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January 24, 2013

After-school program offers extra learning

By Michelle Miller
Cooperstown Crier

---- — MILFORD

The Milford Central School District has started an after-school program for middle school students who need extra help in math and English language arts.

CLEAR, which stands for Career, Learning, Enrichment and Academic Readiness, is a volunteer program where students can take part in just one section (math or ELA) or both. There are 35 students in fifth through eighth grade who participate, according to program coordinator Dara Rhodes. She said 30 of those students are in both the math and ELA enrichment classes. Those who do not come to both offerings are really strong in the other subject, she said.

The goal, according to Rhodes, is to improve academic achievement and to encourage positive social behavior. She said students were selected by their teachers and then parents were contacted to see whether they would like their children in the program.

“It is completely voluntary, which concerned me at first,” Rhodes said. “I thought without some sort of contract, students and parents might not take it as serious. I was worried about attendance, but that has not been an issue so far.”

Each section meets two times a week for an hour. The program is staffed with two ELA teachers, two math instructors and a teacher’s aide who offers assistance in both sections.

“There is a great teacher-to-student ratio and our main focus is to have students work on projects they would not necessarily have time for in their regular classes,” Rhodes said.

The program was made possible through a renewable three-year grant. The hope is to be able to reapply for the grant once it runs out and to find other funding opportunities to continue the program, according to Rhodes. She said the plan is to offer a summer program as well.

The district found a need for the academic enrichment program because scheduling conflicts have reduced availability for in-school assistance, and summer school funding was cut in 2011, Rhodes said.

MCS Principal Michael Miller said the program is going terrific so far.

“The kids are very interested in it and seem enthusiastic,” he said.  

Rhodes said students’ work will be kept in folders and assessed on a regular basis. 

“We want to be able to go back and look at what each student has done and see if they are making progress,” she said. 

Another goal of the program, according to Rhodes, is to increase parent involvement.   

“My first objective is to create learning experiences, which take the form of Family Learning Nights,” Rhodes said. “CROP and CLEAR worked together in December to host the first one. It was a positive experience with 17 CLEAR families and 15 CROP families coming in to share in the math, science and ELA activities.”

In collaboration with the district’s Kindness Revolution, the program will begin free family movie nights. 

“Mr. Miller and I thought Family Movie Night would be a nice, inexpensive way to bring more parents to the school. While these Movie Nights will only be vaguely educational, they will offer a positive experience for all involved,” Rhodes said. 

The movie “Wall-e” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at MCS this Friday. All are welcome to attend, and although admission is free donations for charity are encouraged. Before the showing, Rhodes said,an 11th-grade student will present in an effort to encourage the audience to donate to the relevant charity. All movies shown will highlight some theme and cause to be connected to a relevant charity, she said. 

Rhodes said an adult will be present to supervise if children are left unaccompanied for the showing.