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Opportunities for afterschool abound as ESSA is implemented

By Jillian Luchner

President Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.

In the New Year, states are busy getting ready for the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to go into full effect with the start of the new 2017-18 school year.

In these final months of preparation, states are finishing first and second rounds of stakeholder engagement, releasing first and second drafts of their state ESSA plans, and finalizing plans and submitting to the federal Department of Education for review. Arizona already has submitted a plan—far ahead of the required April and September deadlines for plan submission.

At this stage, things are moving quickly—luckily, it's easy to keep up with what your state is doing with our new interactive map tool! This new resource puts links to state webpages and ESSA plans at your fingertips.

What are states working to accomplish?

The new law is an opportunity to re-envision education within the state. Unlike the previous federal education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), ESSA provides more flexibility to states to decide what they want to track and measure beyond the familiar requirement of student proficiency on statewide English language arts (ELA) and math tests.

Guided by stakeholder engagement, states are determining the outcomes they want to see for their students and creating a system of reporting, interventions and support to ensure that districts and schools help students make progress toward those goals.



Guest blog: New York governor proposes $35M in new afterschool funding

By Guest Blogger

By Chris Neitzey, Policy Director for New York’s statewide afterschool network, the New York State Network for Youth Success. Chris can be reached at

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit.

On Monday, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $35 million expansion that would offer 22,000 additional students access to state-funded afterschool programs. This pilot program would significantly expand afterschool programs in 16 cities that were indentified in 2016 as Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative Areas.*

To put this proposal into context, New York State currently invests approximately $62 million directly into afterschool programs—the new pilot program will increase this investment by more than 50 percent.

Still, 22,000 new afterschool spaces will only go a small way toward meeting the needs of the estimated 1.1 million students across the state who still want access to a program. However, this investment is still significant in two ways.

First, if this proposal is included in the final state budget, which must be passed by April 1 according to state law, it will give 22,000 more New York students in high-poverty areas an opportunity to participate in an afterschool program as early as next school year.

Second, this would be the first large-scale state investment in afterschool since the 2008 recession, when funding was cut from $93 million in 2007-2008 to $57.4 million in 2014-2015. We’ve had some recent success over the past two years with getting smaller funding increases from the Legislature ($5 million in 2016), but Governor Cuomo’s proposal shows a clear recognition of the important role that afterschool programs play in helping combat poverty in low-income communities and in closing the achievement gap.

After years of advocacy by the Network and field on the importance of afterschool programs in keeping kids safe, helping working families, and supporting academic achievement, among other benefits, this is a welcome proposal and one that is much needed in New York. This was also proposed as a pilot program, so there is interest in expanding it if deemed successful. 

Over the next week, advocates in New York and across the country will be paying close attention to the release of the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal. In it we should learn more about what the program will look like and the specific language laying out how it will be implemented.

In the meantime, the Network for Youth Success and our partners across the state will be gearing up to make sure this proposal becomes a reality on April 1, 2017.

*Those cities are Albany, the Bronx, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Hempstead, Jamestown, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Oneonta, Oswego, Rochester, Syracuse, Troy, Utica, and Watertown.

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Weekly Media Roundup: January 11, 2017

By Luci Manning

Congressional Delays Leave Programs Hanging (News & Observer, North Carolina)

Writing in the News & Observer, Afterschool Ambassador Betsey McFarland explains the uncertainty that comes with congressional budget delays: “The delay in adopting a full-year federal budget means that states won’t know how much money they’ll have for 21st century grants to pass down to afterschool programs this year… At a time when there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to meet the need, our federal budget process should provide certainty and support – not present additional challenges.”

Governor Eyes New Child Care Credit (Daily Gazette, New York)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced two new proposals meant to ease the burden on working parents – a middle-class child care tax credit and a new pilot program to create afterschool slots in high-need areas, according to the Daily Gazette. The tax credit will help more than 200,000 families afford professional, quality day care, and the $35 million pilot program will aim to create 22,000 afterschool slots in places like Albany and Troy. “This newly enhanced credit will make it easier for more New Yorkers to be able to secure day care and able to enter or stay in the workforce with peace of mind,” Cuomo said.

Future Meets Steam Punk (La Porte County Herald-Argus, Indiana)

The FIRST Robotics Competition announced its theme for 2017 this weekend: connecting robotics to the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution. In this year’s game, teams will spend six weeks building robots that can gather fuel and gears for models of steam-powered airships for a timed competition. RoboBlitz team member Rishi Verma, a Michigan City high school senior, said the afterschool program has taught him about both engineering and how to work as a group. “It’s more than just building a robot. It builds character,” he told the La Porte County Herald-Argus.

