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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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Snacks by Jodi Grant
MAY
26
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Not The Onion: Horses, surfboards, and cyberattacks in afterschool

By Jodi Grant

Photo by Pete Markham

Despite a wealth of research showing the importance of afterschool and widespread popularity with parents, students, teachers and community leaders, programs have never been more threatened. This week the president decided to double down on his call to eliminate afterschool funding in his 2018 budget proposal, leaving 1.6 million kids’ with no where to go after school. It’s a serious matter with implications for Americans across the country.  The cut has caught the attention of major national media, local media across the country, and late night comedians and Saturday Night Live.  

The Afterschool Alliance isn’t exempt from the heightened publicity. On Monday, we had our first mention in The Onion, which wrote a satirical piece on the Secretary of Education’s new plan to replace 21st Century Community Learning Centers with afterschool polo programs across the country.

I was flattered to be mentioned, but as in all great satire, the piece contained a lot of truth. If the Secretary of Education did call me, I’d be thrilled to tell her about pretty amazing afterschool programs. I haven’t heard of afterschool polo yet, but given the creativity and ingenuity local communities across the nation have developed, I would not be surprised. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, boost student success, and help working families – and quite often, they also blow your mind.

DEC
5
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Achievement gap covered at children's opportunity town hall

By Jodi Grant

On October 17, I joined leaders from across the country in Las Vegas to discuss the opportunity gap. I learned more about what organizations like the Children’s Leadership Council, Children’s Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza and many more are doing to close the children’s opportunity gap. You can watch a recording of the Town Hall and find a full list of partner organizations here.

What does afterschool have to do with the opportunity gap for kids?

  1. There isn’t enough supply to meet the demand for afterschool – for every child in an afterschool program, there are two waiting to get in.
  2. Families with higher incomes spend 7 times as much as lower income families on afterschool programs, which results in about 6000 hours of learning loss between kids from low-income families and high-income families by the start of sixth grade.
  3. Poverty can live anywhere, even rural communities – for every child in a rural afterschool program, there are three waiting to get in.

Thank you to Every Child Matters for inviting me to be part of this group to discuss this important topic. You can join the conversation on Twitter using #KidsOpportunity. Children deserve all the resources necessary to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to get ahead. 

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learn more about: Equity Events and Briefings
OCT
6
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How a summer learning program helped one community's literacy problem

By Jodi Grant

For the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), English language literacy is both an essential and a challenging aspect of students’ learning. More than 91 percent of SAUSD’s 53,000 students are Hispanic and 60 percent are learning English as a second language. More than 90 percent are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch.  It’s clear that developing literacy skills is crucial for these students to succeed in school, career and life.

Many students fall behind over the summer, especially in reading. The National Summer Learning Association reports that every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading while their higher-income peers make slight gains… By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2 1/2 to 3 years behind their peers.

Parents seek to overcome the “summer slide” through summer learning programs. According to our America After 3PM household survey, 62 percent of California parents say they want to enroll their children in a summer learning program, 77 percent agree that summer learning activities help kids maintain academic skills and 90 percent support public funding for these programs.

Teaching literacy through the power of publishing

Leaders at the SAUSD summer learning program, Engage 360°, were looking for a creative way to help students make gains in writing and literacy, so they turned to the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS program. It helps young people in grades K-12 to become writers, and therefore more comprehensive readers, by allowing them to author and publish original stories inspired by artwork on pre-illustrated (yet wordless) children’s books. Engage 360° operates at SAUSD’s elementary school locations, serving approximately 4,000 students over the summer.

“We wanted to counteract learning loss over the summer and make it fun for kids to work on their literacy skills and English language proficiency,” said Michael Baker, SAUSD’s District Coordinator of Extended Learning Programs.

Through collaborative and independent processes, kids in the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS craft original stories—including characters, plotlines and setting descriptions. Their stories are saved online for students and educators to access and then printed professionally.

“WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS disguises literacy education as fun,” said Meredith Scott Lynn, WRiTE BRAiN’s Founder & CEO. “It’s a project-based approach to literacy. Kids in the program have to invent real worlds for the imaginary characters in the books. They have to solve the real world problems posed by working in a group comprised of individuals with differing opinions and perspectives, and then create the processes by which the imaginary characters in their books solve their own problems.”

Baker praised the program’s structured approach to promoting creativity. “One of the major hurdles kids face when writing is the question of ‘what do I write about?’ WRiTE BRAiN addresses this question in a systematic way, guiding students step-by-step as they work together and independently to build valuable 21st century skills.”

“When kids go home, they all want to talk about their books with their parents,” Baker added. "They take ownership of their work and are proud of it.”

JUL
14
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How afterschool can help communities in face of division

By Jodi Grant

Children are often more in touch with the world around them than adults—they constantly ask questions about things they see and hear. Today, this awareness may lead to especially difficult questions, as recent tragedies in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas are still fresh in the hearts of Americans, and heated conversations on racism and prejudice grip the nation.

Thankfully, afterschool programs provide safe, supportive settings for children amid difficult circumstances, and often become one of the first places youth feel comfortable asking questions, sharing views and expressing emotions that spring from tough issues. For some kids, program staff are even like extended family.

That said, helping youth address violence, fear, grief and racism presents a considerable and challenging responsibility. I encourage educators to explore a valuable list of resources provided by the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), which offers guidance on navigating challenging topics and circumstances with children.

As an additional resource, the Afterschool Alliance and the out-of-school time field recently welcomed the advice of Dr. David J. Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, in a webinar on how to support grieving children. In the webinar recording, youth services professionals can learn coping strategies to minimize children’s distress and behavioral difficulties that may arise from feelings of loss, confusion and anger.

Beyond providing welcoming environments for delicate conversations, afterschool programs serve as a glue that bonds various community partners in a united effort to support youth. Law enforcement agencies have often become those partners, and they are an increasingly vital one. When police and youth get to know each other in a fun, informal setting, they build positive personal relationships. Those bridges can help break down stereotypes, provide youth with new trusted mentors and build bonds that strengthen communities.

Aaron Dworkin, the President of After-School All-Stars, provided an inspiring example of the afterschool field rising to the challenge of building cooperative, peaceful communities. “We believe our programs and staff play an important and powerful role in many communities being affected by violence,” he said in a statement to stakeholders. “Many of us are in a unique position to help facilitate important conversations led by professionally trained counselors and to offer support and assistance to students, families, staff and schools working to reduce violence and cope with the trauma of its aftermath.”

This determined effort to promote harmony and encourage meaningful discussion has the potential to impact more than 70,000 youth who participate in After-School All-Stars programs at 326 schools across the country. These inspiring actions by the afterschool field may not generate bold national headlines, but they inspire the next generation of Americans to work together in peace, respect and mutual understanding.

JUN
16
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool programs: an overlooked solution to America's problems

By Jodi Grant

The past few days have been busy ones here in Washington, D.C. Last week, we learned of new information and strategies regarding our nation’s ongoing struggle with inequality—and of a damaging proposal by Congress that would make it more difficult for afterschool programs to rise to the challenge.

On Tuesday, June 6, the Department of Education released new civil rights data that reveal that more than 6.5 million U.S. students are chronically absent—a trend that disproportionally affects students of color.

To help tackle this problem and others linked to poverty, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan last week released a new policy paperA Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America. The plan calls for streamlining federal programs that help the disadvantaged, while focusing on empowering individuals to escape poverty through avenues like juvenile justice reform and career and technical training.

While the debate ensues over the best ways to tackle these national problems, I invite you to join me in ensuring that afterschool and summer learning programs are not left out of the conversation. We know that these programs strengthen communities by improving student outcomes, keeping kids in school and out of trouble, and by helping working families. According to America After 3PM, 82 percent of U.S. parents say that afterschool programs excite students about learning, and 83 percent say that afterschool programs reduce the likelihood that youth experiment with drugs, crimes and sex.

