With two weeks to go until the nation faces the fiscal cliff and across the board spending cuts known as sequestration, it is an opportune time to summarize what we know about the potential impact on afterschool and summer learning. Note that the update below represents activity as of Dec. 19, 2012, but the process is fluid and updates will be posted to this blog as needed.
The big picture of the fiscal cliff and sequestration continues to evolve: negotiations between the White House and the Speaker of the House of Representatives continue. Possible outcomes of these talks could be an extension of current deadlines, a ‘grand bargain’ that addresses revenue and spending, or anything in between. Driving the conversation is the possible extension of Bush-era tax cuts and whether extensions should only be provided for those earning incomes less than $250,000 (or another amount) per year. Spending cuts have been acknowledged publicly but little detail is available on that or any other specific component of a possible deal.
In terms of the impact on before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs, there are several different pieces in play: fiscal year 2013 (FY2013) appropriations, the supplemental spending bill addressing relief from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, sequestration and the possibility that the charitable deduction may be scaled back as part of a ‘grand bargain’ on the fiscal cliff.
While FY2013 appropriations have been funded close to last year’s levels through a continuing resolution that expires in March 2013; there have been efforts this winter to negotiate and pass an omnibus or minibus spending bill that would include Labor, Health and Humans Services (LHHS) and make policy changes in addition to setting new funding levels for the current fiscal year. With regard to afterschool program funding, amounts are expected to be level with FY2012. However, also being discussed as part of the omnibus is bill language that could divert some 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funding away from afterschool or summer learning and instead repurpose funds for a longer school day. While the situation is extremely fluid, at this point it does not appear likely that the LHHS spending bill will pass Congress before the end of the 112th Session at the end of December.
A White House ceremony hosted by Michelle Obama honored 12 community-based afterschool programs that reach underserved youth with national arts and humanities awards. The First Lady said the programs teach kids skills like problem solving, teamwork and self-expression that are also critical in the classroom and workplace. Mrs. Obama also thanked educators, artists and leaders for working with tight budgets and putting in late hours. The 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards are hosted by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with three national cultural agencies. This year’s winners were chosen from more than 350 nominations.
Middle school students participating in afterschool programs in Rhode Island have helped design a new video game that promotes healthy relationships and aims to help stop teen dating violence. Sojourner House, an advocacy and resource center in Providence for domestic violence victims, premiered ‘‘The Real Robots of Robot High’’ on Monday at Highlander Charter School. The game and accompanying curriculum were developed by Sojourner House in partnership with afterschool programs in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls; the youth advocacy organization Young Voices; the state education department; and a publisher of ‘‘social impact’’ video games.
About 50 students from Schenectady High School participated in an after school cleanup, which extended beyond school grounds into streets surrounding the campus. The Schenectady high school, which has been listed on the state’s “persistently dangerous” schools list from 2008 to 2011, also viewed the cleanup as a way to revitalize the school’s image. Many of the volunteers were part of clubs such as the Anime Club, Junior ROTC, Key Club, Student Ambassadors, Community Service Club and the Gay-Straight Alliance.
The Atlanta Music Project, which gives quality instruments and daily classical training to more than 87 inner-city children participating in three sites, recently won a $122,801 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the biggest grant in its two-year history. The grant will be used to create the Atlanta Music Project Academy, which will give private lessons to the top 22 players in the project and offer them master classes, opportunities for recitals and quality instruments.
This post was written by Owen Berliner, a curriculum writer for Engineering Adventures, a new out-of-school time (OST) engineering curriculum currently in development by the Museum of Science, Boston.
As the school year kicks into high gear, many afterschool educators are thinking about new types of activities for their programs. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities have never been more relevant for out-of-school time (OST) programs, such as afterschool programs, and the children they serve. The Obama administration has repeatedly called for a greater emphasis on STEM in the American educational system, and OST programs provide an amazing opportunity to reinforce the critical 21st century skills fostered through STEM activities. Engineering challenges in particular require children to work in teams, communicate and think critically in order to design successful solutions.
When considering STEM, many people focus exclusively on science and math. These are the big subjects that are typically taught in school, and often the engineering and technology components are either neglected or treated as sub-disciplines. Luckily, introducing engineering and technology to kids can be done in amazingly fun ways. In fact, kids’ reactions to STEM activities might be the most compelling reason to introduce them in your program! Kids are natural problem solvers, and engineering activities provide an opportunity for them to express their abilities while learning to apply critical thinking skills they may not even know they possess.