Their Safe Place to Grow (Houston Chronicle, Texas)

Workshop Houston, an afterschool program that started as a bike repair shop, has been giving youths from troubled backgrounds a place to learn and try new things for more than a decade. Workshop Houston has four different activities for students to participate in—fashion design, music, dance and tutoring—and provides a safe haven for those who may have nowhere else to go after school. “We’re dealing with children in gangs, coming from toxic homes,” Bryant Christopher, who oversees the tutoring program, told the Houston Chronicle. “If this program didn’t exist, who knows where they would be?” 



New report sees how state policies can promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

By Robert Abare

This post was originally published by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition.

new report from RTI International examines an emerging trend that uses state policy to promote healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Based on stakeholder interviews and state case studies, the authors conclude that the state policy approach holds significant promise if it avoids creating unfunded mandates.

Jean Wiecha and Kristen Capogrossi of RTI International, in "Using State Laws and Regulations to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs," explain that the National AfterSchool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, developed by HOST in 2011, have offered comprehensive guidance to the OST field on how to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Large national organizations have adopted some or all of these standards in their programs--but recent studies suggest that about 40 percent of NAA members still have not heard of them. State or local laws present one option to increase awareness, uptake, and implementation of these standards,

Wiecha and Capogrossi therefore interviewed nine experts who were knowledgeable about the NAA HEPA Standards and active in national OST policy, advocacy, and service issues. They also conducted case studies in California and North Carolina, which have had recent experience with legislation in this area. They concluded:

Under the right circumstances and when crafted the right way, state policy approaches have the potential to result in faster, more equitable, and more thorough improvements to healthy eating and physical activity in OST settings compared with the status quo focus on private-sector dissemination and training efforts. Regulation that uses incentives and voluntary participation could result in increasing the number of OST programs promoting health among children and their families in low-resource communities. In addition, regulation (especially when integrated with existing OST regulation) could serve to elevate healthy eating and physical activity to the same level of importance as other regulated OST quality content areas.

At the same time, the authors caution that "policy efforts should proceed carefully in order to allow the field the opportunity to identify which best practices in policy design maximize benefit and minimize risk," and suggest that different states may wish to move forward at different speeds. They add, "Policy efforts should explicitly identify and mitigate the risk of creating unfunded mandates, which may have the unintended consequence of widening quality gaps between high- and low-resources sites or, worse, drive low-resource sites out of business by imposing costs and other burdens involved with the improvement process."

The report was commissioned by the Healthy Eating Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Guest blog: How the election played out at the state level

By Guest Blogger

Written by Ashley Wallace, Program Manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures

The Minnesota State Capitol. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In the past week since Election Day, the top of the ticket has certainly garnered a lot of attention and discussion. However, state legislative races and state ballot initiatives also made their mark, as voters in 35 states decided 154 statewide ballot measures and chose from among more than 10,000 candidates seeking state legislative seats.

Republicans will control 66 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers. Democrats will control 30 chambers and one chamber will be tied. The New York Senate is still undecided. This means Republicans will control both chambers in 32 states, which is an all-time high for the party. Democrats will control both chambers in 13 states and three states will split control or be tied. Overall, turnover in the state legislatures this election was about 25 percent, which is about average.

Here are the chambers that changed hands

Three chambers switched from Democratic to Republican control:

  • Kentucky House
  • Iowa Senate
  • Minnesota Senate

Four chambers switched from Republican to Democratic control:

  • New Mexico House
  • Nevada Assembly
  • Nevada Senate
  • Washington Senate (Republicans, however, will have functional control as one Democrat will caucus with the Republicans.)

And one chamber, the Connecticut Senate, will be tied.

There are also a few chambers across the country who have a more complicated future. The Alaska House will be governed by a coalition that gives Democrats functional control of the chamber, despite Republicans leading the chamber numerically. And Democrats now control every seat in the Hawaii Senate, the first time one party has completely controlled a chamber since 1980. However, the big takeaway of the legislative races is that Republicans exceeded expectations in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.

Republicans entered the elections having 31 governors and managed to pick up three by winning in Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. This will mean the most Republican Governors since 1998. Republican pickups in governor’s races means fewer states under split control. Republicans will have full control of state government in 24 states, Democrats will have full control in six and only 17 states will split control.

The outlook on education and afterschool

There are a few education-related approved ballot initiatives that may be of note to the afterschool field. Oregon passed Measure 98, requiring the legislature to fund dropout prevention and career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools, and Measure 99, creating a fund to provide outdoor school programs statewide through the Oregon Lottery Economic Development. Meanwhile, Mainers approved a new 3 percent income tax for incomes of more than $200,000, with revenues going to K-12 education.

Finally, those in the afterschool field may recognize Nebraska’s newly elected state senator, Anna Wishart. Ms. Wishart is a former White-Riley-Peterson fellow.

For more state-focused election analysis, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures. To read more on how the 2016 election will affect education policy and afterschool, see the Afterschool Snack's breakdown of Donald Trump's record on education, and what to expect from his administration and the 115th Congress.

