and integral component of quality out-of-school time programs to prepare young people for the next phase of their lives," said Arizona Center, for After School Excellence Executive Director Melanie McClintock. "The new data make clear that parents in Arizona recognize the value STEM education after-school programs can provide to Arizona students who will be better positioned to succeed in tomorrow's economy."

Key findings from Full STEM Ahead, which is the first survey, ever to ask parents about their children's participation in after-school STEM programs:

Most Arizona parents say after-school programs can help students gain STEM skills. Fully 66 percent of parents agree with that statement.

Most Arizona parents agree that after-school should offer STEM. In all, 71 percent of Arizona parents believe after-school programs should provide opportunities for children to explore and engage in hands-on STEM learning.

Many parents in Arizona signal need to increase and improve after-school STEM offerings. Some 46 percent of parents whose children attend after-school programs say that their child's program provides STEM learning opportunities. Overall, the after-school STEM opportunities were deemed satisfactory by 89 percent of parents with children in after-school in Arizona.

"The economic realities of the new economy are clear: STEM skills are going to be essential for this generation," said James Zaharis, vice president-education for Greater Phoenix Leadership. "Tomorrow's workers will be called on not just to keep up, but to innovate, which means they'll need true mastery if they're to excel in the workplace. After-school programs offer an outstanding opportunity for children to dig in to STEM subjects, to roll up their sleeves and learn vital skills, and become excited about STEM topics."

Full STEM Ahead offers recommendations to reduce missed opportunities in after-school STEM education. They include engaging and educating parents about the important role after-school programs can play in supporting STEM learning-; increasing technology and engineering programming in after-school programs; strengthening and increasing partnerships between the STEM education community and after-school programs to advance policy and practice; improving assessment measures; and increasing investment in after-school programs, so many more children can access the STEM learning opportunities these programs can provide.

In October 2014, the Afterschool Alliance released findings from America After 3PM, revealing a dramatic increase in participation in after-school over the past decade, from 6.5 million to 10.2 million children.

The survey also documented a vast and growing unmet demand for after-school, with the parents of 19.4 million children reporting that they would enroll their child in a program if one were available. One in five students in the United States today is unsupervised after the school day ends. National and state results from that report are available at the after school alliance website.

America After 3PM was conducted by Shugoll Research; it is based on in-depth interviews with 13,709 households with children, completed via an online survey using a blend of national consumer panels. To participate, respondents had to live in the United States and be the guardians of a school-age child living in their household. All interviews were completed between Feb. 28 and April 17, 2014.

Full STEM Ahead is sponsored by Comcast Tech R&D Fund, the Noyce Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The Comcast Corporation's Internet Essentials program is the nation's largest and most comprehensive program to close the digital divide. Internet Essentials has connected more than 500,000 low-income families with school-aged children, or more than 2 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet at home.

America After 3 PM is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the Heinz Endowments, The Robert Bowne Foundation and the Samueli Foundation.

The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality after-school programs. More information is available at the Afterschool Alliance website.

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: October 7, 2015

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