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JUN
13
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Youth Today's Out-of-School Time Hub links latest research to practice

By Robert Abare

Youth Today, a national publication for those working in the field of youth services, has recently launched a new Out-of-School Time (OST) Hub for engaging articles on the latest research and emerging issues in the out-of-school time field. The new resource is funded by a grant from the Robert Bowne Foundation, and "reflects the Foundation's belief in the critical importance of building bridges between research and practice."

The OST Hub is broken into four topic areas: Language and Literacy, Program Quality, Youth Leadership, and Health in OST Programs. Each section features a variety of downloadable PDFs on the latest research, program examples, fieldnotes and other resources relating to each topic. For instance, check out Youth-Adult Partnerships in Community Decision Making: What Does It Take to Involve Adults in the Practice? in the OST Hub's Youth Leadership section.

Take advantage of webinars exploring afterschool innovations

The OST Hub also provides a number of webinars for professionals to engage directly with experts in the out-of-school time field. This Wednesday, June 15th at 1 p.m., the OST Hub is hosting a webinar on "Documenting Youth Learning with Badges and Portfolios," part of Youth Today's "From Research to Practice" webinar series. The webinar explores how afterschool programs can offer trusted certifications to participants who gain specific skills, focusing on Mouse, Inc. 

Mouse, Inc. is a nonprofit that involved high school students in an afterschool computer project. The participating students, upon completion, were able to earn a badge recognized  by the admissions department of Parsons School of Art. The webinar's presenters are Marc Lesser of Mouse, Inc. and Sarah Zeller-Berkman, Ph.D, of Mozilla.

Add your voice to the Hub!

The OST Hub is looking to hear from you! In particular, the publication seeks writing from afterschool practitioners in the OST Fieldnotes section, in every topic area. If your program is embarking on an innovative project and you'd like to share insights from your work, contact the OST Hub editor Sara Hill at sarahill@youthtoday.org.

JUN
10
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Advocates sing praises of musical education to leaders in Washington

By Robert Abare

From left to right, NAMM president Joe Lamond, Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 

Last month, the week of May 23-26, members and supporters of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) arrived in Washington, D.C. to highlight the importance of making music education available to all students, as a part of a well-rounded education. You can read the full description of the week's events through NAMM's press release.

Here are some highlights from NAMM's week of music education advocacy:

  • A day of service, during which NAMM members donated musical instruments and supplies to students in need, and provided three hours of music lessons to 75 students at D.C.’s Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy.
  • Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) was awarded the SupportMusic Champion Award by the NAMM Foundation in recognition of the Senator’s long history in supporting music education. The award came on the heels of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015. The passage of ESSA is the first federal law to provide a framework for access to music and arts education for every student.
  • Over 150 meetings with Congressional offices to emphasize the importance of supporting music education and highlight the benefits music education offers students.
  • A special reception was held for the Turnaround Arts, a program under the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. During the reception, a variety of artists were honored for their work in arts education advocacy, of which music education is a core topic.
  • A call with Secretary of Education John King, during which King discussed ESSA and the law's goal of creating a more dynamic and well-rounded education experience for America's students. Listen to the call via NAMM's website.
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learn more about: Advocacy Arts
JUN
10
2016

STEM
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Professional development improves afterschool STEM learning and student outcomes

By Erin Murphy

This blog is part of series highlighting articles from the third issue of the new Journal for Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO). This is a peer-reviewed, open-access publication from the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation.

In one of the first studies linking STEM professional development to positive student outcomes in the afterschool context, Findings From an Afterschool STEM Learning Initiative: Links to Professional Development and Quality STEM Learning Experiences discusses the impact of high-quality professional development on afterschool staff and students. The study, by Deborah Lowe Vandell, Rahila Simzar, Pilar O’Cadiz, and Valerie Hall from the University of California – Irvine, reports that high-quality professional development for afterschool staff increases staff belief in the importance of STEM and staff competency. In turn, these gains by staff lead to the increased quality of STEM learning activities, improving student outcomes and their STEM learning experience in the program.

Awareness of the important role of afterschool in STEM education has been growing, but challenges implementing high-quality STEM programming in afterschool—such as limited staff experience with STEM, high staff turnover, and structural barriers—persist. The purpose of this study was to examine the impacts of a 3-year initiative, led by the California Afterschool Network, aimed at increasing STEM learning opportunities in publicly funded afterschool programs through professional development. The study—which evaluated 96 publicly funded California afterschool programs, measured staff beliefs and competency providing STEM programming, collected student outcomes, and documented close to 2,500 STEM activities—found:

  • High-quality professional development has a positive impact on afterschool staff. The study found that increases in the frequency of staff training, discussions of program issues and STEM programming, and meetings with school teachers and parents were all shown to have positive impacts on staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning, as well as staff competency to implement STEM programming.
  • When afterschool staff have quality STEM professional development, it positively impacts student’s STEM learning experience. Increases in staff beliefs about the importance of STEM and staff competency were correlated with increased student engagement in activities and overall activity success.
  • Improved student outcomes in afterschool support overall academic engagement and success. Student engagement and activity success in their afterschool program were both shown to have positive impacts on student work habits, math efficacy, science efficacy, social competency and interest in science.

