Committing himself to expand after-school programs in Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that a new study shows LA’s BEST is producing real results in reducing the dropout rate. Villaraigosa and LA’s BEST board members, including philanthropist Eli Broad, gathered at Griffin Avenue School in Lincoln Heights to discuss the findings of the four-year study by the National Center for Research on Evaluations, Standards and Student Testing. It found that the Los Angeles Unified School District has a dropout rate of 36 percent – midway between what the district and its critics say – but that students participating in the intervention program dropped out 20 percent less often. “LA’s BEST is a model after-school program, and this study shows the rest of the nation that a dedicated effort to keep students in school can work,” said Villaraigosa, who helped raise $7 million, including proceeds from inaugural galas, to expand the program to 17 more schools last year. To be eligible for the program, more than 70 percent of a school’s students must qualify for the free or reduced-cost meal program. Currently, 90.6 percent of children enrolled in LA’s BEST qualify for the free or reduced-cost meal program. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “With one-third of our children failing to finish high school, we must do everything within our power to ensure that children stay in school and graduate.” He said he would raise another $7 million to add 17 more schools this year. Los Angeles’ Better Educated Students for Tomorrow program operates in 147 of the LAUSD’s 431 elementary schools. The after-school program started nearly 20 years ago is mostly funded with tax dollars, but about a quarter of its money comes from private donations, said Carla Sanger, who heads the program. Broad has donated more than $8 million to LA’s BEST over the past five years. “We are pleased that our investment in LA’s BEST is resulting in quantifiable returns, and that LA’s BEST is successful at keeping students in school and improving their academic performance,” Broad said. The program provides students with a snack, homework assistance and activities, including arts and crafts, drill team, dance, theater, visual arts, sports, math and computer clubs, music, reading groups and field trips.