It seems these days that if you’re keeping up with what’s happening in education, you can’t help but hear about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Last week, our vice president for policy and research, Jen Rinehart, wrote a stellar blog that not only walks you through what the Common Core State Standards are, but explains why they were developed, what they mean for education policy and the valuable role the afterschool field can play to support learning under the Common Core.
To keep up the Afterschool Alliance’s drumbeat of providing the afterschool field with helpful information connecting afterschool and the Common Core, I tuned in to “Leveraging Expanded Learning Opportunities to Support Common Core Implementation,” a webinar hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and America’s Promise Alliance. The webinar featured Jenell Holsted, Ph.D. of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who discussed a recent brief, “Making the Connection: Next Generation Learning and Expanded Learning Opportunities,” and Sarah Cruz, director of expanded learning opportunities at the Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities (NJSACC), who shared information about New Jersey’s statewide pilot training program that helps providers align their programming with the Common Core State Standards.
By Jen Rinehart
While volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom recently, I noticed a stack of kindergarten math workbooks that proudly advertised, “Aligned with the Common Core State Standards.” It was a clear sign that the Common Core standards have arrived in classrooms across the country and a reminder to me that the Afterschool Alliance can help afterschool providers better understand Common Core and what roles afterschool stakeholders can play in supporting learning under the Common Core.
So what are the Common Core State Standards? They are a set of standards in reading/language arts and math that resulted from several years of collective thinking by teachers, researchers and leading experts in the education field about what students should know and be able to do in mathematics and English language arts. Prior to the Common Core, most states had their own individual sets of standards.
Why do the Common Core State Standards exist? Proponents of Common Core argue that with the adoption of the standards, students who move from state to state, and especially students in military families who might make multiple moves in a K-12 career, will have a smoother transition because the schools in each state will be working from the same set of high expectations about what kids in each grade should be able to do. They also point out that states can share instructional resources like textbooks and even assessments, which are currently under development and expected to be rolled out during the 2013-2014 school year. As you might imagine, there are alsoeducation leaders who question the value of Common Core, particularly since the Common Core were not pilot tested prior to roll out to nearly all states, and who view Common Core and the related assessments as costly (both for the country and our children’s futures) experiments in learning.
The president recently released his budget request for FY2014 and we wrote about the implications for afterschool in a recent blog post. The budget proposes a sweeping (and unprecedented) reorganization of federal STEM education investments—it consolidates or restructures 114 programs out of the existing 226 federal STEM programs. In the budget proposal, 78 programs are terminated and the funds from these programs ($176 million dollars) are redirected to other agencies, 49 programs are consolidated within agencies and 13 new programs have been proposed.
The $176 million from the eliminated programs would be split as follows:
- $100.3 million to the Department of Education for K-12 education programs
- $51.1 million to the National Science Foundation for undergraduate education and fellowship programs
- $25 million to the Smithsonian Institution for a new STEM engagement initiative
There are several places to get the full details of the president’s budget request for STEM education—the White House R&D budget site and the American Institute of Physics FYI analysis are good places to start.
By Jodi Grant
This week I was in Kansas City as a keynote speaker for the 2013 Best Practices Forum on Dropout Prevention, hosted by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. I was thrilled to be a part of the event and share with the audience the many ways the afterschool field is helping our students come to school, stay in school and graduate. Afterschool programs are an instrumental part of any effort to help our students not only graduate from high school, but prepare them for lifelong success and help shape the adult he or she will become.
This is why I am so pleased with the newly released video (below) and guidebook by America’s Promise Alliance, “Expanding Learning, Expanding Opportunities.” Both the video and accompanying guidebook highlights the many ways expanded learning opportunities—including afterschool programs, summer learning programs, and expanded learning time—are providing our kids with opportunities to express themselves creatively, explore their interests and gain hands-on learning experiences they might not have during the school day. Also included are a variety of resources, such as research, best practices and toolkits to assist those interested in learning more about the out-of-school hours.
The Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation are excited to announce the new Afterschool STEM Impact Awards! Two $10,000 awards will be awarded to exemplary afterschool programs offering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to students in grades 4 through 8.
As afterschool STEM programming grows around the nation, we want to recognize programs that are clearly demonstrating their impact on participants. Such programs highlight the power of afterschool programs as key partners in STEM education reform and can also serve as best-practice models.
In addition to the cash award, winners and other notable applicants will be promoted nationally through a variety of opportunities—they will be featured in a special series of Afterschool Alliance issue briefs, invited to participate in webinars, co-present at national and state conferences, and generally highlighted as model programs.
