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Follow Leaders After School

May 17, 2003

Re "The After-School Puzzle," editorial, May 10: Sacramento and Washington miss the whole point -- sending billions of dollars to local school districts does not magically transform children; after-school programs must be well managed. That is the secret of former Mayor Tom Bradley's LA's BEST, where the children have significantly better grades, miss fewer days of school and get in less trouble.

The L.A. Unified School District, until recently, squandered tens of millions of dollars a year on after-school programs. Each school was given a budget without any accountability or any direction. Supt. Roy Romer appointed John Liechty to head the new Beyond the Bell program. After being slowed down by bureaucratic interference, Liechty finally has the program headed in the right direction. Put simply, money is much easier to come by than competent leadership.

Richard J. Riordan

Los Angeles

*

I am perplexed that The Times would mention LA's BEST in an editorial that raises doubts about the effectiveness of after-school programs based on a single, narrow, short-term evaluation of other after-school programs.

LA's BEST is nationally recognized for having independent longitudinal evidence of its positive impact on the academic and social lives of the children it serves, and has become a model for other cities across the country. One cannot generalize the Mathematica data (first-year programs) to the long-standing programs that have demonstrated "best practices" in after-school enrichment. Many of the children served by LA's BEST have been referred by principals, teachers and counselors for the very reason that their parents were less motivated than others, not "more motivated to start with." Thus, the implied threat to the validity of UCLA's work is made without any factual basis.

Here's a real fact: LA's BEST is one after-school puzzle where all the pieces fit.

Alan Arkatov

President, Commission

for Children, Youth and

Their Families, Los Angeles

*

I am a coordinator of an extended-day program funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant in an L.A. County school district, and I have serious concerns about Mathematica Policy Research's results of one study of one program for one year.

I have completed several annual performance reports for Mathematica. I have long been disturbed by the quantitative data it asks for, as if that can possibly determine the effectiveness of after-school programs. There are so many other questions that need to be asked and can be expressed only in the narrative part of the report.

So, how are the anecdotal stories graded? How do the collectors of data score parent gratitude for affordable programs after school? How do they score the change in homework completion as a result of daily assistance in the after-school program? How do they score a child's sense of security and safety due to his receiving a snack every day and knowing he has a place to be every day after school? And the drug question could never be adequately addressed for myriad reasons.

This is another smack at education and all the good things that are going on. I smell vouchers all over this report.

Janeane Vigliotti

Los Angeles

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