We in the afterschool & summer learning field have long known that our programs can play a vital role in helping to develop the social and emotional skills of the youth we serve. Afterschool programs provide safe, supportive environments for youth to explore their passions, build up their collaborative skills, engage in critical thinking, and learn other critical skills like self-regulation and perseverance.
So we’re excited that the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (“the Commission”) released a new brief, “Building Partnerships in Support of Where, When, & How Learning Happens” which makes a strong case for the important role that out-of-school time programs and other youth development organizations play in the education system.
Whereas much of the Commission’s previous work has centered around the question of how learning happens, this new brief expands the question to include a much broader range of learning environments to help address the questions of where and when learning happens. Focused primarily on an audience of school and district leaders, the brief asserts that “youth development partners can play an essential role in moving the integration of social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development from the periphery to the mainstream of American education.”
In this comprehensive look at the where and when of learning, the Commission quickly came to recognize the critical role that youth development organizations play in communities around the country, and that they are an invaluable ally for schools and districts as they work to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for the youth they serve. The brief includes a set of five broad recommendations for leveraging partnerships with youth development organizations, primarily targeted at school and district leaders who are looking to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for the youth they serve:
The brief asserts that K-12 leaders should invite youth development partners to help “define a shared vision of student success” around social and emotional development, which will “[promote] consistency across learning settings.”
The brief also prioritizes the development of adult capacity not just in schools but also throughout the education ecosystem, noting that “every adult who interacts with students during the day and throughout the year can contribute to a thriving learning environment.” The brief suggests that “capacity-building efforts… must ensure that the adults in all settings, whether paid or volunteer, understand the roles they can play” in supporting youth.
Noting that 35 states already have quality standards in place for afterschool programs, the report suggests that developing a shared vision, systems, and supports can help “schools and youth development organizations to align their continuous improvement processes and strengthen adult social and emotional learning practice.”
Given that “partnership requires an intentional outreach and engagement strategy,” the brief suggests that schools should ensure that there is a “dedicated staff person” to “ensure that the right partners are coming together to accomplish shared goals.” This role can differ from place to place – in some schools this may be a family resource coordinator, whereas in others it may be a 21st Century Community Learning Center site coordinator. Having dedicated staff to ensure that communication and coordination between partners is consistent and effective is vital to ensuring that all youth have access to high quality learning experiences both during and beyond the school day.
Most critically, the brief notes that “the youth development sector needs increased and stable funding” in order to “be effective partners in supporting social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development.” Given that youth development organizations are often underfunded, making both “sustainability and growth… elusive.”
Read the full brief here.
This post originally appeared in Education Week on October 23, 2018. A link to the original post can be found here. For this post, Dan Gilbert, project manager at the Afterschool Alliance,...
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