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MAR
23
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: How to use data to improve program quality

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Nicole Lovecchio, Chief Program Officer at WINGS for kids.

As afterschool providers, we know that the hours from 3 to 6 p.m. offer an incredible opportunity to engage students who need it most and help them feel more connected to their peers, the school day, and to their community—and the key to maximizing that potential lies in the skills and abilities of the afterschool staff.

For many years we worked on codifying and documenting every element and detail of our program. We created manuals explaining how we ran our social and emotional learning (SEL) afterschool program in an effort to replicate our program throughout several sites in the Southeast. We then focused heavily on fidelity and the implementation of these program elements.

Along the way, we realized that a checklist of items, however exact, couldn’t guarantee a high-quality program.  By gathering data on our staff and kids, we were able to see the shift that was needed: clearer focus on building up the skills of our staff on the ground.

3 ways data collected impacted program quality

Improving adult skills and practices. Quarterly program assessments (observations) of our sites uncovered a trend indicating that our staff (12 college-aged mentors per site who work in 1:12 ratio with students) were primarily focused on reacting to the negative behaviors of our kids. Because our staff was reactive instead of proactive, there was little room for engaging activity.  Therefore, we redesigned staff trainings and redefined the WINGS approach to SEL, all with a focus on building adult skills and practices first and foremost.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Youth Development
MAR
22
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: March 22, 2017

By Luci Manning

Trump's Budget Would Scrap $120M for Michigan Teacher Training, After-School Programs (MLive, Michigan)

Low-income students in Michigan would lose out on important educational and social experiences under President Trump’s proposed budget, which eliminates federal funding for afterschool programs. The budget cuts would result in a loss of more than $120 million for teacher training and afterschool programs in the state. “These cuts would have a devastating impact on the lives of our students, the families we support and the communities we live in,” Afterschool Ambassador Maria Mitter told MLive. Mitter supervises afterschool programs at 20 sites through Eastern Michigan University, which has received $2.7 million in federal funds.

Give Caregivers Way to Afford Services (Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii)

Afterschool Ambassador Paula Adams explains how the loss of federal funding for afterschool programs would hurt Hawaii students in a letter to the editor in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “They’ll be latchkey kids, on their own, on the streets, some getting involved in risky behaviors, and all losing the opportunity to be constructively engaged and learning under the watchful eye of caring adults. It’s up to Congress to make sure the president doesn’t succeed in killing federal afterschool funding – and up to all of us to make sure our members of Congress know how much we value afterschool programs.”

After School Funding Could Be Cut; Glen Iris Principal Weighs in (WBRC, Alabama)

Many Birmingham parents don’t know how they would care for their children if federal funding were eliminated for afterschool programs, as proposed in President Trump’s budget. “Those families depend on the 21st Century [Community Learning Centers] grant money that funds the afterschool programs,” Afterschool Ambassador and Glen Iris Elementary School principal Michael Wilson told WBRC. “[These] 120 kids, rather than stay here where it’s affordable and safe and nurturing, might be on the street in the afternoon.” Programs in the area provide a safe space for students to spend time after school ends and a chance for them to explore subjects that they may not have time for during the school day, like coding.

Federal Budget Cuts Could End After-School Programs (KUTV, Utah)

President Trump’s proposed budget would affect some 5,000 Granite School District students who benefit from 19 afterschool programs supported by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. “It’s devastating,” Afterschool Ambassador Margaret Peterson, executive director of the Community Education Partnership of West Valley City, told KUTV. “How can you abandon our children? They’re the future of America.” Peterson elaborated that taking away funding for afterschool programs will mean that students will miss out on valuable educational opportunities; studies show that students who participate in these programs exhibit significant academic improvement. 

MAR
21
2017

POLICY
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Medicaid cuts affect student services in school

By Jillian Luchner

The new administration and Congress are considering changes to current federal health care law, including the components known as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Discussions suggest Medicaid, medical aid to low-income families, may be cut by as much as 25 percent.

