Fostering Communication Pathways between School and Afterschool: A Homework Initiative

Homework is a critical component to a child’s academic success, particularly for students in middle and high school.  Teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools regularly assign homework, and the majority of afterschool programs devote time, space, and adult support to helping their children complete and learn from their homework assignments.  The literature on homework in afterschool stresses that one of the most importance elements to high quality homework help in afterschool is effective communication pathways between school teachers and the afterschool programs.

In 2010-2011, OCD’s Division of Applied Research and Evaluation (DARE) worked with the Pittsburgh Public Schools Afterschool Manager, Pittsburgh Allegheny Traditional Academy middle school, and five afterschool programs serving the students from Allegheny Traditional Academy to develop strategies for school-afterschool communication around homework. 

Through close collaboration with Holly O’Donnell and Principal Kendrick and Paul Lyons at Pittsburgh Allegheny Traditional Academy 6-8, OCD convened afterschool providers and school teachers and administrators to develop and pilot communication pathways around homework. 

Research indicates that a formal method of ongoing communication between teachers and afterschool providers is needed to support quality homework time at afterschool programs.  Pittsburgh Public Schools has included homework as a key component to students succeeding in school and being Promise Ready.  

Working with its partners, DARE developed and piloted a set of communication strategies around homework. Teachers and afterschool providers provided feedback as to the usefulness of these strategies in day-to-day practice.  A “tip sheet” was developed to be disseminated to District principals to strengthen District-wide communication around homework with its afterschool partners.  This tip sheet was shared with all of the 2011 Pittsburgh Emerging Leadership Academies, the guidance counselors and social workers, and with several principals who were interested in improving afterschool partnerships.  The brief will be shared again during leadership week 2012 when the Student Services department presents to principals on a variety of partnership topics.  

This project was funded by The Heinz Endowments.