By Jodi Grant
This week I was in Kansas City as a keynote speaker for the 2013 Best Practices Forum on Dropout Prevention, hosted by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. I was thrilled to be a part of the event and share with the audience the many ways the afterschool field is helping our students come to school, stay in school and graduate. Afterschool programs are an instrumental part of any effort to help our students not only graduate from high school, but prepare them for lifelong success and help shape the adult he or she will become.
This is why I am so pleased with the newly released video (below) and guidebook by America’s Promise Alliance, “Expanding Learning, Expanding Opportunities.” Both the video and accompanying guidebook highlights the many ways expanded learning opportunities—including afterschool programs, summer learning programs, and expanded learning time—are providing our kids with opportunities to express themselves creatively, explore their interests and gain hands-on learning experiences they might not have during the school day. Also included are a variety of resources, such as research, best practices and toolkits to assist those interested in learning more about the out-of-school hours.
By Jodi Grant
Last week our friend and colleague Richard Murphy, former National AfterSchool Association board chair and dedicated youth advocate, passed away in New York City.
Richard spent his career as a dedicated advocate for youth. He provided invaluable guidance to the Afterschool Alliance during its formation, and we are grateful for the leadership and direction he gave to the afterschool field and the education community.
Richard was the founding director of the Rheedlen Center for Children and Families, now known as Harlem's Children Zone, and served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Youth Services from 1990-1994. During that period, New York City made an investment of $40 million new dollars to create Beacon Schools and YouthLine.
After his time in New York City government, Richard served as the Director of the AED Center for Youth Development and Policy Research. Richard led the Center in the creation of Community Youth Mapping, a model that has been replicated in more than 100 localities and
Richard was a tireless and dedicated advocate who always believed in the limitless possibilities of our young people. He will be greatly missed.
By Jodi Grant
This post was co-authored with Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and originally published on Huffington Post's Education Blog. Read the original post and share your thoughts with the HuffPost community.
Each weekday from September to June, at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, school bells across the land ring, signaling the end of classes for the day. The sound that follows in many classrooms is familiar to anyone who's been in a classroom: books snapping shut, chair legs screeching on floors, and children moving on to their next stop. Just what that next stop is varies from community to community, family to family, and child to child. Some go off to structured activities with adult supervision; some go home to a waiting adult; some go home and are unsupervised; and some have no real option but to hang out in places where trouble is especially likely to find them.
In that first category are about 8.4 million children who are lucky enough to have afterschool programs that keep them safe and inspire them to learn, and that also help their working parents continue to work productively, secure in the knowledge that their kids are under the watchful eye of caring professionals. Unfortunately, a much larger group of children—15.1 million—are left alone—no parents, no afterschool program, no adult supervision.
The policy challenge those numbers frame for us is obvious: We need to shrink the number of children left on their own in the often-perilous afterschool hours, and we need to invest in growing the number of children who have enriching afterschool options available to them. Unfortunately, we seem to be heading in the wrong direction.
That's the inescapable conclusion from new research conducted for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education campaign by a team of George Washington University researchers. The report focuses on state funding for programs supporting students who face economic disadvantages, with a particular eye on the effect of the recession on those programs and the children they serve.
By Jodi Grant
Over the course of the last several years, parents, children and communities across our country have found themselves fighting an uphill battle—facing unemployment, food insecurity and a slow economic recovery. Afterschool programs—that are a safe haven for children in the hours before and after school, give working parents peace of mind, feed kids nutritious snacks and meals, and offer an enriched learning environment—also find themselves confronted with economic hardships and struggling to fully meet the needs of their communities.
Our new report, Uncertain Times 2012: Afterschool Programs Still Struggling in Today’s Economy, shows that afterschool program budgets are shrinking, program services are stretched thin and programs are not able to reach all the children in their community who would benefit from their services. What’s more, for the programs that work with communities that are most in need of afterschool programs, the situation is even more serious.
By Jodi Grant
This post was co-written by our Excutive Director Jodi Grant and STEM Policy Director Anita Krishnamurthi.
Last month we were delighted to be invited to attend a breakfast at the Finnish Embassy featuring Dr. Pali Sahlberg, the director of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation in Helsinki; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president on education. Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss moderated the panel.
Finland has been receiving a flurry of attention from education stakeholders and reformers for consistently standing out as one of the strongest school systems in the world. We were eager to hear what the Finns thought was the key to their success.
