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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.

MAY
6
2016

RESEARCH
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School's Out New York City afterschool program fosters success in middle schoolers

By Erin Murphy

A new evaluation of School’s Out New York City (SONYC), supported by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), finds that the initiative offers New York City middle schoolers a pathway to success through high-quality afterschool programming. Their program connects youth to supportive adults who provide engaging and educational activities to help achieve SONYC’s five main goals: fostering holistic youth success, encouraging youth to explore their interests, building skills to support academic achievement, cultivating youth leadership and community engagement, and engaging invested individuals in supporting these goals.

Through Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expansion initiative, enrollment in the SONYC programs more than tripled from 18,702 youth in 143 programs during the 2013-14 school year to 58,745 youth in 459 programs during the 2014-15 school year. NYC DYCD contracted with American Institutes for Research (AIR) to evaluate and better understand the impacts of the program’s increased reach.

Afterschool expansion an overwhelming success

The evaluation made it clear: program quality is high. Principals, teachers and program staff report the SONYC expansion had overwhelming success and view programs as a positive addition to schools across the city. They also report that youth in the initiative have experienced improvements, particularly in their social and emotional development and leadership skills.

Youth attended nearly 13 million hours of SONYC programming throughout the 2014-2015 school year, averaging to 236 hours for each participant. This time was split into four areas of focus. Participants spent one-third of their time completing enrichment activities in areas such as STEM, English and language arts, and the arts. Additionally, they spent 18 percent of their time in academic support, 27 percent of their time on physical activity and healthy living and 22 percent on leadership development. This program model allows students to develop the skills necessary to be successful in all components of their life.

MAY
29
2015

IN THE FIELD
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Using data for quality improvement: Lessons from BUILD Chicago

By Dan Gilbert

In our recent issue brief, we discussed how data can serve as a valuable resource not only for afterschool programs, but also for young people and their families. One program that we had identified as having an exemplary system for using data to continuously improve program quality was BUILD Chicago, an in-school and afterschool program that provides mentorship, academic enrichment, and social and emotional supports to at-risk and underserved youth in Chicago, Illinois.

Since 2010, BUILD has very deliberately worked to improve its data intake system and to expand the quantity and types of data that it collects, using this data to create a powerful program improvement cycle. We recently had the opportunity to speak with BUILD’s Director of Operations and Quality Improvement, Bessie Alcantara, who shared some valuable insights about how this dramatic shift came to be.

Ms. Alcantara originally considered overhauling BUILD’s data collection out of frustration. In 2010, only half of BUILD’s program sites were providing timely and accurate data and case notes about program outcomes. Getting programs to comply with data collection requirements was a consistent problem. As BUILD considered a variety of options for improving BUILD’s data collection and use, the organization’s leadership began working with external evaluators to identify a set of common goals between their programs. They used these goals to identify a set of tools around measurable outcomes, and ultimately merged the tools into a single data intake form that sites could use to capture the information that BUILD needed for both internal and external purposes.

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learn more about: Evaluations
MAY
13
2015

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: The Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities establishing a new research resource for the afterschool field

By Nikki Yamashiro

Dr. Kimberley Boyer is the executive director of the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation (CVAF). In 2014, CVAF launched the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO)—a peer-reviewed, online, open-access publication—where she serves as the chief editor. The JELO connects research and promising practices throughout California and the nation, fostering a dialogue that engages both researchers and practitioners in the field.

Evidence-based programming is becoming a major thrust in expanded learning. While a multitude of research about the impact of expanded learning exists, it is not always easy to find. This was the dilemma I encountered when I started working for the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation in 2007. I remember approaching our then executive director at that time, and expressing the need to develop a resource that houses reliable studies and research about the positive impacts of afterschool programs. I said, “What about developing an academic journal that can house work like this? Then researchers, practitioners, legislators and advocates can have this information.” Now, I also mentioned to her that I was completing my dissertation that focused on afterschool programs and was beginning my search to find a journal to submit for publication. I found that there was very few to none of these specific journals available. Fast forward to 2014 and the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) was born. It took a few years and a few journal name changes, but the JELO is finally here and I couldn’t be more proud to share it with the field.  

The creation of the JELO was further spurred by the interest of OST/expanded learning program providers, educational administrators, community members, and young people in the Central Valley of California to create such a project. As more experts joined the conversation, the discussion grew to incorporate research and programs within California and throughout the nation. The mission of this journal is to foster the discovery, collection, and dissemination of scholarly research and deeper learning from a variety of disciplines related to out-of-school-time or expanded learning time. This work builds upon Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, edited by Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D. This groundbreaking compendium contains studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders including community leaders, elected officials, educators, researchers, advocates and other prominent authors. Very few academic journals dedicate themselves primarily to the field of expanded learning. Research in this field is being sought out by institutions of higher learning, as well as policy makers and advocates. From an academic standpoint, this area of research has grown to the point that merits the development of a publication like the JELO. From a policy and advocacy standpoint, the JELO increases public awareness of the field of expanded learning, but also supports empirical research. Finally, from a practitioner standpoint, the JELO provides guidance and insights about innovative practices that are being applied elsewhere.

