Eduwonk's latest post has brought to my attention a recent column in the New York Times on poverty's role in student achievement. There has been a strong backlash about this piece, pointing out that, while poverty may make it harder for students to learn, this is not an excuse for failures in education or a reason to abandon schools. Eduwonk calls this a "phony war" because both education and poverty are policy concerns that should not be in conflict.
My attempt to add to this discussion may be pointing out the obvious: we cannot expect to succeed if we stop our interventions with youth at 3 PM every day. In the hours beyond the core school day, students should explore their interests and develop skills -- like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork -- that complement their academics. A good lesson plan starts by assesing students' prior knowledge, and after-school enrichment activities expose students to new ideas and experiences which build that knowledge.
Many schools have started building this enrichment time into their extended school days. For example, the KIPP model includes "More Time" as one of its five pillars. It is critical to recognize the after-school hours as time for youth development and enrichment, but it is also beneficial to help students draw connections between their "school world" and the "real world". By bridging this gap, we can help break the connection between poverty and achievement.