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SEP
14
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: September 14, 2016

By Luci Manning

In a Class of Their Own (Bergen County Record, New Jersey)

A robotics club at John F. Kennedy High School has helped three students from difficult backgrounds become the first members of their families to attend a four-year college. Syrian refugee Rasha Alrifae, Bangladeshi immigrant Muhammad Naeem and lifelong Paterson resident Zyheir Williams all found a “second home” in the afterschool club, according to the Bergen County Record. The program helped Alrifae learn English and pushed her to major in biology. Naeem learned to code in three programming languages and pursued computer science classes at a local community college. Williams was inspired to put in hundreds of volunteer hours and eventually won a $5,000 scholarship to attend Rutgers University.

Con Students Fill Music-Education Gap (Oberlin Review, Ohio)

As state budget cuts threaten school arts programs across Ohio, several Oberlin Conservatory students are trying to fill the gap with an afterschool music education program at Langston Middle School. The program provides relief to the school’s dwindling number of music teachers and gives low-income students a chance to learn how to play instruments they may not have access to outside of school. “The goal of the Music Mentors Program is to help public schools in Oberlin negate some of these effects by helping with music classes … and running after school programs for students to expand their musical education,” Oberlin junior and program head Ben Steger told the Oberlin Review.

Planet Fitness Debuts Fitness Room for Kids at Boys and Girls Club in Manchester (Union Leader, New Hampshire)

Nearly 1,700 Boys & Girls Club of Manchester participants will now have a chance to use a special workout room at the Club that’s part of a larger effort to promote healthy lifestyles and stop bullying. Planet Fitness’ new “Mini Judgement Free Zone” is part of the company’s $1.3 million commitment to support an anti-bullying initiative with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and STOMP Out Bullying. The room includes treadmills, a stationary bike, strength training equipment, and is full of motivational posters and messages. “It really is about a bigger movement than just the gym,” Planet Fitness senior vice president of marketing Jessica Correa told the Union Leader. “It’s about creating an afterschool curriculum that will give kids the tools to prevent bullying and spread kindness instead.”

Making the Case for Mariachi (San Francisco Chronicle, California)

The Mariachi Academy of Music in San Jose is part of a growing trend to bring mariachi music to young students throughout the Bay Area who lack opportunities for music education. The Academy works with school districts and private donors to bring free or low-cost mariachi classes to students in several towns in the area, exposing youths to a culturally rich and easy-to-learn style of music. “Mariachi is such a wonderful introduction,” Tamara Alvarado, executive director of the School of Arts & Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “With mariachi, you can see yourself progress, and be part of a group. That’s what’s cool about mariachi: Everyone is the star.” 

SEP
14
2016

POLICY
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House passes an updated career and technical education bill

By Jillian Luchner

photo by Rabi Samuel

The bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, the proposed House update to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006, was placed on the House of Representatives suspension calendar yesterday and passed overwhelmingly with 405 affirmative votes of support. This is good news for the education and afterschool community, as the proposed law would extend opportunities for schools and communities to collaborate in engaging students in career pathways to well-paid, in demand careers.

The Afterschool Alliance submitted a letter of support for the bill to the House Education and Workforce (HEW) committee this week. The bill, as outlined in an earlier blog, includes many positive advances: explicitly including community based organizations as eligible, extending eligible programming to begin in the 5th grade, drawing attention to the need for workplace/employability skills, and focusing on underrepresented groups within career categories, among other well-needed updates.

The Senate has now scheduled its mark-up of the Perkins legislation for next Wednesday, September 21. Whispers around Capitol Hill suggest that the Senate does not have any major disagreements on updating the legislation, but we must wait and see what the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee releases.

The Afterschool Alliance is glad that the model of effective, bipartisan work done in the House and continued awareness of the value of updated legislation has motivated the Senate into action. Feel free as always to make your own voices heard! We will aim to keep you updated as the legislative session continues.

For more general information on CTE and Career Pathways, visit our Career Pathways webpage.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Legislation
SEP
12
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Summer learning attracts attention of National Academies

By Jen Rinehart

Infographic courtesty of the National Summer Learning Association.