- Afterschool programs that are a strong partnership between an afterschool provider and a STEM-rich institution(s), which include science centers or museums, nature centers, universities, government labs, STEM-related businesses, or other similar institutions. Programs may focus on any STEM topic.
- Afterschool programs that have a strong computing and/or engineering component. Computing is not about learning how to use technology—it’s acquiring the skills and knowledge required to create technology. For the purposes of this contest, computing includes but is not limited to coding, programming mobile apps, and software or hardware design. Engineering programs should be rooted in the engineering design process, and students should be developing and building a solution to a problem.
Additional details are available on the award website, along with a link to the online application. Applications are due by May 15, 2013.
Know an afterschool program that’s perfect for this award? Share this opportunity with your colleagues and friends. We can’t wait to hear about the fantastic STEM programs across the nation and the impact that they’re having on kids!
Recently, I posted a blog highlighting the new and exciting ways libraries are engaging kids in the out-of-school hours, as well as the research in Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success—the extraordinary compendium released last month—that shows the positive impact libraries have on a student’s academic achievement and on their surrounding community.
In my previous blog I referenced a post by Marsha Semmel, IMLS director of strategic partnerships, who wrote, “Quality learning in out-of-school settings, which include libraries and museums, makes a proven difference in academic achievement, work, and life.” This week, I want to focus on the second institution included in her quote: museums.
The compendium highlights the role of informal learning environments, such as museums, in helping youth develop critical thinking skills and better understand the world’s inner workings through hands-on, experiential learning in the chapter "Museums as 21st Century Partners: Empowering Extraordinary ‘iGeneration’ Learning Through Afterschool and Intergenerational Family Learning Programs.” Learning Labs, a project supported by IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation, is a perfect example of the ability of museums to create spaces where youth help design activities, drive projects and shape their environment based on their interests. Kids are able to tinker with technology, explore new interests, and collaborate with peers and mentors as they hone their skills in a variety of mediums—such as graphic design, creative writing and video editing.
Members of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) were recently surveyed about afterschool programs in their schools, their involvement with the programs, and views on the role of afterschool science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. The survey results indicate that school-day staff are highly involved in afterschool STEM and clearly believe the afterschool space can support students’ learning within school hours.
Close to 8 in 10 survey respondents identified as educators; the remaining worked as administrators (6%) or played other professional roles (15%). Respondents taught multiple subjects in their schools; most teach science (93%), and smaller numbers teach math (26%), technology (19%) and engineering (15%).
Approximately three-fourths of respondents have an afterschool program at their school, and 78% of those include a STEM component. Of those respondents in schools who don't have afterschool STEM offerings, more than 9 in 10 believe they should.
For the subset of respondents whose schools have STEM afterschool programs, the programs are largely run by the school itself (68%). Other common providers are community organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, or Girls Inc. (15%); for-profit organizations (14%); universities or colleges (11%); and informal science education organizations like science centers or zoos (11%).
About 8 in 10 respondents participate in their school’s afterschool STEM programs. Of these, 85.1% are lead teachers and 14.9% are assistant instructors. Assistant instructors co-teach with other STEM teachers, community and parent volunteers, and local STEM professionals. Others who are not teaching or assisting in the classroom sometimes serve in a leadership role, such as a director or coordinator, and may also be involved in content development and instructor training.
What’s the secret to a child’s success?
Funny enough, failure may be a part of the answer. Not surprisingly though, a strong and supportive parent or adult mentor and what Paul Tough likes to call “character” are also key pieces to answering this age-old question asked by everyone from parents to educators to social scientists to policy makers.
Tough, New York Times best-selling author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character spoke at the opening plenary session of the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks annual conference yesterday. He began his speech with the idea that we are using the wrong strategies to help kids in our schools succeed and the conventional wisdom that has governed our thinking about education and success is misguided. As a nation, we have been obsessed with “cognitive hypothesis”—the belief that IQ scores alone measures what matters in determining success.
What his research uncovered was that an individual’s IQ and academic test scores weren’t the most significant factors in their life trajectory. What mattered more was the amount of trauma a child did or did not experience growing up—that the level of trauma one experienced in childhood had a direct linear correlation to negative adult outcomes. This means that the higher the trauma and stress levels a child experiences, the worse the outcomes would be in adulthood, such as higher levels of addiction and a higher likelihood of chronic illness. And the converse also held true, the lower the level of trauma, the healthier and better off the individual.
Tough then moved on to research supporting the notion that if we can improve a child’s environment, if we can combat the toxic stress that builds up in their system, and if we can reach them in early childhood and in their adolescence when they can be the most malleable, we can dramatically increase their prospects for success.