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Snacks by Robert Abare
NOV
28
2016

RESEARCH
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New report sees how state policies can promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

By Robert Abare

This post was originally published by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition.

new report from RTI International examines an emerging trend that uses state policy to promote healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Based on stakeholder interviews and state case studies, the authors conclude that the state policy approach holds significant promise if it avoids creating unfunded mandates.

Jean Wiecha and Kristen Capogrossi of RTI International, in "Using State Laws and Regulations to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs," explain that the National AfterSchool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, developed by HOST in 2011, have offered comprehensive guidance to the OST field on how to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Large national organizations have adopted some or all of these standards in their programs--but recent studies suggest that about 40 percent of NAA members still have not heard of them. State or local laws present one option to increase awareness, uptake, and implementation of these standards,

Wiecha and Capogrossi therefore interviewed nine experts who were knowledgeable about the NAA HEPA Standards and active in national OST policy, advocacy, and service issues. They also conducted case studies in California and North Carolina, which have had recent experience with legislation in this area. They concluded:

Under the right circumstances and when crafted the right way, state policy approaches have the potential to result in faster, more equitable, and more thorough improvements to healthy eating and physical activity in OST settings compared with the status quo focus on private-sector dissemination and training efforts. Regulation that uses incentives and voluntary participation could result in increasing the number of OST programs promoting health among children and their families in low-resource communities. In addition, regulation (especially when integrated with existing OST regulation) could serve to elevate healthy eating and physical activity to the same level of importance as other regulated OST quality content areas.

At the same time, the authors caution that "policy efforts should proceed carefully in order to allow the field the opportunity to identify which best practices in policy design maximize benefit and minimize risk," and suggest that different states may wish to move forward at different speeds. They add, "Policy efforts should explicitly identify and mitigate the risk of creating unfunded mandates, which may have the unintended consequence of widening quality gaps between high- and low-resources sites or, worse, drive low-resource sites out of business by imposing costs and other burdens involved with the improvement process."

The report was commissioned by the Healthy Eating Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness State Policy
NOV
18
2016

LIGHTS ON
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These twin sisters celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 by becoming math champions

By Robert Abare

One might not think that basketball can help kids gain critical math skills. But for twin sisters Patricia and Angela Rodas, that’s exactly the case. The Rodas sisters have become rather like local celebrities in the San Francisco Bay Area through their success in NBA Math Hoops, a board game and curriculum that helps kids learn math through the lens of professional basketball. 

To play NBA Math Hoops (and learn math at the same time) students divide into teams to analyze NBA and WNBA players’ stats, strategize, and solve increasingly complex math problems. On October 6, 2016, the Rodas twins showed off their math expertise gained through NBA Math Hoops by winning (for the second year in a row!) the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship, as part of the national kick-off for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Colleen Johnston, Program Manager for Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), has overseen the implementation of NBA Math Hoops at 55 of BACR’s afterschool program sites. Next year, NBA Math Hoops will be rolled out to more than 60 BACR schools in the Bay Area. Currently, NBA Hoops is in over 100 schools in the Bay Area.  It is primarily being played during Out of School time.

“This is disguised learning at its best,” said Johnston about NBA Math Hoops. “The game is fast paced, so it keeps kids engaged, and the curriculum associated with the game builds over time, so it has the capacity to teach both very basic math skills and the very advanced.”

Indeed, the Rodas twins said NBA Math Hoops is helping them succeed in the classroom. “Math Hoops has helped me get better with multiplication and be more confident in the classroom,” said Angela.

Angela added, “My parents like NBA Math Hoops because it’s improved my grades.”

Thanks to their previous success playing NBA Math Hoops and their participation in this year’s national Lights On Afterschool kick-off event, the Rodas twins have become local role models for their peers, showing them that anyone can do well in math. The twins have also helped shine a light on the power of afterschool programs to teach kids valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

“When they first started playing NBA Math Hoops, the twins were very shy and didn’t like public speaking,” said Johnston. “Now, they’ve become like local celebrities. The game has helped them realize how much they love math, and their confidence has grown so much that they’re already talking about college.”