In late August, the Board on Children, Youth & Families at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine hosted a day-long workshop focused on summertime opportunities to promote healthy child and adolescent development. Back in 1999, a similar workshop, which focused on Opportunities to Promote Child and Adolescent Development During the After-School Hours, led to the publication of Community Programs to Promote Youth Development, an important resource for funders, policy makers and afterschool practitioners. 

It was great to see the National Academies return attention to the important role of out-of-school time learning. The summertime opportunities workshop highlighted the latest research on summer and explored linkages between summer programs and the broader ecosystem of learning, including schools, museums, libraries and afterschool programs. It was a day of great discussions that reflected the diverse community and accomplishments of summer learning and afterschool programs. 

The workshop featured sessions on the achievement gap, the value of play, reducing obesity, city-systems, program quality and evaluation and role of afterschool and summer in the overall learning ecosystem. A sampling of a few of the organizations on the panels include the Association of Children’s Museums, the Food Research and Action Center, the National League of Cities and the American Institutes for Research. The Afterschool Alliance was glad to included on a panel focusing on ecosystems that support children's development, alongside representatives from the national YMCA and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Better understanding of summer learning on the horizon

The day-long workshop set the stage for a potential effort to produce a “consensus study,” which would provide new information and recommendations to inform federal, state, and local policy decisions about how best to use the summer months to support the healthy development of America's children. With new research out from the RAND Corporation and The Wallace Foundation showing gains in math and reading among elementary school students with high levels of attendance in voluntary summer learning programs, the timing of a more thorough investigation into summer learning by the National Academies could not be better!

The PowerPoint presentations from the workshop are available on the National Academies website and videos of the workshop sessions will be posted to in the next couple of weeks. An 8-page written summary of the workshop proceedings is anticipated to be released in early November, which we will be sure to share with readers.

SEP
12
2016

POLICY
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Afterschool & Law Enforcement: New tools for working with school resource officers

By Erik Peterson

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present this post as part of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement blog series. For more information on the ways afterschool programs are partnering with local police, check out our previous blogs on building relationships and trust, the motivations for partnerships and on the law enforcement caucus’ briefing on youth mentoring.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice released several new tools in the form of letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed school resource officer (SRO) programs. School resource officers are law enforcement officers who provide security and crime prevention services to school communities. These new tools are intended to help SRO programs improve school climate, ensure safety for students and support student achievement in schools nationwide.

To the extent a local decision is made to use SROs in community schools, these resources will help state and local education and law enforcement agencies responsibly incorporate SROs in the learning environment. Additionally, the Departments have highlighted tools available for law enforcement agencies that also apply to higher education campus law enforcement agencies.

To assist states, schools and their law enforcement partners in assessing the proper role of SROs and campus law enforcement professionals, both the Education Department's and the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services released letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed SRO programs and calling on leaders of institutions of higher education to commit to implementing recommendations from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing in the campus policing context.

To assist in the K-12 context, the Departments also jointly released the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics. These new resources can help education and law enforcement agencies that use SROs to review and, if necessary, revise SRO-related policies in alignment with common-sense action steps that can lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students while safeguarding their civil rights.

Afterschool advocates at the state and local level have been working with community organizations, school district leadership and law enforcement on using the afterschool setting as a venue to build better relationships between law enforcement and young people. The new tools released by the Departments of Education and Justice are a welcome addition to the resources available for this work. 

SEP
7
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: September 7, 2016

By Luci Manning

A $1 Million Gift for Homework Aid (Los Angeles Times, California)

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation donated $1 million to the Los Angeles Public Library to expand the free afterschool homework centers that serve LA Unified schools’ 16,000 homeless students. The centers give students access to computers and printers and offer academic assistance. “We know that the hours immediately after school are crucial to the success of many young people,” Library Foundation of Los Angeles president Ken Brecher told the Los Angeles Times. “The generosity of the Broad Foundation helps to make our student zones true safe havens and productive centers for students to do their homework now and in the future.”

Lafayette Fourth-Graders Learning About Government, Engagement (Daily Camera, Colorado)

About 60 fourth graders at Alia Sanchez International Elementary are learning about the importance of civic engagement through the Lafayette Peer Empowerment Project. Students in the afterschool program learn about how local government operates, then identify problems within their city, state or country and write persuasive essays to officials to encourage them to address these issues. “It’s a really good topic to learn about,” fourth-grader Josue Cordova told the Daily Camera. “It helps our community to encourage kids to help out.” The group recently had a visit from Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg, who explained how the city council and the mayor work with various departments and community organizations to run the city.

