The Expanding Minds and Opportunities compendium highlights persuasive evidence on the effectiveness of expanded learning (afterschool, summer, inter-session, etc.) opportunities. In one article, the authors state:
“…Quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities work. We know that quality expanded learning programs are associated with increased academic performance, increased attendance in school, significant improvement in behavior and social and emotional development, and greater opportunities for hands-on learning in important areas that are not typically available during the school day” (Peterson, Fowler, and Dunham, p. 357).
On March 3, just one day before the president released his FY2015 budget proposal, the House Budget Committee issued a report on federal spending related to federal antipoverty efforts entitled The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later. Among the 92 federal programs reviewed in the report is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.
The Budget Committee report seeks to examine the effectiveness of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s "War on Poverty" that was launched 50 years ago. According to the report, there are at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans, including education and job-training programs, food-aid programs and housing programs.
The report does include a brief entry on the 21st CCLC initiative, the only coordinated federal effort that supports afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs delivered by local schools and community-based organizations. 21st CCLC programs provide students attending high-poverty schools with academic enrichment activities; a broad array of additional services designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program such as hands-on experiments to excite children about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), access to physical activity, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, art, music, opportunities to be creative, and technology education programs; as well as literacy and related educational development services to the families of children who are served in the program. In addition, afterschool programs provide an infrastructure to bring in other resources to our children including access to mentors, tutors, and nutritious snacks and meals.
By Luci Manning
U.S. Naval Academy Workshops for Girls in Middle School Build Interest in Math, Sciences (Washington Post, District of Columbia)
In an effort to encourage middle school girls to get excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, the U.S. Naval Academy hosted workshops last week to give girls hands-on learning opportunities. At the event, girls dissected a sheep’s heart, launched straw rockets, and navigated Lego robots through a maze. Lacey, an Annapolis seventh-grader, told the Washington Post that the bioterrorism workshop was “different from my regular science class in school, I like to see how science works in the real world and how important it is.” The Naval Academy has hosted girls-only events since 2007 to build interest in STEM fields.
Barking Up the Right Tree (Virginian-Pilot, Virginia)
Reading just got a little more fun for kids who attend the YMCA BARKS (Books and Reading for Kids in Suffolk) afterschool program. Thanks to a new partnership between the Suffolk Humane Society and the Suffolk YMCA, 39 students are able to boost their reading levels by reading out loud to therapy dogs. Rick Matthews, district vice president of the YMCA of South Hampton, told the Virginian-Pilot the program is “all about building confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.”
MPS Program Uses Hip-hop, Performance to Boost Academics (Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin)
A hip-hop afterschool program at Sherman Park’s Washington High School gives students the opportunity to tap into their creative side and the confidence to apply their talents in the classroom. Dave Olsen and Jeremy Bryan, The Figureheads, founded the educational rap group in partnership with Arts @ Large, a nonprofit dedicated to growing arts education in Milwaukee Public Schools. The Figureheads told the Journal Sentinel that they want the students to voice what is going on in their lives, and to express who they are and what they want to be. The students then combine their emotional testimony with technological skills like creating beats, recording lyrics and adding videos.
By Luci Manning
Cut out Junk Food Ads in Schools, Government Says (Associated Press, National)
Yesterday, first lady Michelle Obama announced that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association will serve more fruits and vegetables at afterschool programs and ensure kids get 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day. The announcement was part of the fourth anniversary of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. Mrs. Obama said “This new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad," the Associated Press reports.
Later Gator, the new afterschool program at Lake Cormorant Elementary, offers a “life-changing experience” for its students, the Desoto Times reports. Dr. Margaret Boyd, Lake Cormorant Elementary school principal and founder of Later Gator, said she started the program to help “working parents whose jobs often prevent them from helping children with their homework.”
Empowerment Circle Expands Horizons (Marion Star, Ohio)
Members of the Girls Empowerment Circle at Grant Middle School and Marion Harding High School are learning about dating violence so they can educate themselves and other students about healthy relationships. The group, which is funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, is comprised of about 13 to 15 girls who are dedicated to helping their peers make smart life decisions. Not only do they help others by providing important information and resources, but organizer Rosalind Burks explains to the Marion Star that the program encourages girls to set goals for themselves, engage in community service and to continue their education after graduating from high school.
STEM Pilot Exposes Young to Tech, Science Careers (Journal-News, Ohio)
Elementary and junior high students in Hamilton will be able to enjoy a new afterschool program focused primarily on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education starting next month. Tyrome Bembry, founder of the new pilot program STEM2Dream program, told the Journal-News that the program is targeting kids from an under-served neighborhood because “STEM education will give them the ability to dream. It’s a tool they can use to fight the war on poverty.”
Reps. Kildee, DeLauro introduce bill to strengthen support of afterschool and summer learning programs
Yesterday evening Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Afterschool for America's Children Act in the House of Representatives, HR 4086. The legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative—the nation’s chief federal funding stream for afterschool programs—by supporting innovative advances taking root in before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. The bill is companion legislation to S. 326 introduced previously in the Senate. A summary of the legislation is available here.
The House bill:
- Strengthens school-community partnerships to include sharing of data and resources, the ability to better leverage relationships within the community and provide an intentional alignment with the school day.
- Promotes professional development and training of afterschool program staff.
- Encourages innovative new ways to engage students in learning that looks different from a traditional school day, with an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and physical activity and nutrition education.
- Supports approaches that focus on individualized learning that provide a variety of ways for students to master core skills and knowledge.
- Provides accountability measures that are connected to college- and career-readiness goals and show student progress over time toward meeting indicators of student success including school attendance, grades and on-time grade level advancement.
- Ensures that funding supports programs that utilize evidence-based, successful practices.
- Increases quality and accountability through parent engagement; better alignment with state learning objectives; and coordination between federal, state and local agencies.
- Does not prioritize any one model of expanded learning opportunities over another.
- Maintains formula grants to states that then distribute funds to local school-community partnerships through a competitive grant process.
To celebrate last week’s national Engineers Week, the Afterschool Alliance hosted a webinar featuring three incredible afterschool programs engaging students in engineering, computing and technology education. We were joined by:
- Jen Joyce, Director of Professional Development at Techbridge in Oakland, CA
- Andrew Coy, Executive Director of Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, MD
- Maureen Psaila-Dombrowski, Program Coordinator at the Santa Fe Institute, representing Project GUTS
All three were featured in our latest issue brief on computing and engineering, and they were able to provide a clearer picture on what has made their afterschool programs successful. Program profiles in our Afterschool STEM Storybook provide additional information. You can watch the full recording and view the slides on our webinar archives page. Below is a quick re-cap!
On Tuesday, Pres. Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union (SOTU) address. As anticipated, the speech focused largely on policies to address income disparity in the United States, with special attention to education, workforce development and opportunities to learn. Featured prominently were a number of the White House’s existing education policy issues including the early childhood education initiative, the need to make college more accessible and affordable and support for more and better workforce and job training programs to put more Americans to work in better jobs.
Education was at the forefront in the president’s speech: he led with, “Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.” Among his examples of work done to increase learning opportunities for young people was the recent College Opportunity Summit, where 150 universities, businesses and nonprofits made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education.
In his speech, the president laid out multiple education priorities saying, “Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.” He hailed the success of the Race to the Top initiative, saying the program “has helped states raise expectations and performance...Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy—problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering and math.”