Johnston also praised the curriculum for its ability to engage both boys and girls. “NBA Math Hoops includes both NBA and WNBA players, so both boys and girls can get excited about the game,” she said. “And for the past two years, the majority of the teams in the Elite 8 of the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship have been girls.”

BACR afterschool programs helped their students make strides in math for Lights On Afterschool on October 20, 2016, when programs held mini NBA Math Hoops tournaments, carnivals, and open houses. Lights On Afterschool calls national attention to how afterschool programs, like BACR and the program’s implementation of NBA Math Hoops, are working to provide kids with hands-on STEM learning experiences that prepare them for our complex and changing world.

NOV
15
2016

POLICY
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Guest blog: How the election played out at the state level

By Robert Abare

Written by Ashley Wallace, Program Manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures

The Minnesota State Capitol. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In the past week since Election Day, the top of the ticket has certainly garnered a lot of attention and discussion. However, state legislative races and state ballot initiatives also made their mark, as voters in 35 states decided 154 statewide ballot measures and chose from among more than 10,000 candidates seeking state legislative seats.

Republicans will control 66 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers. Democrats will control 30 chambers and one chamber will be tied. The New York Senate is still undecided. This means Republicans will control both chambers in 32 states, which is an all-time high for the party. Democrats will control both chambers in 13 states and three states will split control or be tied. Overall, turnover in the state legislatures this election was about 25 percent, which is about average.

Here are the chambers that changed hands

Three chambers switched from Democratic to Republican control:

  • Kentucky House
  • Iowa Senate
  • Minnesota Senate

Four chambers switched from Republican to Democratic control:

  • New Mexico House
  • Nevada Assembly
  • Nevada Senate
  • Washington Senate (Republicans, however, will have functional control as one Democrat will caucus with the Republicans.)

And one chamber, the Connecticut Senate, will be tied.

There are also a few chambers across the country who have a more complicated future. The Alaska House will be governed by a coalition that gives Democrats functional control of the chamber, despite Republicans leading the chamber numerically. And Democrats now control every seat in the Hawaii Senate, the first time one party has completely controlled a chamber since 1980. However, the big takeaway of the legislative races is that Republicans exceeded expectations in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.

Republicans entered the elections having 31 governors and managed to pick up three by winning in Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. This will mean the most Republican Governors since 1998. Republican pickups in governor’s races means fewer states under split control. Republicans will have full control of state government in 24 states, Democrats will have full control in six and only 17 states will split control.

The outlook on education and afterschool

There are a few education-related approved ballot initiatives that may be of note to the afterschool field. Oregon passed Measure 98, requiring the legislature to fund dropout prevention and career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools, and Measure 99, creating a fund to provide outdoor school programs statewide through the Oregon Lottery Economic Development. Meanwhile, Mainers approved a new 3 percent income tax for incomes of more than $200,000, with revenues going to K-12 education.

Finally, those in the afterschool field may recognize Nebraska’s newly elected state senator, Anna Wishart. Ms. Wishart is a former White-Riley-Peterson fellow.


For more state-focused election analysis, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures. To read more on how the 2016 election will affect education policy and afterschool, see the Afterschool Snack's breakdown of Donald Trump's record on education, and what to expect from his administration and the 115th Congress.

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learn more about: Election Guest Blog State Policy
NOV
4
2016

LIGHTS ON
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This program used Lights On Afterschool to shine a light on health and wellness

By Robert Abare

For the Boys and Girls Club of East Los Angeles (BGCELA), encouraging kids to lead healthy lifestyles goes hand-in-hand with the other areas of the organization’s mission: building students’ academic success and developing their character. For Lights On Afterschool 2016, BGCELA celebrated its achievements in keeping kids healthy by embracing a fun and unusual theme: bubbles.

