Kids who regularly participate in quality afterschool programs show improvements in their academic performance; greater academic motivation; and increased pro-social behaviors, teamwork and self-esteem according to a 2013 study by the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. The study evaluates Canadian afterschool programs funded by the RBC After School Project, a project that has supported community-based organizations that provide kids ages 6-17 with safe and structured activities focused on building social skills and self-esteem since 1999.
In addition to analyzing the outcomes associated with participating in afterschool programs, the study examines key elements of a successful program and existing barriers to access afterschool programs. Key findings from the study include:
Earlier this month, New York became one of the first states to release the results of their new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards and, as anticipated, the results were less than stellar. News articles placed an emphasis on the drop in test scores compared to the previous year—from 47 percent to 26 percent proficient in English and from 60 percent to 30 percent in math—but also recognized the test’s more rigorous nature due to its alignment with the Common Core.
While the new Common Core-aligned exams set a higher bar for students’ test scores, making it difficult to compare this year’s results with results from previous years, it also underscores the additional support necessary for students, teachers and schools. In response to the results, Michael Cohen, president of Achieve—a nonprofit organization that advocates for higher academic standards and stronger accountability measures to prepare all students for college, careers and citizenship—stated,
“[New York State’s assessment results] is reason for state education leaders, local school boards and educators—including teachers, principals and local administrators—and higher education institutions, to work together and double down on efforts to systematically improve classroom instruction.”
Today the Wallace Foundation released its newest report on summer learning, “Getting to Work on Summer.” Developed by the RAND Corporation, the report explores the challenges of running effective summer learning programs, and makes recommendations of practices to help address them.
The report is part of a major effort by Wallace to help communities stem summer learning loss, a phenomenon whereby students—especially those in underserved communities—fall further and further behind each summer. By ninth grade, a substantial portion of the achievement gap among low income youth is attributable to the cumulative effects of summer learning loss. These same students also experience an enrichment gap, missing out on many of the opportunities that enrich lessons and help make learning fun and relevant. Underserved youth often lose access to field trips and afterschool activities, and their families cannot afford the trips or other enriching experiences that more affluent peers have access to. Summer learning programs offer a tremendous opportunity to provide these students with enriching and engaging experiences that boost achievement.
On Wednesday the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee by an 18-3 vote, and will now be considered by the full Senate. The House ofRepresentatives passed their version, the SKILLS Act (HR 803), earlier this year.
The original WIA legislation was first passed by Congress in 1998 and has been overdue for reauthorization since 2003. The reauthorization bill passed by the committee contains changes to the legislation that reflect the ever-changing global economy, input from business, education and labor groups, and more than a decade of experience with existing programs. The bipartisan reauthorization bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
From an afterschool and summer learning perspective, the bill expands opportunities for youth who are out of school, out of work and at risk by increasing the percentage of funding dedicated to assisting out-of-school youth and young adults to 75 percent. For youth, the bill:
Although an extensive body of research exists documenting the numerous academic, social and emotional benefits associated with participation in quality afterschool programs, the afterschool field is continuously working to improve programming, services, and program availability and accessibility.
The field’s dedication to continuous improvement is evinced in the Wallace Foundation’s new report, “Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool.” The report, released today, captures the best practices and insights learned from the Wallace Foundation’s February 2013 conference examining how cities can build afterschool systems that improve program quality and increase afterschool program access and participation by the children who are most in need of their services.
By Sarah Keller
Last month The Hamilton Project hosted a policy forum titled The Economic Imperative of Expanding College Opportunity. The forum was held in connection with a new Hamilton Project discussion paper by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University and Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia about the disparity between low-income, high-achieving students (top 10 percent in performance on college assessment exams, bottom 35 percent of income distribution families) and high-income, high-achieving students’ college application rates to selective colleges and universities.
The main reasons for low-income students not applying to these schools is because they are unaware of the opportunities available to them and/or they are discouraged from applying due to misinformation about the cost or their ability to succeed in these schools. In order to help these students become more informed about their college options, Hoxby and Turner created the Expanding College Opportunities (ECO) Project. ECO sent customized information to high-achieving, low-income students about the college application process, college graduation rates, the actual cost of attending college and other pertinent information. The results showed that those students who participated in the ECO project were 20 percent more likely to apply to selective colleges and universities than the control group.
Graduation is around the corner for high school seniors across the country. This is often a time of reflection; reminiscing about the past four high school years—the friendships, relationships, lessons learned, teams, clubs, dances, classes and activities. But if we asked seniors to look back at their last four years and evaluate their learning experiences, how many of them would agree that they were engaging and relevant to their lives? How many would say they felt a sense of ownership and agency over their learning? How many would have a strong and supportive adult mentor to point to that guided them through their middle adolescent years?
A new report, “Realizing the Potential of Learning in Middle Adolescence,” by Drs. Robert Halpern of the Erikson Institute; Paul Heckman of the University of California, Davis; and Reed Larson of the University of Illinois emphasizes high schoolers’ enormous potential for learning if in the right learning environment, given the necessary supports and afforded specific opportunities for growth. Yet despite the research that shows middle adolescence—the period from ages 14 to 18—is the time when young people begin to develop advanced and complex forms of reasoning and analysis; increase their capacity to understand the dynamics of systems, institutions and individuals; and learn more about their interests, strengths, voice and beliefs, the authors find that a number of high schoolers are disengaged, bored at school, lack direction, and leave or drop out of high school without the skills they’ll need in the workplace.
As another school year is coming to an end and summer break is fast approaching, Public Profit’s new report, “Summer Matters: How Summer Learning Strengthens Students’ Success,” couldn’t have come at a better time.
For many lucky kids, summertime means camps, family trips and fun enrichment activities. But for a number of children, particularly those in low-income families, summer is a time when they fall behind academically as a result of unequal access to learning opportunities. As the report finds, summer learning programs are an essential part of the solution addressing the opportunity and achievement gaps between children from higher-income and lower-income families. The study, which takes a look at the impact of summer programs in Fresno, Los Angeles and Sacramento on kids involved in the programs, found that between 65% and 90% of the programs’ students qualified for free or reduced price lunch. It also found that 3 in 5 parents surveyed in the study stated that if their child wasn’t in the summer program, they would most likely spend the summer supervised at home.