School districts use Medicaid funding for a number of student services, such as paying for medical supports required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and providing diagnostic screenings and treatments for issues that directly affect children’s well-being and in-class performance, like vision and hearing concerns, diabetes, and asthma. A recent survey by the School Superintendents Association reports that Medicaid dollars also fund health professionals, provide outreach and coordination of services to students, expand health-related services, and give students with disabilities the technologies they need for an equitable education. A table of state by state expenditures on school based services showcases how important the federal contribution is to schools and students.

Schools that continue to fund these necessary services in the face of cuts would have to find the money to fill gaps somewhere, which would mean less money channeled to other programs for schools and students. Organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) oppose the cuts and argue that these services for children constitute investments.

“Children with health coverage are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, and become healthier adults with higher taxable earnings than uninsured children. Ensuring children and their parents have access to the medically necessary services they need from providers trained to serve children is critical to positive outcomes,” a CDF sign-on letter to Congress on potential health care reform reports. “We urge you to commit to build on the progress made over the past five decades to expand and improve health coverage for children, and, at a minimum, to “do no harm.”

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learn more about: Federal Policy Health and Wellness
MAR
20
2017

POLICY
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What does the president's "skinny budget" mean for afterschool and summer learning?

By Erik Peterson

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Last week, President Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney released the administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint. This “skinny budget” outlines the president’s vision for how Congress should spend federal discretionary funds for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017 (FY18).

The budget proposal seeks to eliminate 19 agencies and 60 programs, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, which funds local afterschool programs in all 50 states. That proposal would devastate the 1.6 million children and families that stand to lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

The Community Learning Centers initiative was reauthorized in December 2015 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and saw its funding increased in the 2016 bipartisan omnibus spending bill. However, even with this strong support across party lines, more than 11 million students remain unsupervised after school. The parents of almost 20 million students would like their children to be in programs, but programs are unavailable to them, unaffordable or both.

What could an elimination of federal afterschool funding mean for families nationwide? Find out how many thousands of children are currently served by Community Learning Centers in your state—and would be left without an afterschool program if the president’s budget proposal is enacted.

The budget proposal, titled America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, attempts to justify the proposed elimination of Community Learning Centers by claiming that a lack of evidence exists that links the program to increased student achievement. In fact, over a decade of data and evaluations provide compelling evidence that 21st CCLC afterschool programs do in fact yield positive outcomes for participating children.

What else is at stake?

In addition to Community Learning Centers, a range of other programs that support afterschool and summer learning for young people were also targeted for cuts or outright elimination, including afterschool STEM supports and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds local AmeriCorps and Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) positions, many of which support afterschool programs. Also at risk is the National Endowment for the Arts, which offers grants that can expose students in afterschool programs to arts-rich experiences.

MAR
20
2017

STEM
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An anti-education, anti-science budget proposal

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

As expected, President Trump’s long-awaited “skinny budget” contained deep cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Particularly disappointing to those of us in the afterschool STEM education community are the outright eliminations of the programs that help young people develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills, literacy and proficiency—the currency needed to be hired in our modern world.

The elephant in the room

Let’s start with the biggest concern: the budget proposes to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the sole federal funding source exclusively for afterschool. This program provides 1.6 million kids with innovative learning spaces after school.

Nearly 70 percent of parents with kids enrolled in afterschool programs report that their children receive some form of STEM learning opportunity in this setting. Not only that, 70 percent of all parents believe that afterschool programs should offer STEM activities and programming.

Don’t cut what works

Despite claims to the contrary, a great deal of widely available research illustrates the impact of afterschool programs, and substantial evidence documents STEM-specific outcomes. A recent multi-state study found that afterschool STEM programs are helping to close America’s skills gap. STEM Ready America, a recently-released compendium of articles from 40 experts, presents compelling evidence of the impact of afterschool STEM.

The Afterschool Alliance has long tracked outcomes and best practices in afterschool STEM programming, including a recent paper on the impacts of afterschool STEM. Our Afterschool Impacts Database offers a searchable, user-friendly collection of impacts data, and our STEM program profiles share examples of innovative afterschool STEM programs.

