This grant-funded program establishes or expands community learning centers that provide students with academic enrichment opportunities along with activities designed to complement the students’ regular academic program. These activities are scheduled after school and during summer break, and are taught by a mixture of staff and community members. Community learning centers also offer families of these students literacy and related educational development.
21st Century Community Learning Centers — which can be located in elementary or secondary schools or other similarly accessible facilities — provide a range of high quality services to support student learning and development, including tutoring and mentoring, homework help, academic enrichment (such as hands-on science or technology programs), and community service opportunities, as well as music, arts, sports and cultural activities. At the same time, centers help working parents by providing a safe environment for students during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session.
Authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (and amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001), the law’s specific purposes are to:
- Provide opportunities for academic enrichment, including providing tutorial services to help students (particularly students in high-poverty areas and those who attend low-performing schools) meet State and local student performance standards in core academic subjects such as reading and mathematics;
- Offer students a broad array of additional services, programs, and activities, such as youth development activities, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, art, music, and recreation programs, technology education programs, and character education programs, that are designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program of participating students; and
- Offer families of students served by community learning centers opportunities for literacy and related educational development.
Each eligible organization that receives an award may use the funds to carry out a broad array of before- and after-school activities (or activities during other times when school is not in session) that advance student achievement within this scope as defined by the U.S. Department of Education:
- Remedial education activities and academic enrichment learning programs, including providing additional assistance to students to allow the students to improve their academic achievement;
- Mathematics and science education activities;
- Arts and music education activities;
- Entrepreneurial education programs;
- Tutoring services (including those provided by senior citizen volunteers) and mentoring programs;
- Programs that provide after-school activities for limited English proficient students that emphasize language skills and academic achievement;
- Recreational activities;
- Telecommunications and technology education programs;
- Expanded library service hours;
- Programs that promote parental involvement and family literacy;
- Programs that provide assistance to students who have been truant, suspended, or expelled, to allow the students to improve their academic achievement; and
- Drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, and character education programs.