Childhood Literacy: Fort Worth Leaders Take Aim at Reading (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas)

Fort Worth city officials, schools, community organizations and businesses are collaborating on a new initiative to improve child literacy, aiming to get all Fort Worth third-graders reading at grade level by 2025. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said the project will reach students through afterschool and summer programs at schools, libraries and community centers, and will also target young children to make sure they enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed. “Every program we touch will have a literacy component,” Price told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Schools can’t do this alone. It’s daunting, but this is a city that very much has a can-do spirit. We’ve got to. There’s too much at stake.”

OUT OF THIS WORLD: Russell Elementary’s Space Program to Continue Exploring the Final Frontier (Marietta Daily Journal, Georgia)

Every May, a crew of Russell Elementary School students in the Russell Space Center’s afterschool program set off on a 27-hour simulated space mission, but this year’s program was in jeopardy until Atlanta area businesses donated time and supplies to fix the program’s space simulator. Over the course of the school year, student astronauts take off in the “Intrepid” space simulator while their peers run mission control, using complex math and science skills to handle the launch. Program head Chris Laster told the Marietta Daily Journal that the students work with minimal teacher input and use teamwork and problem-solving skills to make sure the astronauts get home safely. After this summer’s improvements and upgrades, the simulator’s roof should last another 25 years.

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learn more about: Science Working Families Literacy
SEP
7
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Guest blog: Discover drones at your Lights On Afterschool event

By Robert Abare

Written by Griffin Schwed, Integrated Marketing Manager at National 4-H Council

See how your program can celebrate 4-H National Youth Science Day at your 2016 Lights On Afterschool event on our Celebrate Afterschool STEM page, part of the revamped Lights On Afterschool website.

Since 2008, 4-H National Youth Science Day has engaged millions of youth around the world in exciting and innovative STEM learning and experiences, from wind power to robotics to rocketry. This year, the 4-H NYSD challenge is soaring to new heights with the 2016 National Science Challenge, Drone Discovery, developed by Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

This year's hands-on science challenge explores the science behind drones and how they are being used to solve real world problems. Youth will learn everything from flight dynamics and aircraft types, to remote sensing and flight control, as well as safety and regulations.

While the official 4-H NYSD event takes place on October 5, 2016 in Washington, D.C., clubs, groups and schools around the world are also inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders, all taking part in what is known as the world’s largest, youth-led science event.

Participating in 4-H National Youth Science Day is easy:

  • Purchase a 4-H NYSD Challenge Kit. Each kit includes all the necessary items needed to participate in the challenge, including youth and facilitator guide books and experiment materials. Kits are available for purchase now on the 4-H Mall.
  • Register your event. Simply create a 4-H NYSD membership account to receive helpful resources and materials and see your local event showcased on our national 4-H NYSD map.
  • Join the conversation on social media. Share your event photos and videos using hashtag #4HNYSD. Your event could be featured nationally!

So what are you waiting for? Put what you know about engineering, drones and flight into action. Purchase your kit, register your event, and get ready to take flight in this worldwide science phenomenon!

SEP
2
2016

STEM
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How afterschool-library partnerships are engaging kids in STEM

By Robert Abare

A social media graphic designed by the Afterschool Alliance to promote afterschool-library partnerships.

The Afterschool Alliance has partnered with the Science Technology Activities and Resources Library Education Network (STAR_Net) to highlight the ways afterschool programs are partnering with local libraries to introduce kids to valuable science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences. A project of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning, STAR_Net unites an array of partner organizations to provide interactive STEM exhibits, programming and training to public libraries nationwide.

Often regarded as quiet places for kids to read or study, local libraries are revealing their potential to get kids learning in dynamic ways—from hands-on learning exhibits to conducting science experiments. STAR_Net is helping libraries engage their communities with many of the following resources, made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation:

  • Large, hands-on exhibits that are currently traveling to various public libraries across the USA. The exhibits—Discover Space, Discover Earth and Discover Tech—introduce kids to various scientific arenas.
  • Online and in-person training for library staff, which introduces them to the STEM content of the exhibits, and guides them in developing complementary programming.
  • A public awareness campaign, led by the Afterschool Alliance, to promote STAR_Net exhibits or resources among the afterschool field and highlight afterschool-library partnerships on social media with a series of shareable graphics.