These results suggest high-quality professional development is an important part of high-quality afterschool STEM programming and has direct impacts on student outcomes. Additionally, a well-rounded, multi-pronged approach to staff development—including staff training, regular staff meetings, and staff communication with teachers and parents—is most effective.

Afterschool programming is an important part of K-12 STEM education, and it is clear that professional development plays a key role in helping programs provide high-quality STEM programming and encourages positive student outcomes. 

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learn more about: Science
JUN
9
2016

RESEARCH
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New civil rights data reveal nearly 1 in 5 high schoolers are chronically absent

By Jen Rinehart

This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released “A First Look” from the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which shows that students of color, students whose first language is not English and students with disabilities are not getting the same opportunities to learn as their counterparts who are white, whose first language is English or who do not have disabilities.

The data are from a survey of all public schools and school districts in the United States. The CRDC measures student access to courses, programs, instructional and other staff, and resources—as well as school climate factors, such as student discipline and bullying and harassment—that impact education equity and opportunity for students. 

For the first time, CRDC also looks at chronic student absenteeism, and finds that more than 6.5 million students (13 percent) missed 15 or more days of school (nearly a month of school) during the 2013-14 academic year. The chronic absence data reveal differing rates of chronic absenteeism among subgroups of students:  

  • Within the high school group, chronic absence rates are 26 percent for American Indian or Alaska Native students, 22 percent for African American students, 21 percent for Multiracial, 25 percent for Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students and 20 percent for Latino students compared to 18 percent overall.
  • Among elementary students, American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students are twice as likely to be chronically absent as white elementary school students.
  • Children with disabilities are more likely to be chronically absent in both elementary and high school.
JUN
9
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: June 9, 2016

By Luci Manning

Underwater Robotics Team Comes Up a Winner (Petoskey News-Review, Michigan)

After months of research and hard work, the East Jordan afterschool underwater robotics club’s vehicle came out on top at the Great Lakes Regional Competition. In addition to developing a remotely operated underwater robot designed to collect and analyze spilled oil samples, each team in the competition created a fictitious company to market their product and services. “This competition is very real, as there are deadlines, teamwork, collaboration, communication skills, and innovative engineering challenges,” team coach and STEM instructor John Twichel told the Petoskey News-Review.

State Schools Chief Richard Woods Promotes Summer Reading in Macon (Macon Telegraph, Georgia)

Georgia school superintendent Richard Woods joined local librarians and superintendents last week to promote the Middle Georgia Regional Library System’s summer reading program. The state education department has partnered with several organizations to donate more than 100,000 books to children this summer, and the reading program is trying to encourage students to read at least 25 hours this summer. “Reading doesn’t just stop at the end of school,” Woods told the Macon Telegraph. “It needs to continue during the summer.”

Taking Afterschool on the Road (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York)

Afterschool Ambassador Marcel Braithwaite discusses the importance of federal and local funding for afterschool programs in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “Last week, I joined more than 150 afterschool advocates from 36 states… to send a message to Congress that we need to make afterschool a priority…. Lawmakers must resist efforts to balance the budget on the backs of schoolchildren. Securing funding for the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families is vital for our neighborhoods and our communities. It was a message our lawmakers needed to hear, and we were proud to deliver it!”

Education for Homeless Kids Gets a Boost (Deseret Morning News, Utah)

The Utah State Board of Education recently approved funding to make sure summer education for homeless children starts on time this year. The board unanimously approved $15,000 to fund the Road Home’s Midvale Center’s summer program, which serves about 50 homeless students, according to the Deseret Morning News. The all-day program includes meals, academic instruction, field trips and other fun activities. “Children experiencing homelessness can lose an estimated three to six months of educational attainment with each episode of homelessness,” said State Rep. Steve Eliason, who secured the appropriation. “This funding will help mitigate this issue for some of the most at-risk students in the state of Utah.” 