Preliminary research conducted on pilot tests of Engineering Adventures, a new, free-to-download engineering curriculum designed specifically for 3rd to 5th graders in OST settings, suggests that participation in the program leads to a greater understanding of the engineering design process and improved attitudes regarding possible future engineering careers.
Engineering Adventures units are intentionally structured to provide background knowledge constructed through hands-on activities. Once a child has learned about technology and the engineering design process, that knowledge is solidified through activities that explore the materials, science concepts and design principles of a particular challenge. Each unit culminates in an engineering showcase where children present their final designs to their peers. Early research has shown that this structure works well in a wide variety of OST settings, including afterschool clubs, summer camps and community groups.
Consider adding engineering challenges to your programming schedule this fall!
During the August district work period set to begin next week committee members and their staff will write the CR bill, with many details including Subcommittee allocations yet to be determined. The bill is not expected to include controversial policy riders. The CR should be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, 2012. While there remain many questions about the FY2013 spending deal, such as the impact of sequestration, it appears at this point that key federal supports for afterschool and summer learning programs, like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the Child Care Development Block Grant and the AmeriCorps program, will all remain federally funded into next fiscal year.
This post was written by our summer intern Anna Olkovsky. She is a junior at Smith College.
This past Wednesday, a room in the Department of Education building was transformed into a children’s paradise. Colorful mats decorated with drawings of animals covered up most of the floor, and children played with large inflated balls and other games. There were approximately eight groups representing summer camps, elementary schools and larger providers of child care such as the YMCA, each named after a fruit or vegetable. I followed Team Carrot, a camp group from Pennsylvania, into the building.
At the “Let’s Read, Let’s Move” launch, speakers and organizers appealed directly to the children to emphasize the three bullet points printed in big, bright letters at the front of the room: Read, Exercise and Eat Right. Representatives from the department led the children in classic games with little tweaks, such as a round of hot potato that featured physical exercises like running in place and balancing on one foot. In the middle of a game that required children to think of items that fit in certain categories, two camp groups disagreed about whether or not a tomato counted as a fruit. The children were eager to play the games, and did not seem to realize that the games involved learning—a great example of how summer programs can be enjoyable for kids while still being educational.
After the games, the children were joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, White House Chef Sam Kass and Cornell McClellan, President Obama’s personal trainer. Secretary Duncan asked the children why exercise is important, and after a few of them answered with some of the health benefits, he added that they would also do better in school if they had time to get out their energy during the day and could sit still and focus more in class. He also stressed how important both daily reading and regular exercise are, especially in the summer.
The Obama administration granted seven additional states flexibility from key provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on Friday, June 29 and July 5. These announcements bring the number of states with approved waivers to 26, with 11 additional states still under review.
On May 29, the Obama administration approved eight additional states for flexibility from key provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in exchange for state-developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. Yesterday's announcement brings the number of states with approved waivers to 19. Applications from 17 states and the District of Columbia are still under review.
The latest round of approved state waiver applications are: Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. Of these, all but Rhode Island and Maryland requested the 11th waiver allowing 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funds to be used to lengthen the school day, week or year in their initial applications; however Maryland later amended its application to request the 21st CCLC waiver as well.
States previously granted waivers include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Out of the 19 states that have been granted waivers so far, 15 have requested and received the 21st CCLC waiver.
The Department of Education launched the waiver process last fall as a way to give states a certain amount of flexibility from the mandates of the 10-year-old NCLB law in exchange for states’ implementing standards and accountability reforms. Of particular interest to supporters of afterschool programs has been the optional 11th waiver allowing 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funds to be used to lengthen the school day, week or year. Given the large demand for quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs, and the potentially high cost of adding time to the school day, this provision could result in fewer communities having access to quality out-of-school programs. The Department of Education issued additional clarification to states on the 11th waiver in the form of a third addendum to their questions and answers on the waiver process. This new clarification emphasizes that existing 21st CCLC requirements prioritizing school-community partnerships cannot be waived by states; and that the "programming provided through a longer school day, week, or year, must not be 'more of the same' but instead should involve careful planning by the eligible entity to ensure that the programs or activities will be used to improve student achievement and ensure a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and careers."