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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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Snacks by Jen Rinehart
JUL
9
2015

RESEARCH
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Infographic: Afterschool helps close the opportunity gap

By Jen Rinehart

A recent article in Washington Monthly highlighted the important role that afterschool programs play in closing the opportunity gap. That article could not have come at a better time, as Congress is working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which includes 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the nation’s only federal investment dedicated to afterschool and summer programs. Like all of the initiatives included in ESEA, 21st CCLC is intended to support educational opportunity fairness across places – to ensure that all children, regardless of zipcode, have access to quality afterschool learning experiences that keep kids safe, support school success and help working families.

Today the Afterschool Alliance is releasing a new infographic that pulls together research from America After 3PM and other sources to illustrate how afterschool helps close the opportunity gap. Like other parents who have children in afterschool and summer programs, I have first-hand experience with how afterschool programs can help build skills like collaboration and problem solving through structured interactions with peers and caring adults. These aren’t just nice to have skills, research shows that they are critical to academic achievement and success in life as well.

JUN
25
2015

RESEARCH
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Social-emotional learning heats up

By Jen Rinehart

Along with the soaring temperatures of summer, June brought a focus on the importance of social-emotional learning and the role of afterschool in supporting skills and mindsets like collaboration, responsible decision making, problem solving, citizenship and resilience. 

The Afterschool Alliance participated in a convening led by the National Afterschool Association in mid-June that focused on the landscape of social-emotional learning in afterschool and summer programs and how the afterschool field can better articulate its important role in supporting social-emotional learning.

It was an inspiring conversation, with several national providers highlighting their efforts in this area and researchers highlighting the growing evidence base showing how critical social-emotional learning is for youth success.

That meeting was followed by the release of The Wallace Foundation-funded Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, which makes a research-driven case that successful youth development requires both academic and social-emotional learning. It illustrates how learning is shaped by children’s interactions with the world and the adults around them, and how they make meaning of their experiences. 

With the social-emotional learning conversation heating up, now is a great time for afterschool providers to tell their social-emotional learning story—how do you support social-emotional learning in your afterschool and summer program and what help do you need in order to keep up that work and to talk to stakeholders about the importance of social-emotional learning?

You can be a part of the social-emotional learning conversation today by completing this brief survey. As a thank you for your time, you'll be entered to win one of four $50 Amazon gift cards. 

JUN
24
2015

RESEARCH
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Learning and development: It's academic and much more

By Jen Rinehart

A new Wallace Foundation funded report, Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, pulls together decades of research from across a number of fields to illustrate that children need more than academic knowledge alone to succeed in life.  

The developmental framework highlights four foundational components – (1) self-regulation, (2) knowledge and skills, (3) mindsets and (4) values – and describes how these components are essential to success and are shaped by each young person’s developmental experiences and relationships in multiple settings,  including home, school and organized activities, like afterschool and summer learning programs.   

The report also emphasizes how the foundational components interact to affect learning and development and how ineffective it is to target only one component in isolation.  As a former teacher with a master’s degree in human development and a long history of working in the afterschool field, I was especially drawn to this excerpt highlighting how a narrow focus on content knowledge in isolation actually undermines learning and development:

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learn more about: Youth Development
APR
15
2015

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Programs know what makes 21st CCLC work and have data to back it up

By Jen Rinehart

A few weeks ago we began highlighting stories of how 21st Century Community Learning Centers are providing high quality after school learning and enrichment for children and youth across America. We started with a story from Kingfisher, Oklahoma followed by Deborah Vandell highlighting the growing afterschool research base. This week, Ed Week jumped in on the action with a story about the 21st CCLC program in Walla Walla, Washington. Below is the latest in the series from Shannon Stagman, Program Director of Evaluation Services at TASC (The After-School Corporation). TASC, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing education and enrichment opportunities to kids in underserved schools, serves as an external evaluator to nearly one-third of 21st CCLC programs in New York City.

As longtime evaluators of numerous 21st Century Community Learning Centers, TASC has seen many programs in action. Features that are always present in high-quality programs include strong school partnerships, dedicated staff and a deep commitment to the academic success and social-emotional wellbeing of students. We asked the directors of two of the grants we evaluate to share their perspective on what makes for a great program.

“A great 21st CCLC program is a vibrant, safe space for creative learning,” said Rachel Chase, Program Director of Hunter CASE, which provides 21C programming at three elementary and middle school sites in the Bronx. “After-school programs offer opportunities for self-expression via art, theater and dance; physical activity via sports and games; and academic support offered with fun, skill-building learning. 21st CCLC allows us to expand learning beyond lectures and examinations; we have the freedom and flexibility to teach students about engineering careers by creating polymers, instill a lifelong relationship with books by traveling to our local library, and learn math skills by breaking codes.”

This flexibility and creativity in programming leads to strong outcomes, with participants at two sites performing three times better in math and two times better in English Language Arts in comparison to students in similar after-school programs.

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APR
2
2015

RESEARCH
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21st CCLC: Changing what and how students learn

By Jen Rinehart

Of the 10.2 million students in afterschool programs, more than 1.6 million attend programs funded by 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to supporting before school, afterschool and summer learning opportunities for children in low-income communities.  With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on the horizon, policy makers are looking closely at federal investments and what differences those investments are making.  Fortunately for children and families benefiting from 21st CCLC, there is a wealth of good news for policy makers to uncover about how 21st CCLC programs keep kids safe and healthy, inspire learning and help working families.  As Karen Pittman, co-founder and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, and Charles Smith, executive director of the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality recently wrote, 21st CCLC is “the $1.2 billion program that changed America’s approach to afterschool.” 

