By Jen Rinehart
Amanda Colecio, 13, shows off a robot that she helped build through the SHINE program. (AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS Copyright, Zubek-Miller Photography.)
Every August, the Afterschool Alliance encourages afterschool providers to think about inviting Members of Congress, who are back in their home districts for much of the month, to come visit programs. The Afterschool Alliance offers tools to help plan a site visit, case studies of past site visits, and Q & A blogs with providers who have successfully hosted visits to make it easy to host a policy maker at a program.
Last week, I joined Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) along with his chief of staff, a staff member from Senator Casey’s office, numerous state legislators and legislative staff and local superintendents for a visit to the SHINE Afterschool Program in Jim Thorpe, PA. The SHINE Afterschool Program, funded in part by a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers, started in three centers that served 90 students across two counties. This year, it will serve 1,200 students from 16 centers in Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties.
Creativity and flexibility are key to a successful site visit
SHINE is no stranger to organizing site visits, but they faced a unique challenge that other providers might also face in mid-late August: no students. SHINE offers summer programming, but it had ended by last week. In August, SHINE's model shifts to focus on home visits as they gear up for a new school year. So, SHINE did what they always do; they innovated. They invited a group of guests to Carbon Career & Technical Institute and arranged for staff, students and parents to give the invited guests a sample of what SHINE has to offer to students and families.
During the visit, we heard about the philosophy and quality principles behind SHINE, we experienced a home visit with one of the SHINE home visit teachers, we observed students engaging in activities similar to the opportunities they have during the school year, and we heard from a grandmother who is raising her grandchildren and values what SHINE has offered her grandkids over the years.
Policy makers praise the benefits of afterschool
Reflecting on his first visit to SHINE in 2011, Rep. Barletta said, “This program is exactly what we need to change the direction and lives of our children… Changing the direction and lives of our children is the best thing we can do for America.” Rep. Barletta views SHINE as not only a model program for Pennsylvania, but for our country. State Senator Yudichak talked about meeting children and parents who talked about how much SHINE empowered them and how impressed he was by the evidence based, data-driven program that has a success record spanning more than a decade. In his words, “SHINE is improving lives in the classroom, after school and in the community.”
After seeing students using computer design software to design and build cars, program robots and test out engineering skills by building bridges, it became clear why Barletta and Yudichak are such champions. In the end, it was a grandmother who stole the show, by revealing her heartfelt appreciation for SHINE and the help and safety it provides her grandchildren despite lots of challenges.
Congratulations to Rachel Strucko, Director of SHINE and the Pennsylvania Afterschool Network, PSAYDN, for getting state and federal policy makers and local media to see what SHINE is all about, and why state and federal investments in afterschool are so important.
By Jen Rinehart
This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released “A First Look” from the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which shows that students of color, students whose first language is not English and students with disabilities are not getting the same opportunities to learn as their counterparts who are white, whose first language is English or who do not have disabilities.
The data are from a survey of all public schools and school districts in the United States. The CRDC measures student access to courses, programs, instructional and other staff, and resources—as well as school climate factors, such as student discipline and bullying and harassment—that impact education equity and opportunity for students.
For the first time, CRDC also looks at chronic student absenteeism, and finds that more than 6.5 million students (13 percent) missed 15 or more days of school (nearly a month of school) during the 2013-14 academic year. The chronic absence data reveal differing rates of chronic absenteeism among subgroups of students:
- Within the high school group, chronic absence rates are 26 percent for American Indian or Alaska Native students, 22 percent for African American students, 21 percent for Multiracial, 25 percent for Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students and 20 percent for Latino students compared to 18 percent overall.
- Among elementary students, American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students are twice as likely to be chronically absent as white elementary school students.
- Children with disabilities are more likely to be chronically absent in both elementary and high school.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.