BGCELA hosted a community 5K “Bubble Run” for Lights On Afterschool last month, providing a fun outlet for kids, their families, and local celebrities to get active while celebrating the importance of health and wellness education. Participants in the Bubble Run walked or jogged through mountains of bubbles at various checkpoints along the run, where local radio stations also filled the air with their music.

Happy memories lead to lifelong healthy habits

“It basically looked like a washing machine exploded,” said Anna Araujo, Executive Director of BGCELA and former Afterschool Ambassador. “We wanted to use this event to make healthy habits as fun and interactive for the kids as possible. That way, we give kids happy memories related to healthy activities, and those practices become lifelong habits.”

The event was emceed by Peter Daut, a local news anchor, and celebrity appearances were made by Luis Guzman of Code Black, Boxer Victor Ortiz, DJ Cece The Mamacita of KDAY, telenovela actor Adriana Fonseca, singer Miguelilto and actor Anthony “Citric” Campos of The George Lopez Show.

In keeping with the theme, kids also played “Bubble Soccer” at BGCELA’s Lights On Afterschool event, thanks to a local vendor. A local Electronic Dance Music (EDM) fitness program also led the event’s warm up activities, and various vendors offered samples of healthy foods and drinks (and water was provided at no cost).

Boxer Victor Ortiz races with singer Miguelito. Actor Luis Guzman signs a student's Bubble Run t-shirt.
NOV
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Evaluation as a mission-driven investment

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the first post of the series, which explores evaluation lessons from Dallas Afterschool.

This post is written by Jason Spector, senior research & evaluation manager for After-School All-Stars, a national afterschool program serving more than 70,000 low-income, at-risk students across 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The After-School All-Stars of South Florida celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 with the Miami Marlins.

I recently left a meeting thinking I’m no longer doing the job I was hired to do. But for a professional evaluator of afterschool programs, change is a good thing.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) to launch our national evaluation department two and a half years ago, my primary goal was to measure and support ASAS’ outcomes as the organization entered into an expansion phase. While I currently maintain this responsibility, our national evaluation team is now focused on examining program quality as opposed to outcomes measurement. Why the change? Simply put, we realized our top priority was to boost our quality, because when we do, the impact and outcomes will follow. 

This type of a shift is not an easy decision for a nonprofit to make. As nonprofits move toward more advanced outcomes measurements to satisfy increasingly savvy funders, leaders everywhere are faced with some critical questions:

  1. Should I deepen my organization’s investment in evaluation?
  2. What can I expect to receive in return?

These questions carry an assumption that an investment in evaluation is inherently not an investment in your organization’s mission and programs. Furthermore, many program leaders assume that evaluations must yield large positive outcomes in order to attract new funders and compensate for the “cost” of not putting dollars directly into program operations. But this logic fails to consider the many benefits evaluations afford organizations. 

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog
OCT
26
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest Blog: Making room for flexibility in afterschool

By Robert Abare

Written by Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education and Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which administers YouthQuest, a high-quality afterschool program serving more than 2,000 students each year in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan.

When you walk into a fast food chain, you probably have a good idea of what to expect. The food, the service, the building’s layout—it’s all fairly predictable. Your experience at one location will be similar to your experience at another.

While that’s a great model for a restaurant franchise, it doesn’t work as well for youth programming. After all, many afterschool programs are offered at multiple sites, each with its own students, its own culture, its own strengths and its own challenges. One size does not fit all.  

At YouthQuest, each of our 15 sites follows the same framework, but how that framework is carried out can look very different based on the school. Three key factors that impact this include:

  1. The needs of the students. One of our sites serves two children who are hearing impaired. Rather than offer only select programming to these students, we’ve partnered with the day school to provide interpreters after school. This has allowed the students to take part in all of YouthQuest’s activities, including violin lessons.
  2. The needs of the school. One of our partner schools recently moved to a balanced calendar, or a calendar with a shorter summer and several short breaks throughout the school year.  This change meant that the calendar for the school's YouthQuest program had to change as well. As such, YouthQuest modified its program to match the day school’s schedule and will provide optional enrichment programming during these modified school breaks.
  3. Student voice and choice. Each YouthQuest site has its own advisory council, in which students make important decisions about program content, such as field trips and service learning projects. As a result, students feel a unique sense of ownership over the program.

