For more than 16,000 Fort Worth students, the school day doesn't end at the sound of the dismissal bell even though they aren't involved in extracurricular activities. Those students remain on campus until 6 or 6:30 p.m. every day because of Fort Worth After School.Miguel Garcia, FWAS director, calls the joint effort between the Fort Worth school district and the city "the largest structured after-school program in the state, bigger than Houston or Dallas."The program, which operates in 94 schools from kindergarten through high school, allows students to get tutoring and homework assistance in math, science and reading. Academic enrichment is also available through performance and visual arts, poetry, recreational sports, technology and computer-related activities, and video production.During a recent joint meeting, City Council and school board members praised this success story, especially because the program received a $760,000 grant this year from the New York-based Wallace Foundation, which aims to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children.The additional grant money is enabling Fort Worth After School to create an oversight organization to develop more consistent standards and training across the district's campuses.One aspect of that is to build a database of the current programs and their offerings. Officials expect that improving coordination and quality will help position FWAS to be eligible for other significant grants that would allow it to expand.Fort Worth After School was started in 2000 to meet the needs of the growing number of students who did not have a safe, supervised and enriching place to go once school let out each day.Texas A&M University researchers who studied the program for the 2008-09 school year said the need for it was confirmed by responses from middle and high school students to an earlier survey. They said they spent a high percentage of their time watching TV (often alone), talking on the phone and/or hanging out with friends. That could have negative consequences, the researchers said, but the after-school centers provided safe alternatives and may contribute to improved school attendance, behavior and standardized test performance, especially in math."FWAS is a quality program in a number of areas considered crucial to the social and academic success of children," researchers wrote. (bit.ly/TcXKOB)The A&M findings are similar to those in an April report for the Texas Education Agency evaluating Texas after-school centers funded through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The American Institutes for Research said students in the state-sanctioned programs scored higher on standardized reading and math tests, had fewer disciplinary problems and were absent less than students not involved in after-school care. (bit.ly/nihNCb)Of this year's $6.4 million FWAS budget, $4 million comes from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides money that TEA distributes through competitive grants. The city and school district provide $2.4 million. But Fort Worth officials endorse expansion of the district-city partnership to meet growing need.About 30 percent of elementary students participate in FWAS, along with 37 percent of middle school and 23 percent of high school students, the district reported. Most participants come from families that qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.Councilman Sal Espino said he would like to see the program in every school. It's an expensive goal -- but a worthwhile one that should be pursued.