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APR
15

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  April 15, 2015

By Luci Manning

Students Showcase Robotic Creations for Medical Use (Bristol Press, Connecticut)

At this year’s Bristol Middle School Robotics Challenge, themed “Med-Bots: Robot Transfer, Transport and Transplant,” teams of fifth through eighth graders in afterschool robotics clubs programmed robots to perform heart transplant surgery, guide an ambulance to pick up a patient, and move patients in a hospital to the appropriate departments. The students worked through trial and error to guide their robots through mazes and to perform surgery simulations. Although they didn’t always succeed the first time, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Northeast Middle School technology teacher Vince Jennetta. “In engineering terms failure is an important thing, but how you work through it – that’s how you get the grit and determination,” he told the Bristol Press.

Circle de Luz Helps Latina Girls Aim Toward College (Charlotte Observer, North Carolina)

Circle de Luz, a mentoring program in Charlotte, is trying to reverse the trend of Latina high school dropouts. Each year, the program selects a group of middle school girls who need assistance and continues mentoring them throughout high school with monthly in-school and afterschool programs. The activities include art and educational enrichment, as well as life skills like cooking, financial literacy and health and wellness. Circle de Luz also aims to inspire Latina students to head to college by pairing the girls with adult mentors who guide them the application process. Program manager Mary Kathryn Elkins told the Charlotte Observer that it is a six-year process that begins with “teaching (the girls) what college is and then having them believe it can be part of their future.”

Education Program Spreads Love of Music (Visalia Times-Delta, California)

A 12-week afterschool program is teaching violin to 25 second graders at Woodville School – very slowly. It wasn’t until week four that the students even got to hold an actual violin. They had been spending nearly two hours every day learning rhythm with clapping and egg shakers, singing to learn notes, and exploring the parts of the violin on blue “paper violins.” The Tulare County Symphony HEARTstrings afterschool program aims to reach rural children who rarely get a chance to play music. “The goal is not merely musical skills, but life skills,” Tulare County Symphony music director Bruce Kiesling told the Visalia Times-Delta.

Chess Club Benefits Students (Philadelphia Daily News, Pennsylvania)

When science and math teacher Jason Bui started the Minor Threats chess club, he – and the students who joined – had no idea that chess would have such an impact on their minds, their attitudes and their families. Bui said the members have gained increased focus, enhanced confidence and mended temperaments, and many of them have improved their academic performance. Chess teaches the kids to handle defeat and find solutions to problems. “[Chess] helped me to interact more at school,” 11-year-old Tahvon, who described himself as “not the nicest person” before he joined the club, told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I’m still a little to myself, but I’m getting better with it. Chess is helping me more.” 

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APR
15

STEM
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Connect & collaborate with STEM programs through The Connectory!

By Rachel Clark

With the launch of The Connectory, it's easier than ever for kids to connect with STEM programs and opportunities, and for STEM practitioners to collaborate, develop partnerships, and share resources.  This free online collaboration tool gives STEM program providers a chance to find partners based on interests as well as a platform to showcase STEM opportunities to families.  Families, in turn, have a free, go-to resource to connect the children in their lives to STEM learning opportunities in their community.

More than 5,000 programs in all 50 states are already included in the database, representing a full range of topics in STEM, including coding for girls, robotics competitions and science summer camps.  Add your program today to showcase your work, connect to families and partners, and share information and ideas with fellow practitioners!  

To learn more about The Connectory and connecting with community partners in general, join the National Girls Collaborative Project and Click2SciencePD for the Connecting with Community Partners webinar on April 23 at 11AM PDT (2PM EDT).

The Connectory was made possible by support from Time Warner Cable and is managed by the team behind the National Girls Collaborative, in collaboration with Association of Science Technology Centers, Afterschool Alliance, Educational Development Center, Inc., Maker Education, the National Afterschool Association, and Zozude.  Help make the connections for youth to discover STEM: register your program today.

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APR
14

IN THE FIELD
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Celebrate National Library Week: Build a partnership with your local library

By Rachel Clark

Libraries are valuable partners for the afterschool field, and there’s no better time than National Library Week to explore opportunities for collaboration with libraries in your area—with 7 percent of kids attending afterschool programs at libraries, there’s tremendous room for growth in these partnerships.  This year’s National Library Week, which runs through April 18, is focused on the theme “Unlimited possibilities @ your library,” and is the perfect occasion to encourage your local library to partner with out-of-school time program providers in their communities.     

Libraries all over the country have had success offering a wide variety of expanded learning opportunities—there’s plenty of room to get creative and build partnerships in any number of areas!  For example:

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APR
14

POLICY
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Baldwin introduces Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act

By Sophie Papavizas

Yesterday, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act (S. 899), which was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).  Baldwin is co-chair of the Senate Committee on Career and Technical Education and sits on the Senate HELP Committee.  The act amends the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by incorporating learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and career-technical education (CTE) subjects and giving high school students the opportunity to explore careers.

Specifically, the Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act amends the 21st CCLC program by:

  • Involving local businesses and workforce boards as partners with 21st CCLC programs to improve college and career readiness and help immerse high school students in real-world work experiences
  • Helping high school students think about planning their futures by encouraging 21st CCLC programs to focus on college and career readiness in addition to academic excellence
  • Ensuring that afterschool programming offers a wide array of learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields as well as in career and technical education (CTE) subjects
  • Aiding states in identifying workforce-critical subjects in order to align their limited resources toward community needs and provide students the knowledge they need to get good jobs or pursue higher education

You can read more about the new bill in a one-pager released by Senator Baldwin’s office here.

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APR
14

POLICY
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Critical Senate committee vote this week on 21st CCLC afterschool and summer learning funding

By Erik Peterson

Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to begin consideration of the bipartisan bill from Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), dubbed the “Every Child Achieves Act.”  The Committee begins discussion of the bill and more than 85 amendments at 2:30 p.m. EDT this afternoon and the process could last several days.    

In general, the Every Child Achieves Act significantly reduces the federal role in K-12 education while preserving some accountability requirements.  A summary of the bill discusses the strengthening of state and local control over education decisions, the continued requirement for limited and appropriate tests to measure student achievement, and support for teachers and principals.  The full bill language is also available.

Of note to supporters of afterschool programs, the Every Child Achieves Act as drafted would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative—the separate, dedicated federal funding that provides 1.6 million low income children with quality afterschool, summer learning and before school programs.  However, during HELP Committee consideration of the bill this week, Senators will vote on a bipartisan 21st CCLC amendment offered by Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Sanders (D-VT), Franken (D-MN), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME) and Baldwin (D-WI) that would restore 21st CCLC while also strengthening the program.  The amendment reflects what has been learned over ten years of extensive research on student academic and nonacademic outcomes gained through regular participation in quality before school, afterschool and summer learning programs.  It also adds additional flexibility to better support strong partnerships between schools and community-based organizations through compromise language that would permit 21st CCLC funds, previously limited to supporting programs outside of the school day, to support specific allowable ‘afterschool-like’ activities that are offered in conjunction with an expanded learning program.

The Afterschool Alliance joins 17,390 Americans who signed a petition asking Congress to continue federal support of afterschool programs, as well as more than 560 local, state and national organizations from all 50 states that wrote to the Senate HELP Committee this winter urging Congress to maintain the 21st CCLC initiative as a separate and specific federal funding stream for school and community partnerships to support students in grades Pre-K through 12 afterschool, before school and during the summer.

Parents, educators, health professionals, law enforcement officials, young people and other supporters of afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs can take action now by reaching out to Senators, particularly if they are on the Senate HELP Committee, in support of the bipartisan Murkowski Sanders 21st CCLC amendment that would ensure quality afterschool and summer learning programs continue to be provided to more than 1.6 million students.

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APR
14

IN THE FIELD
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In case you missed it: A recap of the Building Literacy in Afterschool webinar

By Nikki Yamashiro

A geography quiz bowl set in the style of the game show Jeopardy, field trips to cultural institutions, and teaching playwriting while building communication and leadership skills—these are just a few examples of the ways three afterschool programs featured in our webinar earlier this month are engaging their students in literacy and helping to develop their students’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills. 

The Simpson Street Free Press afterschool program located in Dane County, Wisconsin; Positive Direction Youth Center from Terrell County, Georgia; and the 2015 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner, New American Pathways’ Bright Futures Afterschool Program from Atlanta, Georgia, shared everything from tips on how to build on—but not replicate—what their students are learning during the school day to components of quality instruction to how to engage parents and families in their child’s education.  Speakers on the webinar also answered questions from the audience on how to foster and sustain student engagement in literacy building activities, how they worked to develop partnerships and relationships with their students’ schools, and how and why they provide targeted support to their students who are struggling in school.

If you missed the webinar, visit our webinar archives page where you can watch the recording; download the PowerPoint slides; and access resources that were included in the webinar from Simpson Street Free Press, Positive Direction Youth Center and New American Pathways’ Bright Futures Afterschool Program.  You can also read more about the important role afterschool programs are playing to help develop their students’ literacy skills in our latest issue brief, “Building Literacy in Afterschool.”

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APR
10

FUNDING
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Development of non-cognitive factors and out-of-school STEM priorities in new round of i3 grants

By Erik Peterson

The Department of Education has issued a notice seeking applications for Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grants for fiscal year 2015.  Two of the five priorities specifically emphasize programs where we know afterschool providers excel: programs that emphasize the development of non-cognitive factors and hands-on, inspirational programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  Non-cognitive factors can emphasize a range of skills and behaviors including academic behaviors, academic mindset, perseverance, self-regulation and socio-emotional skills. The notice describes the intent to identify solutions to support the growing body of research that suggests interventions enhancing student’s non-cognitive skills can help lead to success in the classroom and later in life.  The Department of Education is also interested in how to measure and evaluate social and emotional skills in order to offer programs that best support students. 

In addition to applications supporting non-cognitive factors, the Department also invites applications supporting out-of-school STEM.  Citing the greater and greater need for students proficient in STEM skills to fill jobs in the American economy, the Department of Education seeks applications for projects that will reach students beyond the school day, give them opportunities to get hands on learning experiences in the STEM fields, and inspire them to pursue STEM career paths.  Programs can extend the day, week or year, and occur before-school, after-school or during the summer.  

In addition to non-cognitive development and STEM, i3 Development grants can cover three other priorities.  The Absolute Priorities all together under which the Department of Education seeks applications are:

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APR
10

RESEARCH
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Getting to work on summer learning

By Rachel Clark

With the summer fast approaching, families are searching for summer learning programs to keep their kids safe and inspire learning throughout the break.  To help meet this need in your community, The Wallace Foundation has put together a host of summer learning resources to make a strong case for the importance of summer programs and to plan a program that will help kids in your community for years to come.

  • Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning” makes a compelling case for the importance of summer learning opportunities, particularly in terms of their critical role in closing the achievement gap.  The report offers recommendations for districts, providers, policy makers and funders to help overcome cost barriers and extend summer learning opportunities. 
  • Getting to Work on Summer Learning: Recommended Practices for Success” illustrates a variety of best practices to create strong summer learning programs that will promote achievement and help avoid “summer slide.”  The comprehensive report offers guidelines for planning, curriculum and instruction, teacher selection and training, enrichment activities, attendance, academic time, and program costs and funding sources—whether you’re launching or just improving a summer program, this resource can help every step of the way.
  • Ready for Fall?,” released in December, presents student outcome findings demonstrating how summer learning programs can improve educational outcomes for low-income students.  The report also highlights best practices associated with student success and offers recommendations for programs.  For more details about “Ready for Fall?,” check out our blog coverage of the report release.

Though the Foundation recommends getting started with summer program planning in January, there’s plenty of time to incorporate some of their findings into your preparation!  Start exploring the resources now.

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