And as summer heats up, our Vice President of Policy Erik Peterson was recently quoted in The New York Times to highlight the growing demand for summer learning programs, which keep students safe, engaged and growing academically while school is out, but cannot accommodate all the children who wish to participate.

MAR
18
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Alliance Chairman Terry Peterson honored as Champion for Children

By Jodi Grant

Dr. Terry Peterson and Executive Director Jodi Grant wearing "Afterschool Works" hard hats

Last week, I was honored to speak at the Beyond School Hours National Education Conference in Dallas, Texas for a ceremony honoring Dr. Terry Peterson with the Champion for Children award. The award honors individuals who have devoted their lives and careers toward ensuring that every child in America has the opportunity to reach success in school, career and life through afterschool and summer learning programs.

Terry has dedicated his career to helping our students succeed, and I am honored to work with a man who counts in his legacies the creation of federal afterschool funding. A long-serving public servant at the state and federal level, including eight years as chief education advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Terry was instrumental in creating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (21st CCLC). 21st CCLC provides critical support to afterschool programs that serve thousands of children and families across America.

In his remarks, Terry likened afterschool leaders to an army fighting for increased opportunities for students in need. “Together you are the sergeants, lieutenants, and generals turning afterschool and summer learning and partnerships—and turning 21st Century Community Learning Centers—into an important educational and community improvement strategy and partnership movement,” he said.

Terry also expressed his gratitude to the field for their hard work ensuring that 21st CCLC was preserved and strengthened in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed last December. “This reauthorization recognized your good work and your voices were heard. Give yourselves a round of applause,” he said.

Looking toward the challenges that lie ahead for afterschool and the U.S. education system, Terry ended his remarks with a call to action. “Please don’t forget the power of your individual voice and our collective voices as we move forward,” he said. “Please lend your voice to increase by $200 million the federal appropriation for 21st Century Community Learning Centers for 2017.”

Join me in congratulating Terry for his achievement by following his important call to make our voices heard in Congress. As the appropriations process gets underway this spring, contact your representatives through the Afterschool Alliance website to tell them you support strong federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.

FEB
10
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Add your message to our giant love letter: #WeLoveAfterschool!

By Jodi Grant

We all recognize the symbols of this time of year: teddy bears, chocolate, and children swapping cards at school. We learn at an early age that this season is about bringing people together, in spite of our many differences. This February, I invite you to join me in sending a “love letter” to the afterschool programs that knit communities together—regardless of differences in age, race, economic privilege or academic interest—by providing a safe place for children to grow and learn.

Our campaign toolkit has everything you need to join in. It’s easy to take part. Fill in the blank on our downloadable graphic with a personal message of why afterschool matters to you—and encourage kids from your program to do the same! Then post photos of you or your kids holding their “love letters” on social media with the hashtag #WeLoveAfterschool.

There are so many reasons to love afterschool programs. Afterschool exposes children of varying ages and backgrounds to new ideas, like computer science or STEM learning activities, that prepare them for college and careers. Afterschool promotes social and emotional learning, helping youth develop the critical reasoning skills and humane instincts they need to become responsible, successful adults. Afterschool helps working families whose children would otherwise invent their own activities after the bell rings.

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JAN
21
2016

IN THE FIELD
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"The First State" leads by example in the push for afterschool

By Jodi Grant

Executive Director Jodi Grant with Delaware House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst

I will forever remember 2015 as a year of momentous achievement for afterschool. Years of advocacy by the Afterschool Alliance and the afterschool field culminated in President Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, protecting the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative and strengthening afterschool programs across the nation for years to come.

We can’t rest on our laurels for long. Even as the Department of Education begins determining how to implement ESSA and fund programs like 21st CCLC, too many students—almost 20 million nationwide—are still left without an afterschool program.

With a major national hurdle behind us, one way to continue expanding access to students in need is by renewing our focus on expanding afterschool and summer learning programs with our partners and afterschool advocates at the state level. Delaware, “The First State,” provides a stellar example of one such effort to expand afterschool.