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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.


Weekly Media Roundup: August 31, 2016

By Luci Manning

Science Camp Has All the Elements for Fun, Learning (Bonner County Daily Bee, Idaho)

Thirteen students spent a week this summer learning about nature’s scientific processes through the All About Elements Outdoor Science Camp. The camp is run by Pullman Parks and Recreation research scientist Jamie Gaber, who worked with the students on experiments focused on chemical reactions and botany at the Lakeview Park arboretum. They used the periodic table to learn about the elements and experimented with sprouting seeds to determine optimal growing situations, reports the Bonner County Daily Bee.

Bill to Provide Free After School Programs to Poor California Students Passes Legislature (East Bay Times, California)

Last week, the California legislature passed a bill to give homeless, low-income and foster children priority access to free, state-funded afterschool programs, according to the East Bay Times. “Giving kids access to after school and summer programs helps children escape poverty by caring for their basic needs and improving their access to a true quality education,” Assemblywoman Nora Campos, the bill’s author, said. The bill will also make sure that afterschool programs use all available federal resources to provide healthy food to students.

Youth Become Water Leaders (San Angelo Standard-Times, Texas)

Ten San Angelo middle school students spent their summer learning about their hometown’s water resources, studying water quality, watershed and lake levels to become “water ambassadors” to the public. The Aqua Squad set up a gallery display using social media, videos and interviews to communicate their new knowledge to the community and encourage people to do more to conserve water and protect the area’s lakes. “It’s an amazing project that gave them so many skills that they don’t get at home or school, from interviewing to learning how to research projects and learning how to set up displays and exhibits,” Brandy Hawkins, whose daughter participated in the program, told the San Angelo Standard-Times.

Hanover Amazing Kids Club Holds Art Showcase (Evening Sun, Pennsylvania)

More than 200 children and adolescents on the autism spectrum worked on art projects this summer to enhance their imagination, fine motor skills and communication at the Amazing Kids Club. Clinical coordinator Bruce Swiger told the Evening Sun that art can be highly beneficial for autistic children’s development: “It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s a piece of the puzzle to work on integration.” The program ran for 11 weeks, giving students a chance to work on a wide range of art projects, from self-portraits to pottery to 3-D art displays. Amazing Kids Club concluded with an art show to show off the students’ work to friends and family last week.  

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Afterschool leaders selected as 2016 White-Riley-Peterson Fellows

By Elizabeth Tish

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley

Earlier this month, sixteen advocates for afterschool and expanded learning leaders from across the country were chosen as the 2016-2017 cohort of White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows.

Throughout the White-Riley-Peterson Fellowship, a partnership between the Riley Institute at Furman University and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, fellows will study policy-making for afterschool and expanded learning through real world case studies. During the 10-month program, fellows will also design and implement a state-level policy project with the support of their Statewide Afterschool Network and the Afterschool Alliance.

The White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship is named for William S. White, President and CEO of the C.S. Mott Foundation; Richard W. Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education under President Clinton; and Dr. Terry Peterson, National Board Chair with the Afterschool Alliance, Director, Afterschool and Community Learning Network, and senior fellow at the Riley Institute.

The 2016-2017 White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows are:

  • Billie Jo Bakeberg, Steering Committee Chair, South Dakota Afterschool Network (Spearfish, S.D.)
  • Suzanne Birdsall, State Director, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), Department of Education (Silver Lake, N.H.)
  • David Carroll, Chief Program Officer, Neighborhood Houses (St. Louis, Mo.)
  • Lisa Caruthers, Director, Center for Afterschool, Summer and Expanded Learning, Harris County Department of Education (Houston, Texas)
  • Leslie Garvin, Executive Director, North Carolina Campus Compact (Elon, N.C.)
  • Nichelle Harris, Network Lead, Ohio Afterschool Network (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Jessica Hay, Program Director, California Afterschool Network (Sacramento, Calif.)
  • Stephanie Lennon, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, School’s Out Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Amber May, Organizer – Program Director, Mississippi Statewide Afterschool Partnership Network — Operation Shoestring, Inc. (Jackson, Miss.)
  • Shallie Pitman, Youth Development Associate, ACT Now (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Kelly Riding, Network Lead, Utah Afterschool Network (Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • Laura Saccente, Director, Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) (Camp Hill, Penn.)
  • Megan Stanek, Network Director, Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning (OPEL) (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
  • Patrick Stanton, Creative Research Director, Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership (Boston, Mass.)
  • Kelly Malone Sturgis, Executive Director, New York State Network for Youth Success (Albany, N.Y.)
  • Courtney Sullivan, Executive Director, Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (Tempe, Ariz.)

You can find more information about all 75 fellows who have participated in the program since its creation in 2012 through the Riley Institute.