We know the achievement gap is real—73 percent of fourth graders scoring below the 25th percentile in math are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. Now we have research that offers a solution: participating in afterschool activities—consistently across the elementary school grades—improves the math achievement of children from low-income families. In fact, taking part in these programs can help eliminate the gap in math achievement between low-income and high-income children by grade five.
Tomorrow, Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell, founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine, will present this latest research to an audience of Congressional staff and policy professionals as part of a special briefing co-hosted by the Afterschool Alliance and the Expanded Learning Project. The briefing will feature both research and examples on how participation in afterschool programs is linked to overall improvements in academic achievement, reductions in school absences and improvements in behavioral outcomes.
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.
Research and evaluation are critical to understanding, improving and growing a policy, a program or an organization. Federal, state and local government; as well as foundations and other public and private sector funding agencies are increasingly asking for this information that will give them greater insight into outcomes and the impact of their investment. Afterschool Alliance understands the importance of research and evaluation in the afterschool field and “Taking a Deeper Dive into Afterschool: Positive Outcomes and Promising Practices” synthesizes the findings of research covering hundreds of afterschool programs. The report highlights the positive results of these programs on the students who participate in them and outlines the promising practices associated with quality programs.
The report is divided into three sections: the first section reviews evaluations that assess outcomes of students who participate in afterschool programs, the second section presents a summary of promising practices of afterschool programs based on a synthesis of existing research, and the third section provides detailed examples of afterschool programs implementing each promising practice.
- School engagement, including attendance and likelihood of staying in school;
- Student behavior, including participation in at-risk behaviors, such as criminal activity, gang involvement, drug and alcohol use, or sexual activity; and
- Academic performance, including test scores, grades, graduation rates and college enrollment.
This month marks the 21st anniversary of the enactment of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the historic legislation signed into law by Pres. Clinton in 1993 that has done so much to support working families. Given the new focus in Washington on supporting working families, it is worthwhile to revisit another legacy of the Clinton administration that has also been tremendously helpful for millions of working mothers and fathers during the past decade: the 21stCentury Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.
Quality afterschool and summer learning programs funded through the 21st CCLC initiative provide a safe and engaging place for more than 1.6 million children and youth while their parents are at work. We know that parents with children in afterschool programs are less stressed, have fewer unscheduled absences and are more productive at work. However, with 15 million school-age children unsupervised between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, the need for afterschool programs far outstrips the availability. As detailed in our 2011 issue brief, “Afterschool and Working Families in Wake of the Great Recession,” the gap between work and school schedules amounts to as much as 25 hours per week, which presents working parents whose children are not served by 21st CCLC or another afterschool program with the expensive challenge of finding someone to care for their children while they are at work.
By Luci Manning
After-School Activities Empower Kids (The Hill, District of Columbia)
A recent nation-wide study from Deborah Lowe Vandell, researcher at the University of California-Irvine School of Education, reaffirmed that high quality afterschool programs give children incredible opportunities to succeed. In an op-ed for The Hill, Vandell writes: “Participating in after-school activities–consistently, day in and day out–improves student achievement for kids from low-income families. In fact, taking part in these programs can help close the gap in math achievement between low-income and high-income children.”
Statewide Network Pushes After-school Efforts (The Tennessean, Tennessee)
Afterschool programs in Tennessee are starting to coordinate their efforts, so that students from across the state can have access to high quality care. Mary Graham, United Way of Tennessee president, emphasized to The Tennessean the “need to improve access all across the board, including the gap populations, like the middle school population, more programs for at-risk (children) and more for rural areas.” The United Way of Tennessee is coordinating the new Tennessee Afterschool Network.
See How a Partnership Increases Attendance at Boys and Girls Clubs Afterschool Programs (MLive, Michigan)
Thanks to a new partnership with Dean Transportation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids is able to help more students. The transportation service, which comes at no cost to the clubs or the school district, will enable Grand Rapids to take on children who recently had their afterschool programs cut. Nicole Rodammer, director of development at the Boys & Girls Club, told MLive that they are hoping to add 90 more children to the 300 they already serve at three different locations. The clubs provide a variety of activities from homework help and academic support to extracurricular activities.
Three hundred passionate students from 36 high schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District gave back to the community’s homeless last weekend at an event coordinated by the Beyond the Bell afterschool program. Alvaro Cortes, executive director of Beyond the Bell, explained to the Los Angeles Times that the day of service was an effort to empower students to make a difference. The students served meals, sorted clothes, cleaned and painted, while gaining a valuable perspective from the personal stories of the homeless men and women they met.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama called for preschool programs for every 4-year-old—an idea that 30 states are funding. Providing early education for youngsters who haven’t started school is an idea whose time has come. So is supporting after-school programs for elementary school students. Researcher Deborah Vandell explains why.
Vandell, founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine, is a distinguished education researcher focusing on issues of P-20 education and longitudinal studies of development.
With the release this month of the Afterschool Alliance issue brief on the Common Core, I’ve had a number of afterschool providers and advocates reach out to me with questions about the controversy surrounding the Common Core: are they here to stay? What exactly will change in terms of curriculum? Why is there opposition? I’ll attempt to answer some of those questions here and shed some light on the debate over the Common Core State Standards.
The bipartisan, state-led effort to develop the Common Core State Standards began more than five years ago and grew out of the concern that U.S. students were not as prepared with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in life nor compete at the global level, along with the desire to ensure all students in all states were held to common, high standards to increase the likelihood for success in college and careers. The Common Core State Standards as they exists today seek to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. They are a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt.
At the Afterschool Alliance, we are thrilled to start off the new year with the release of the first in a series of issue briefs that explore the many ways afterschool programs are playing an integral role supporting the academic, social and emotional growth of middle schoolers across the country. In partnership with MetLife Foundation, this year’s series of issue briefs will focus on the Common Core State Standards, students with disabilities and other special needs, the use of data to improve afterschool programs, and keeping kids safe and supported in the hours after school. This issue brief, “Afterschool and the Common Core State Standards,” discusses the need to better prepare students for future success in college and work; the basics of the Common Core; and the variety of ways afterschool programs are working with students, teachers and schools to support learning under the Common Core.
The latest Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) scores released in December 2013 found that the U.S. ranked 26 in math, 21 in science and 17 in reading out of the 34 OECD countries. The scores also showed that a higher percentage of U.S. students were performing at the lower levels of PISA’s proficiency scale in math than the OECD average. However, what stood out among OECD’s findings was that U.S. students had shown no significant change in their reading scores since 2000, no significant change in math since 2000 and no significant change in science since 2006.