How STAR_Net can bring more STEM to your program

STAR_Net also offers a number of resources that afterschool programs can use to develop quality STEM programming and stay up-to-date on trends and activities in the STEM field.

  • Webinars and webinar recordings cover a range of topics, from an international celebration of the Moon to interactive citizen science projects.
  • Browse ongoing STAR_Net projects to learn more about their content and see if any exhibits are visiting a library near your program.
  • Online games can make STEM learning fun, like Starchitect, which has kids design their own solar systems.

How STAR_Net turned a library into a pop-up science museum

The Ypsilanti District Library in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan is just one of many local libraries that has used resources from STAR_Net to engage afterschool youth. The library has hosted a variety of exhibits since it opened, but STAR_Net's Discover Tech exhibit was the library’s first to incorporate dynamic, hands-on experiences that teach kids about STEM and its various applications.

“Historically, exhibits haven’t been hands-on in this way—which was new and exciting for the community!” said Kristel Sexton, Youth Services Librarian at the library. “For partners and organizations in the community, it helped them see libraries can do STEM. We can be experts in STEM, and we can support you in this.”

Afterschool-library partnerships are not only proving that libraries can be experts in STEM learning, they are creating mutually beneficial relationships to ensure kids are in safe, nuturing environments after school, and that kids are aware of all the resources available to them in their community.

SEP
1
2016

POLICY
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Evidence-based practices in education

By Jillian Luchner

Photo by Andrei Firtich

The reauthorized national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) puts an increased emphasis on states and school districts using evidence-based practices in many areas. Under ESSA's Title I, schools designated by their state as “in need of improvement” must create a school improvement plan with at least one activity or program that has a related study showing it meets one of the identified tiers of evidence: strong, moderate or promising (described below).

In addition to this requirement, seven different competitive grants in ESSA will give priority to applicants who meet the top three evidence-based tiers. Although 21st Century Community Learning Centers are formula funded and do not require stringent adherence to evidence based practices, eligible entities are still expected to use best practices to improve student outcomes. Fortunately, there is a substantial and growing evidence base on the positive effects afterschool has on youth development outcomes.

This March, president Obama also signed the Evidence-Based Policy Making Commission Act of 2016. The commission established by the act has designated appointees and is beginning its work. The government’s focus on evidence seems here to stay.

Below is an overview of the evidence tiers specific to ESSA, concluding with resources to find evidence-based programs and develop new studies to add to the field of research.

Here are the four tiers of evidence-based practices in ESSA

  • STRONG. Strong studies show positive and meaningful (“statically significant”) results with randomized control trials (RCT). RCTs are viewed as the gold standard of evaluation because they are the best way to determine the effectiveness of a program or policy. RCTs take a large group of people and randomly assign them to the intervention being evaluated (the “treatment” group, in this case, is an afterschool program) or assign them to have no intervention (also known as the “control group”). However, the level of resources (time, money, expertise, etc.) necessary for RCT studies makes them incredibly difficult to implement and limits their availability. This is why it’s important that the law also includes the following tiers of evidence.
  • MODERATE. A moderate study will demonstrate a meaningful positive result on student outcomes based on a quasi-experimental study—a study that, like RCTs, has a “control” group and a “treatment” group, but unlike RCTs, it does not include the random assignment to a group.
  • PROMISING. A promising study—or correlational study—is one that shows a relationship between an activity or program and student improvements, but it does not prove that the specific activity or program under study was the cause of the change. For example, a correlational study may find that there is a relationship between gains in students’ communication skills and their participation in an afterschool program, but it would not be able to say for certain that participating in the afterschool program caused students to improve their communication skills.
  • UNDER EVALUATION. In this final, fourth tier of evidence, the law recognizes that the evidence base is itself a work in progress. The “under evaluation” designation exists for activities and programs that, while yet untested, are rationally derived from research and will be tracked to see what effects they have.