In a series of blogs, we’ll profile the efforts that are underway across the country to support quality in 21st CCLC.  Below is the first in that series: a guest blog from Sonia Johnson, Oklahoma State Department of Education 21st CCLC coordinator.  This example from Oklahoma nicely illustrates Pittman and Smith’s point that 21st CCLC is not just changing where and when students learn, but also what and how they learn.   

Throughout this school year, a group of 24 middle school students in Kingfisher, Oklahoma have been teaming up to design a spacesuit capable of protecting a high-altitude pilot or astronaut from the low-pressure environment of a vacuum.  Through a NASA Space Challenge led by a highly qualified teaching staff, students have explored the Engineering Design Process, interacted with NASA scientists, investigated how the human body reacts in the vacuum of space and developed an understanding of the effects of a low-pressure environment on objects.  All this took place after the school day ended.

In Oklahoma, more than 16,000 students each year participate in 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) programs like the one in Kingfisher.  In 2014, 875 staff—primarily school-day teachers—stayed afterschool in Oklahoma to ensure student success.  Programs were available in 60 school districts at 96 sites funded by 21st CCLC grants in partnership with 840 community partners.

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FEB
9
2015

POLICY
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Afterschool programs at risk of losing federal funds

By Jen Rinehart

Now more than ever before, members of Congress need to hear from you.  With bills in the House and Senate eliminating dedicated afterschool funding and 21st Century Community Learning Centers facing extinction it's crucial that we have a diverse and broad set of voices telling Congress that afterschool programs are essential to student success.

The next few weeks are critical.  Take a moment to send an email to your representatives or to call their offices.  Busy?  It only takes a second to tweet out the call to #Invest3to6 and urge members of Congress to make investments in afterschool programs, not cuts:

#AfterschoolWorks for 10 million kids—cuts to #21stCCLC put them at risk. #Invest3to6, don’t cut! http://bit.ly/17QWuQV 

Click here to tweet this!

To make the biggest impact, be sure to tag your representatives when you tweet and post—look up your representatives here, then find their Twitter handle on our list.

What to do next: Make plans to join us in Washington, D.C. in March to deliver the message in person at the 2015 Afterschool for All Challenge — the registration deadline has been extended to February 17.

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DEC
22
2014

RESEARCH
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New report: Ready for Fall?

By Jen Rinehart

December is about the time I start thinking about summer.  Not because I don’t enjoy the cold, but because it's when I register my daughter for her summer program to make sure that she doesn’t miss out on all the fun, enrichment and learning that comes with participating in summer programs.  Research shows that my family is not alone in our need for summer programs.  According to America After 3PM, more than half of families want their children to participate in summer learning programs. 

Ready for Fall?, a new report from the RAND Corporation and The Wallace Foundation, sheds some light on why families value summer learning programs so much.  RAND found that students attending voluntary, school district-led summer learning programs entered school in the fall with stronger mathematics skills than their peers who did not attend the programs.  In fact, students in the summer learning programs began the following school year with the equivalent of more than one-fifth of a year’s growth in math skills.   

The RAND research includes summer learning programs in five urban areas and examines whether and how two consecutive summers of voluntary, district-led summer programs—offering academic instruction and enrichment activities like arts and field trips— help boost low-income students’ success in school.

The RAND study also highlights some of the program practices associated with student success and offers recommendations based on those practices.  Among their recommendations:

  • Offer programs that operate five-to-six weeks and, if math outcomes are a goal, provide 60 to 90 minutes of mathematics each day.
  • Strongly encourage consistent student attendance, protect time for academic instruction and help teachers maximize instructional time inside the classroom.
  • Select reading teachers for summer programs carefully, choosing effective reading teachers with grade-level experience in either the sending or receiving grade.
  • In terms of student achievement in reading, set clear expectations for student behavior, ensuring consistent application across teachers, and develop methods of maintaining positive student behavior in class. 

This is the first in a series of reports from this research.  The next report will look at the effect of one summer of programming on achievement, attendance and behavior and subsequent reports will share two years of impact data.  Collectively, these reports will helps us all better understand how to design and implement summer learning programs, what outcomes the programs are likely to produce and what practices are associated with success.

Check out this video for more on the research findings and the importance of making sure that all students are ready for fall.

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OCT
23
2014

RESEARCH
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Afterschool across three cities: New data from America After 3PM

By Jen Rinehart

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of afterschool providers, funders and advocates about the new America After 3PM data—research that shows more kids than ever are in afterschool programs, but that the unmet demand for programs is also at its highest ever.  Each time I talk to folks about the 2014 findings, a new aspect of America After 3PM grabs my attention.  For instance, the finding that for every one child in an afterschool program now, two more would be enrolled if programs were available.  Or the findings that show that low-income and minority youth are more likely to be in afterschool programs and are also more likely to enroll if more programs were available. 

Most recently I spoke at a conference with Audrey Hutchinson from the National League of Cities, and naturally my attention drifted to what America After 3PM tells us about afterschool in cities.  We have data from three urban communities available—Washington D.C., New York City and Pittsburgh/Allegheny County, PA.  Aside from all being on the east coast, these three communities are quite different in many respects—size, both in terms of population and square miles; industry and workforce; numbers and ethnicity of school-age children and more. 

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learn more about: America After 3PM