Additional proposed cuts in key areas for afterschool STEM

Collaboration between school and afterschool. The budget proposal does not mention the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, the new Title IV Part A block grant program authorized under ESSA that focuses heavily on STEM education, including in afterschool. This likely implies that no funding is sought for this program.

This is a huge disappointment. The activities authorized under this grant specifically supported well-rounded learning activities with a strong emphasis on STEM education and encouraged collaboration among personnel in schools, afterschool programs, and informal programs to better integrate programming and instruction in STEM subjects.

Professional development. The budget also eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II of ESSA), which supports teacher professional development. The loss is a blow to afterschool STEM because these funds offer a way to support joint professional development and collaborations between in-school and out-of-school educators.

Programs. In addition to drastic cuts at the Department of Education, the proposal eliminates the $115 million budget for NASA’s Office of Education. This amounts to just 0.5 percent of NASA’s overall budget and less than 0.003 percent of the federal budget.

MAR
16
2017

POLICY
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The president says afterschool doesn't work. That's just not true.

By Rachel Clark

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

This morning, President Trump unveiled his budget priorities for 2018. Among those priorities? Singling out afterschool funding for elimination.

The president’s budget justifies this devastating cut by claiming that “the programs lacks [sic] strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” But the evidence is clear: 21st Century Community Learning Centers across the country help our students reach their full potential.

Afterschool works: the evidence

  • In Texas’ 21st CCLC programs, students with both low and high attendance levels were more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The longer students were in the program, the greater the impact reducing disciplinary incidents and school-day absences.
  • A statewide longitudinal evaluation of the After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program—California’s high school component of the Community Learning Centers program—found that students participating in the ASSETs program received higher ELA and math assessment scores, and performed better on the ELA and math sections of the California High School Exit Examination than non-participants.
  • A statewide evaluation of Rhode Island’s 21st CCLC programs found that students participating in the program reported that they believed that the program helped them in academic and social/personal skill building.
  • Teachers of students participating in Wisconsin Community Learning Centers programs reported more than two-thirds improved their class participation, 60 percent saw improvements in their motivation to learn and 55 percent improved their behavior in class.

For additional details on these evaluations, download our 21st CCLC Statewide Evaluation Academic Highlights fact sheet.

Afterschool also shows returns on investment with reports from Minnesota, Vermont, Maryland, Oklahoma, and the national level showing that each dollar invested in afterschool saves up to $9 by increasing young people’s learning potential, improving student performance in school, and reducing crime and welfare costs. 

Want more evidence illustrating how Community Learning Centers and afterschool programs in general have a positive impact on student achievement and success? You’re in luck. Check out our 21st CCLC fact sheet; read After School Programs as an Oasis of Hope for Black Parents, a report co-authored by Gerard Robinson, now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; or delve into the wealth of information within Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, a compendium of studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders.

Communities without Community Learning Centers: the impact

In 2017, more than a million students are served by 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Kids and families in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have access to afterschool options that rely on this federal investment—and could be left in the cold if Community Learning Centers are eliminated.

What could this mean for families in your community? Find out how many thousands of children are currently served by Community Learning Centers in your state—and would be left without an afterschool program if the president’s budget proposal is enacted.

How can afterschool supporters fight back?

If enacted, the president’s budget could devastate more than a million families in all parts of the country. In addition to 21st CCLC, a wide range of other supports for families and children could face cuts as well. Fortunately, the battle has just begun: the president’s proposal faces hurdles in Congress, and there’s time for Congress to stand up for afterschool programs.  

To make sure our allies in Congress stand strong for afterschool funding, we need to tell them loud and clear: Americans support afterschool and summer learning programs! Take action now.

Do you represent a local, state or national organization? You can make an even bigger impact by signing our letter of support.