Dr. Sahlberg began by saying that Finland never set out to be the best, they just wanted to improve and do better by their children. This benchmark comes from a philosophically different place than the international competition that drives most of our debate on this issue. He proceeded to describe the other social issues Finland has worked on to ensure children and youth have a fair shot: their child poverty rate is 4 percent, compared to 22 percent in the United States; they are ranked first in child health and well-being while the United States is ranked 29th; and, their income inequality is also much lower. He also stressed that equity played a major role in their re-think—they determined that the notion of private schools where people can opt out of the system and private funding of education is not compatible with an equitable system. Consequently, there are no privately funded schools in Finland. Finland also boasts an incredibly selective teacher recruitment and training process. Only 5 percent of applicants are selected for a master’s program in education, which is required to become a teacher.
As the U.S. debates how long our school days should be, Finland offers a sobering example of why that cannot be the only solution. Children in Finland do not start school until they are 7 because the Finns believe that learning to play is extremely important—it teaches children how to get along with each other, to pay attention and focus, and to be imaginative—all qualities they think are essential to child and youth development. The country has one of the shortest school days around, teachers give minimal homework and testing is rare. They strongly believe that you test a small sample of schools to see how well a model is working and you ask the teachers to assess how the students are doing. One of the points Dr. Sahlberg made that really resonated was “Accountability is what is left when responsibility is taken away.”
By Jodi Grant
It’s always good when leaders come together to improve our children’s education, and that happened yesterday when the Ford Foundation announced its new Time to Succeed Coalition. More than 100 education and civic leaders from diverse backgrounds launched a national coalition to expand and redesign learning time for our kids. We wholeheartedly support this effort to improve student achievement by ensuring that children have more time to learn.
We were especially pleased yesterday to hear Chris Gabrieli of the National Center on Time & Learning stress the importance of engaging communities in school day expansion. In too many cases, that hasn’t happened in the recent, early experiments that add time to the school day. It is great news for our kids that the Time to Succeed leaders plan to make it a priority now.
By Jodi Grant
This post was originally published on Huffington Post's Education Blog. Read the original post and share your thoughts with the HuffPost community.
The push to reform and improve the nation's schools has been with us for decades. And while it sometimes seems that reforms come and go like waves reaching the shore -- first crashing loudly, then petering out on the beach before receding with little evidence left behind, in fact, we've learned a lot over the years about how our kids learn best. But putting that knowledge to work in our communities and classroom isn't always as easy as it sounds.
A new initiative backed by several of the nation's leading foundations holds great promise for applying such knowledge. It's the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, and its backers include the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Noyce Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. Its purpose is to gather and share research and best practices that will help schools and communities leverage the time children spend out of school in ways that accelerate their academic achievement. The Project launched with an impressive show of support that included the wholehearted embrace of the organization I lead, the Afterschool Alliance, as well as 650 other local, state and national organizations.
As its name suggests, the Project is focused not on what happens between the bells, buzzers, or tones of the regular school day, but on the ways children learn -- or could learn, if given the right opportunities -- during the rest of the day. The two parts of the day are linked, of course, but the Project recognizes what afterschool programs across the nation have learned from experience: that after a full day of classroom instruction, students are ready for an approach to teaching and learning based on hands-on, experiential methods.
By Jodi Grant
Most of us don’t stop to celebrate our work often enough. I think it is especially true for those in afterschool, where new and seemingly intractable challenges crop up daily, and certainly in advocacy, when success can be hard to measure and troubling policy proposals threaten the progress we’ve made to date.
Thanks to PASE and its awards, we have a moment to stop and reflect on the amazing work that makes our field so special. These awards shine a light on individuals who are literally transforming lives.
PASEsetters Deena Hellman, Mi Jung You, Faybiene Miranda, Patrick Pinchiant and Sadie Mahoney don’t let any challenge thwart their efforts to support youth. From starting new projects like a Guys and Girls discussion group, to engaging external resources to help a struggling student succeed, to securing a mental health counseling license, they are constantly finding ways to better serve their communities. They are resourceful, dogged, inspired.
Thanks to the efforts of Afterschool Champions like John Shutkin, our PASEsetters are able to keep doing their amazing work serving youth. As we know well here at the Afterschool Alliance, working to ensure access to quality afterschool programming is no small endeavor.
That’s why we also need to use the PASE Awards as an excellent opportunity to educate our leaders on the difference afterschool makes. If you find inspiration in the PASEsetters, or in the daily work of your afterschool program, share it with your leaders. Call, write or invite them to visit.
Or, join us in calling on Congress for more afterschool resources at the Afterschool for All Challenge this May 8-9 in Washington, D.C. (Registration is on me for any PASEsetter Awardees!).
We’ve got a long way to go to get afterschool the resources and respect it deserves, but thanks to PASE and its awardees I’ve got an extra spring in my step as I head out to advocate today on behalf of quality afterschool and summer programs, and the youth who rely on them.
This post was originally published as a guest blog to accompany the Please Speak Freely interviews with PASEsetter award winners. Click here to listen to the podcast.