Our inaugural issue launched in the spring of 2014 and our second issue was just released. The second issue of the JELO features a dialogue between Michelle Perrenoud, of Los Angeles County Office of Education, and Dr. Deborah Vandell, of University of California, Irvine, on the topic of the networks and systems which support the expanded learning field. Three articles are featured that focus on the value of networks and systems. Two articles discuss the importance of on-going communication between school day and afterschool providers to maximize student impact. The third article articulates the importance of staffing structure, staff knowledge, and external partners as key factors associated with effective inquiry-based science opportunities in expanded learning programs. To download both issues of the JELO and to learn about submitting an original article, please go to: http://www.centralvalleyafterschool.org/case-for-afterschool/the-journal-of-expanded-learning-opportunities-project/.

OCT
23
2014

RESEARCH
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Two new reports add to the case for investing in youth programs

By Erik Peterson

With Lights On Afterschool upon us and fresh on the heels of the new America After 3PM (AA3) data, two additional reports further make the case for supporting afterschool and summer learning programs. This week, Opportunity Nation released the 2014 Opportunity Index and the Children’s Leadership Council announced a new public opinion poll showing strong support for investing in effective programs that improve the lives of children and youth.

The Opportunity Index is an annual composite measure at the state and county levels of 16 economic, educational and civic factors that expand or restrict upward mobility. The Opportunity Index ranks all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and found that access to opportunity has increased by more than 6 percent nationwide since the first iteration of the Index in 2011. Much of this growth is due to large improvements on specific economic and educational indicators (such as the unemployment rate, Internet access and on-time high school graduation rate). There was less robust improvement on civic indicators such as access to healthful food, volunteerism and access to health care. In spite of gains in opportunity overall, the Index also shows that this progress is not enough to ensure that all Americans, particularly teens and young adults, get their fair shot at the American Dream. In particular, while the number of young Americans ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working dropped significantly since 2013—from 5.8 million to 5.6 million in 2014—the four-year trend is more modest: there were 5.66 million disconnected youth in 2011. Afterschool and summer learning programs, particularly for older youth, can help close the opportunity gap by engaging young people through quality college and career readiness programs.

OCT
23
2014

STEM
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New resources on youth outcomes for afterschool STEM

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Hopefully you’ve seen our 2013 study “Defining Youth Outcomes for Afterschool STEM,” which outlines a practitioner-defined framework of youth outcomes that are appropriate and feasible for afterschool STEM programs.

If you haven’t read it yet, or are looking to forward it on to colleagues, we’ve created a quick summary of the study and its major findings.

We’ve also created a guide to using the framework of youth outcomes developed in the study.  This Prezi presentation takes you through several ways the framework can strengthen and inform your work.

Let us know how you like these new resources.  And as work on outcomes and evaluation continues within the out-of-school-time field, we’ll keep you updated on the latest developments!

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learn more about: Evaluations Science
OCT
8
2014

RESEARCH
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Afterschool program found to improve cognitive and physical abilities, school attendance

By Erik Peterson

A recent study conducted by researchers out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that elementary school students who exercised for about an hour a day in an afterschool program had better brain function and were more focused than students who did not engage in much physical activity.  

Researchers conducting the nine-month study of 7- to 9-year-olds randomly assigned 221 students to either a structured afterschool program with a strong physical activity component, or assigned them to a wait list for the program. Children in both groups were tested before and after the study period on a series of cognitive and executive control tasks such as memory, multitasking, and ability to resist distractions while focusing on a specific task, in addition to physical fitness assessments.

Students that participated in the afterschool program attended for two hours per day, with at least 60 minutes spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activities like tag, soccer or dribbling a basketball through an obstacle course. Researchers required students in the study to wear heart-rate monitors and pedometers, and provided healthful snacks and rest breaks.

AUG
5
2014

RESEARCH
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New MetLife Foundation issue brief: Afterschool Programs Using Data to Better Serve Students

By Nikki Yamashiro

FUSE, an afterschool program in Chicago, Illinois, uses the student participation information they’ve collected—through their Web platform, in-person observations, video observations and student surveys—to determine what activities are most appealing to their students, why they sustain student interest, and then designs new activities that can better support the development and continuation of students’ learning pathways.

BUILD, a 2014 MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award winner, developed a new program aimed at addressing their students’ mental health, physical health and overall wellness after they discovered through program data that 10 percent of their students identified as LGBTQ and 40 percent were unsure if they had health insurance. 

These are just a few examples of afterschool programs that are using data to improve programming and are featured in the final issue brief of our latest MetLife Foundation issue brief series. “Looking at the Data: Afterschool Programs Using Data to Better Serve Students” was released today at the National Summit on Authentic Youth Engagement in Chicago, where our Field Outreach Manager Alexis Steines and Dr. Roslind Blasingame-Buford, executive director of BUILD, spoke about how afterschool programs can engage youth by connecting them to a network of supports.