That said, it’s important that the program remains consistent where it matters most. In our case, all sites support YouthQuest’s core curriculum, goals and mission. We continue to offer monthly professional development, share the same lesson plans between sites and meet regularly to ensure that all staff are on the same page.

So, while each site’s methods and program may vary, at the end of the day, we’ve all accomplished the same goal: providing students with fun, engaging programming that connects to the school day.

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learn more about: Guest Blog School Improvement
OCT
24
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Diverse partners helped keep the Lights On Afterschool this year

By Robert Abare

As you might have heard, Lights On Afterschool 2016 was a big success! Thousands (8,200 to be exact!) of programs and leaders hosted events in their communities. The Empire State Building glowed yellow on the evening of October 20, along with the Orlando Eye, the Tampa Bay Ray's Tropicana Field and the 35 W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The nation’s celebration of afterschool would not have been possible without enthusiastic participation from a host of partners, ranging from national organizations that serve thousands of kids to local programs that help small communities.

Major afterschool providers took part in Lights On Afterschool 2016, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA of the USA, After-School All Stars, Camp Fire, and 4-H, which celebrated in coordination with National Youth Science Day. And more than 100 allied organizations lent their voices and support, including the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the STEM Education Coalition, The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Association of Science - Technology Centers (ASTC), the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), and the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Child Care.

At the national and local levels, companies offered their support in many ways, from donating materials to helping build public awareness. Bright House Networks provided hands-on STEM learning experiences for hundreds of afterschool  kids across Florida, and Marriott provided funds for posters and online tools for sites. Nickelodeon teamed up to keep kids physically active by celebrating Lights On Afterschool with Worldwide Day of Play.  Scholastic gave away 300 books to Lights On sites; WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS gave away their publishing-based literacy program; STEMfinity provided $2000 of experiment kits; and Torani sent celebratory party supplies to the winners of our national Lights On Afterschool poster contest.

All 50 statewide afterschool networks mobilized and supported communities across their states, and worked with 44 Governors who proclaimed October 20 Lights On Afterschool day. The mayor of the District of Columbia also issued a proclamation in support of Lights On Afterschool.

A number of prominent figures, from national foundations to local mayors, added their voice to raise awareness of Lights On Afterschool on social media. These advocates include:

Just like the learning experiences that happen after school, this year's Lights On events came in all shapes and sizes, and provided diverse opportunities for kids to learn, grow and speak out. Thank you!

Although the official day of Lights On Afterschool has passed, many celebrations will continue into early November. Please continue to send us descriptions and photos of your Lights On Afterschool celebrations to loa@afterschoolalliance.org.

OCT
21
2016

LIGHTS ON
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6 reasons why Lights On Afterschool 2016 was the brightest yet!

By Robert Abare

Exactly 8,200 events held across the USA and the world make this year's Lights On Afterschool the biggest and brightest since the rally first began 17 years ago! One million people joined together to shine a light on the accomplishments of afterschool programs and to say 'thank you' for all the benefits they provide to communities and working families.

Here are 6 things that made Lights On Afterschool 2016 truly shine:

1. We kicked off Lights On Afterschool with Learn Fresh, NBA Math Hoops, the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings on a big national stage—a game between the Warriors and Kings at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA!

2. The U.S. Senate issued a bipartisan proclamation in support of Lights On Afterschool.

3. The Empire State Building glowed yellow on the evening of Lights On Afterschool, October 20.

4. 44 states issued official Lights On Afterschool proclamations to honor afterschool programs.

5. Exactly 8,200 Lights On events were held around the world!

6. 641 people signed the petition to ask for greater investments in afterschool.

Did you host a Lights On Afterschool event this year? If so, we want to hear from you! Send us your photos and any highlights to loa@afterschoolalliance.org.