JUN
8
2016

POLICY
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Speaker Ryan outlines "A Better Way" to tackle poverty

By Jillian Luchner

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Yesterday, June 7th, House Speaker Paul Ryan presented A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, a new policy paper on poverty representing the recommendations on issues in welfare, workforce and education by the House Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility.

webpage outlining the plan breaks the message on poverty alleviation into 5 main ideas:

  • Reward Work
  • Tailor Benefits to People’s Needs
  • Improve Skills and Schools
  • Plan and Save for the Future
  • Demand Results

The overarching philosophy of "A Better Way"

The plan emphasizes streamlining programs, noting that “today, 13 federal agencies run more than 80 programs that provide food, housing, health care, job training, education, energy assistance and cash to low-income Americans.” The plan asks for focus to be shifted to the individual rather than compartmentalized among bureaucratic offices, such that the foundation of aid becomes an individual’s goals, and the measure of success becomes an individual’s rise from poverty.

The plan suggests that, with the individual at the center, states, localities and communities become best positioned to determine, direct and coordinate supports for recipients of government services. In streamlining, government must pay attention to redundancies, waste, fraud and abuse, and coordinating data and services while maintaining individual privacy. Resources should be dedicated to evidence-based programs with histories of getting results.

No detailed funding plan is outlined; however, recommendations include support for funding measures such as increased use of vouchers for schooling and housing, social-impact financing, which encourages private investments toward solving public concerns and then reimbursing those investors who achieve successful outcomes for their expenses, plus a return. The plan also recommends tiered financing, which funds a preliminary testing of ideas, followed by a rigorous testing before scaling up what works, and increasing private access to credit through reducing regulations on community banks and credit unions.

JUN
8
2016

RESEARCH
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How afterschool systems can connect the dots between data and best practices

By Robert Abare

Having witnessed the benefits that afterschool programs provide students, parents and communities, many U.S. cities are building afterschool systems to link and sustain high-quality afterschool programs and boost access for those in need. But to ensure afterschool systems continually improve and effectively impact their communities, these systems need to collect and properly analyze student data. 

A new report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and produced by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, titled Connecting the Dots: Data Use in Afterschool Systems, provides research-based strategies to help afterschool systems achieve this goal. 

The report's executive summary notes that previous studies have focused on the application of technology to collect data. Connecting the Dots, however, has found that people and practices are just as important to consider when setting up an effective data collection system. The study focuses on nine cities that are part of the Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative, a multi-year effort to strengthen the systems that support access to and participation in high-quality afterschool programs for low-income youth. The nine cities are:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Denver, CO 
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Nashville, TN
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Saint Paul, MN

Is your city not listed? Interested in learning what Connecting the Dots has to say about collecting and applying student data on a large, city-wide scale?

Here are three basic strategies to implement an effective data system:

Start small. Many cities found that starting with a limited set of goals for data collection and use, or by launching a new data system to a limited group of providers, was an effective way to gain solid footing in data collection before scaling up.

Provide ongoing training. Given that many programs face high staff turnover rates, it's important to have an ongoing training system so that new staff can quickly get a grasp of data collection techniques, technologies and practices. 

Access data expertise. There are many ways for cities to locate a data collection partner and capitalize on their expertise. Some cities identified a research partner who participated in the development of their data system, while other cities leveraged the relationship primarily for access to data, analysis and reporting of data collected by providers. Some cities did not develop relationships with external research partners, but instead relied on the expertise of internal staff. The ultimate goal is to ensure that someone with skills in data analytics is providing guidance.

JUN
7
2016

POLICY
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Cut to afterschool proposed in Senate LHHS Subcommittee education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

The FY2017 appropriations process started once again this week with the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee marking up and passing by a voice vote their FY2017 education spending bill today. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill this Thursday, with the House Committee likely to tackle their own version of the bill later this month. The bill sets funding levels for all federal education, human service, health and labor programs—including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which provides federal funds leveraged by local school-community partnerships to provide quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

While bipartisan (the first time a bipartisan bill has been passed out of the Subcommittee in 7 years, to be exact) the Senate LHHS FY2017 spending bill includes cuts to education and other programs that provide necessary supports to children and working families due to a spending allocation that was $270 million less than FY2016 and tremendous competing pressures for funding. It also must be noted that no “poison pill” policy riders were included in the bill, thus further ensuring bipartisan passage of the measure.

Proposal cuts afterschool by $117 million

With regard to key federal efforts that support afterschool and summer learning programs, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was funded at $1,050,000,000—a cut of $117 million below the current FY2016 level of $1.166 billion. The proposed level is slightly above the level authorized in last year’s ESSA bill, however it represents about a 10 percent cut from the current funding level. If the Senate bill were to become law, approximately 117,000 children would lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs next year.

The Senate LHHS bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, which is $270 million below the FY2016 level and $2 billion below the President’s budget request. The bill funds the U.S. Department of Education at $67.8 billion, a $220 million decrease below the comparable FY2016 level. In addition to 21st CCLC, funding levels for a number of other programs that support afterschool include: