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JUL
14
2016

STEM
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Victories for STEM education in recent legislative activity

By Anita Krishnamurthi

As the legislative season winds down, several wins for afterschool STEM education have emerged. Most recently, on July 13-14 the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill. The bill maintains funding for 21st CCLC at the current level of $1.16 billion, which is very good news! As you might recall, the Senate version of the bill cut afterschool by $117 million, in line with President Obama's budget request.

Informal STEM education has bright outlook in new bills

STEM is increasingly an integral part of afterschool programs, so the House's proposed funding level for 21st CCLC will ensure that millions of children will continue to have access to STEM learning opportunities. The House education spending bill also provides $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, the new block grant in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although this is lower than the authorized level of $1.65 billion, the House appropriation puts the funding at $700 million over the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request. STEM education advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief, as this grant was designed to be a formula grant for districts to use toward a wide range of activities, including STEM programing (with very supportive language about partnerships with afterschool programs), arts education and counseling services. House appropriators have indicated their strong support for the initiative with this funding level, but the final outcome is far from guaranteed as the Senate and House numbers will have to be reconciled eventually.

On July 7, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a full committee markup of H.R. 5587, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Actwhich you may know better as the Perkins CTE bill. The update includes changes that recognize the role of afterschool and summer programs in preparing young people for the workforce, and explicitly includes community-based organizations as eligible entities for funding. The bill has provisions for states to award grants that provide “support for programs and activities that increase access, student engagement, and success in STEM fields (including computer science), especially for underrepresented groups.” This provision could be very beneficial for afterschool STEM programs, especially when combined with the new expanded eligibility for starting these activities in the 5th grade (compared to the previous limit of 7th grade). 

Finally, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which encompasses plan to reauthorize the America COMPETES Actin late June. This bill authorizes the various federal science mission agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, NSF, Dept. of Energy etc., including their significant investments in STEM education. There are several key elements of the bill that are supportive of informal/afterschool STEM programming:

JUN
21
2016

POLICY
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Add your comments to new draft regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Jillian Luchner

In late May 2016, the Department of Education issued draft regulations on elements in Title I of our nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The 60 day comment period for the regulations will be open until August 1st, and your feedback is welcomed! The new law provides much more flexibility on school accountability and includes new indicators of student success and growth. Yet the overall goals of Title I of ESSA—academic achievement, graduation, school quality and student success—remain goals that are dramatically supported by afterschool programs.

Before adding your comments, it may be helpful for you to explore this comprehensive overview of the ESSA draft regulations.

See how afterschool factors in to various aspects of the draft regulations

Needs assessments: The Title I regulations, as proposed, provide many opportunities for collaboration between out-of-school time and the school day. Under the regulations, states, districts and schools must design and apply needs assessments for low-performing schools and, as a new addition, must look at how resources are allocated among schools. Parents, afterschool providers, and advocates can remind states and districts that identifying which schools provide enrichment and engagement activities for students (and which do not) is an essential part in this process and in understanding equity generally. Some afterschool state networks and some state child care offices are already working on mapping access to afterschool programs across their states. Additionally, while the law has changes, the previous national education law, No Child Left Behind, also included needs assessments, and some older resources on needs assessments may continue to be helpful.

Research based interventions: States and school districts will have the ability to create lists of evidence and research based interventions that support Title I goals and indicators. Because afterschool programs increase student success in attendance, homework completion, and discipline reductions, each state should thoughtfully consider adding these programs to their approved list of interventions. The Afterschool Alliance Evaluations Backgrounder is a good place to find research that provides the evidence base necessary to support afterschool and summer learning programs as key contributors to a variety of success indicators.

Consolidated state plans: States can combine plans for Title I with plans for other Titles (including Title IV part B for 21st Century Community Learning Centers) within the ESSA legislation as part of one overall or "consolidated" state plan. The proposed rule emphasizes that all plans must include “timely and meaningful consultation” with stakeholders. The proposed rule lists 13 specific groups that must be consulted, including community based organizations. As part of this process, state agencies must solicit input from the community, plans must be subject to a 30 day public comment period and plans must include reference to how the SEA (State Educational Agency) addressed the issues and concerns raised in public comment. All plans will be published on SEA websites and reviewed/revised, again with full stakeholder engagement, at least once every four years. All consolidated plans must coordinate with other federal funding streams such as Child Care and Development Block Grants, and Career and Technical Education, and must include a mechanism for performance management and technical assistance.

Now is a good time to ensure afterschool is at the table for these decisions and in these state plans.

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
22
2016

FUNDING
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Jump-start your program's physical activities with a PEP grant

By Jillian Luchner

On your mark, get set, go! The Department of Education has released its 2016 grant applications (CFDA 84.215) for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program awards, known as PEP grants. PEP grants fund programs that instruct students in healthy eating habits and nutrition and provide opportunities for physical fitness.

Both local school districts (LEAs) and community based organizations (CBOs) can apply for the grants. Many times, school-based applicants work with out-of-school time providers to apply together. For an example of a school system partnering with an afterschool provider using PEP grants, read about the partnership between Pittsfield Massachusetts Public Schools and the local YMCA.

Give your application a competitive edge.

Partnerships that include LEAs, CBOs, and local health and nutrition partners receive competitive priority points on their applications. In addition to partnerships, competitive priority points are also given for a focus on non-academic skill development and on high-need students from low-performing schools. About 15 programs will be awarded grants in this cycle, ranging from an estimated $200,000 to $800,000.  

Some organizations and companies, such as SPARK, a provider of tailored physical education programs, offer resources to help potential applicants better understand the application process.

The deadline to apply is May 20, 2016. 

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.

MAR
3
2016

POLICY
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ESSA: A Q&A for the afterschool field

By Jillian Luchner

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) officially replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the guiding, major federal education “law of the land” on Dec. 10th, 2015. However, new laws require time to phase in and transition. As policy and procedures shift from NCLB to ESSA, there are many questions which need to be answered. The process of defining answers has already begun.

The Afterschool Alliance has used the tools and resources issued by the Department of Education to create an answer sheet of Frequently Asked Questions for the Afterschool Field. Most questions surround the 21st Century Community Learning Center section of the law (Title IV B), which included some changes and new language.

One thing seems clear for now: the 2016-2017 school year will still continue under the NCLB requirements until the transition is complete. This means that the new requirements and policies under ESSA will not occur until 2017-18. (There are a few specific changes important mainly only to school and district administrators on issues such as teacher preparation and reporting on school progress).

As the implementation of the law is still a work in progress, not every question can be answered at the moment, and we will continue to update the field as we learn more.

Frequently asked questions from the afterschool field include:

  • What happened to 21st CCLC in the law?
  • Where can I find the law?
  • What happens to current grants and grantees?
FEB
25
2016

POLICY
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Acting Ed Secretary John B. King says he's a believer in afterschool

By Jillian Luchner

This week, elected officials in the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce had an opportunity to ask their questions to Acting Secretary of Education John B. King regarding the newly passed federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and its implementation at a hearing entitled “Next Steps for K-12 Education.”

About an hour and a quarter into the hearing, the conversation turned to marshmallow pizzas and afterschool.

Representative and afterschool champion Lou Barletta (R-PA) asked the Secretary about the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program in Title IV of the law, highlighting the program as “the only federal funding source for our nation’s afterschool programs which students and working families rely on each and every day”. Barletta provided details about the SHINE (Schools and Homes in Education) afterschool program in his home state of Pennsylvania, mentioning that the program was 49 percent supported by 21st CCLC. Barletta had recently visited a program where students were using computer software to design a profitable restaurant, and where he was able to create and consume a marshmallow pizza as a result.

JAN
13
2016

POLICY
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ESSA: What does it mean for afterschool and summer learning?

By Erik Peterson

With the passage late last year of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), many in the afterschool field have been asking about the impact of the new law on afterschool programs and the children served by programs providers. Join the Afterschool Alliance and a number of partner organizations for a webinar on January 20th when we seek to answer the question “what does ESSA mean for afterschool and summer learning program providers?”

This overview webinar seeks to break down what the new law says regarding funding and policy for afterschool and summer learning programs, whether through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, STEM afterschool provisions, full service community schools, or other programs. This introductory webinar will be the first in a series of five webinars to be held in the coming months that will go into depth on a variety of programs and topics in ESSA relevant to afterschool programs and providers. Bring your questions and join us on January 20, 2016, from 1PM ET – 2 PM ET. Register here.

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