MAR
15
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: First-of-its-kind video series helps afterschool providers talk to kids about abuse

By Rachel Clark

By John Thoresen, CEO of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

More than one in six children suffer from physical abuse, and one in 10 children will be sexually abused—often by someone they know and trust. Yet, in spite of these shocking statistics, there have historically been few resources available to help afterschool providers talk with children about abuse.

That’s why we worked with nationally-recognized child advocates, educators, therapists and scholars to create the “Protect Yourself Rules” videos—a free, first-of-its-kind educational series. We engaged an executive of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats to develop the videos for children using non-threatening, animated characters similar to what they’re used to seeing outside the classroom on electronic devices, television and movie screens.

The animated videos educate school-aged children in grades K-6 about what to do when confronted with an abusive situation by emphasizing three simple rules: Shout. Run. Tell. The videos also reinforce lessons such as:

  1. Tell a Grown-Up
  2. It Doesn’t Matter Who It Is
  3. Hitting is Wrong
  4. Stranger Safety
  5. Internet Safe Choices
  6. Shout, Run, Tell

The series aims to empower children to protect themselves by helping them recognize abuse and giving them simple, memorable rules to make sure the abuse stops—or better yet, never starts.

The free videos are available for afterschool programs, summer programs, school classrooms, community organizations, religious groups, clubs, advocacy groups, Scouts, and other interested organizations. We also developed lesson plans to help afterschool program staff guide discussions with kids about the rules.

Visit fightchildabuse.org to download the free video series and accompanying lessons. Every child in an afterschool program needs this information and statistics would indicate that some of them—the faces behind the statistics—can’t wait.

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MAR
15
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Weekly Media Roundup: March 15, 2017

By Luci Manning

Catonsville Elementary School Community Service Group Expands (Baltimore Sun, Maryland)

Over the course of the school year, Westchester Elementary School students have run a candy drive for troops overseas, written thank-you notes to their teachers and compiled goodie bags for firefighters and police officers as part of a community service-focused afterschool program. EPIK Kids in Action shows the children ways they can give back to their community, preparing them for the 75 hours of service they need to log before they graduate high school. “Watching them serve and be excited about serving others is really cool,” teacher Maria Buker told the Baltimore Sun. “To see the big heart that’s inside of them, the fact that they want to do this and not run home and play video games, to make a human impact, you can’t put words on that.”

Citywide Poets Helps Detroit Youths Discover Themselves (Detroit Free Press, Michigan)

A poetry-focused afterschool program is building Detroit-area teens’ self-confidence by giving them a creative outlet and training them in writing and public speaking. Citywide Poets runs writing workshops after school and during the summer, offering students performance opportunities, pairing them with mentors and even helping them publish their poems. “I was a very shy child that didn’t like speaking or talking,” 16-year-old Wes Matthews told the Detroit Free Press. “I didn’t like my own writing. But after a while, I… [believed] in myself and the power of expressing yourself through poetry.”

Acquiring Hockey Skills and a Sense of Community, Youngsters Warm to Golden Knights (Las Vegas Sun, Nevada)

More than 60 After-School All-Stars students had a chance to learn hockey skills from the Vegas Golden Knights at a special event last week. Students met with team executives and played street hockey, oversized Jenga and beanbags with the NHL players. The Golden Knights partner with Toyota to run a youth hockey clinic in the area, and this event was another way for the team to engage with the community. “It has been a tremendous experience for the students,” ASAS executive director Jodi Manzella told the Las Vegas Sun. “For them to experience what it’s like to have partners in the community like the Golden Knights and Toyota to show the kids that there are people, businesses and organizations that want to invest in them. It’s truly priceless for the students.”

Oakley Library Haven for Teens at Afterschool Program (East Bay Times, California)

Students in Freedom High School, and their younger siblings and peers, now have a safe space to decompress after a long week at Oakley Library’s Teen Haven. The Friday afterschool program provides snacks and activities for the students before they head home for the weekend, giving them a place to spend time with their friends, meet new people and relax by playing games, doing crafts or watching movies. According to the East Bay Times, the program is free for students from sixth through 12th grade and is run by the Oakley Library Youth Squad.