As June presses on, temperatures are rising, kids are enjoying their freedom from school and air conditioners are being set to full blast. It can only mean one thing: summer is here.
One thing that shouldn’t be associated with the summer months though is a break from learning for children, and summer learning programs across the country are helping to fill the gap in education many students experience while school is out in the summer months. So as we all prepare for the summer dog days, it is important to remember to celebrate these programs and all of the great work they do for children and families. The Afterschool Alliance urges everyone to celebrate Summer Learning Day today, June 21. Hopefully, programs have scheduled fun events to promote their summer learning activities today, but if not, supporters are encouraged to schedule an event at a time that strategically supports their work, whether that time is during this week or afterwards. Summer learning programs do so much to promote student learning and development, so take some time today to support your local programs and let parents, local businesses and legislators know how important these programs are to your community.
In support of Summer Learning Day, the Afterschool Alliance is releasing new data on summer learning programs today. A new report entitled “Uncertain Times 2012: The State of Summer Learning Programs” conveys how the past year’s difficult economic climate has affected summer learning programs, providing a snapshot of attendance, availability and demand for summer learning programs throughout the country. Key findings from the study include:
- More than 6 in 10 summer programs reported operating at or over maximum capacity in 2011.
- 54 percent of summer programs expect enrollment in 2012 to be higher or much higher than enrollment in 2011.
- 17 percent of afterschool programs reported reducing or eliminating their summer programs due to a decrease or stagnation of funds.
- More than one-third of programs reported having a waiting list.
In the afterschool field, we all know that data is king. In fact, the Afterschool Alliance recently centered our entire Afterschool for All Challenge around research and evaluations. Data can be used to improve programs, promote accountability, discover program needs and help advocacy efforts. That's why a new set of tip sheets released this month by The Wallace Foundation stand as invaluable resources to those involved in afterschool and summer learning programs.
The tip sheets are meant to be used by city agencies, program staff, parents and advocates to help them use data to augment afterschool programs. They offer useful information on what types of data points are useful, how data should be collected and how that data is best put to use. Additionally, the tip sheets provide concrete examples of how programs across the country have used data to augment their afterschool efforts. For more information on the Wallace Foundation's "Afterschool Data: What Cities Need to Know" set of tip sheets, check out their press release or click here for the full report.
Each year the Afterschool for All Challenge brings together advocates form across the country to address afterschool’s most pressing issues, working with Congress to accrue more support for afterschool and advancing the field through thoughtful discussion. This year, the Challenge focused on a subject near and dear to my heart: research. Breakout sessions throughout the day resonated with the sentiment that research is what influences decision making and propels programs, but the importance of data and evaluation was most heavily touted in this year’s plenary entitled “Afterschool Works: Understanding the Evidence & Transforming Research into Action.” The session featured moderator and afterschool champion Dr. Terry Peterson, who kicked off the plenary by introducing the trailer from this year’s acclaimed documentary Brooklyn Castle, followed by some brief remarks about the importance of afterschool by the film’s producer Katie Dellamaggiore.
Following the trailer, which depicted an inspiring story about a successful afterschool chess program in a Brooklyn middle school, Dr. Peterson introduced some of the most compelling research in the afterschool field:
- A meta-analysis of 68 afterschool program studies conducted by Joseph Durlak and Roger Weissberg found that high quality afterschool programs are improving student’s attendance and behavior and raising academic achievement.
- An evaluation of Chicago’s successful Project Exploration STEM education program (whose founders, Gabe Lyon and Paul Serrano, were honored at the Challenge’s "Breakfast of Champions") found that 95 percent of students in the program graduate high school.
- Los Angeles’ EduCare afterschool programs showed a 90% graduation rate, compared to just a 60% rate for other students.
- Deborah Vandell at UC Irvine found that students in afterschool programs showed gains in work habits and math scores and a reduction in misconduct in class.
Survey link: www.surveymonkey.com/s/UncertainTimes2012
You can help support your favorite afterschool program by nominating them for a $10,000 award! That’s right – The 2012 MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award nomination process has begun.
If you’re unfamiliar with the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award, let me explain:
For the fifth year, the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation are partnering to develop and disseminate a series of issue briefs that highlight promising afterschool programs from across the country. For the third consecutive year, this year’s briefs will focus on programs that address topics related to middle school youth and we need your help to find programs that fit into one of the four issue brief topics listed below:
- Afterschool and Digital Learning - Programs that have demonstrated success with leveraging digital technology to facilitate engaging learning experiences, enhance technical skills and strengthen critical thinking across core subject areas.
- Afterschool and the Arts – Programs that have demonstrated success using the arts as means to strengthen self-confidence and self-expression, to build community, and to improve academic and skills development.
- Afterschool and Parent Involvement/Engagement – Programs that have demonstrated success in creatively engaging parents to help them become more involved in students' learning both in and outside of school.
- Afterschool and School Improvement – Programs that have successfully utilized School Improvement Grant funding to help promote positive change and improved academic outcomes in partnering schools.
The new MetLife Foundation/Afterschool Alliance Compendium is here! This week, with support from MetLife Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance released its fourth issue brief compendium entitled “Afterschool in Action: How Innovative Afterschool Programs Address Critical Issues Facing Middle School Youth” at the NAA Conference just outside of Dallas, TX. The compendium includes a compilation of four issue briefs that examine the vital role afterschool programs play in addressing important issues for middle schoolers, and this year we’ve added some new exciting graphics to the compendium and a more in-depth look at 2011 award-winning programs.
The four issue briefs address aligning afterschool with the regular school day, bullying prevention, service learning and promoting literacy. The real highlight of this compendium though may be the remarkable work done by the 2011 MetLife Innovator Award Recipients, which is detailed in in-depth program profiles throughout the document. Award recipients included: Kids Rethink New Orleans in New Orleans, LA; Higher Achievement in Washington, D.C.; Urban Arts/Project Phoenix in Oakland, CA; 21st Century PASOS in Gettysburg, PA; and America SCORES in Chicago, IL.
I encourage all afterschool advocates to read through our new compendium to find inspiration from some of the country’s most innovative programs and learn about how successful afterschool programs are helping middle schoolers traverse a complicated but critical period in their lives.
PS: For those of you eager to be featured in next year’s compendium, check our website in the upcoming weeks for news on the 2012 MetLife Afterschool Innovator Award nomination process. Good Luck!
Hey afterschool enthusiasts, have you heard? The C.S. Mott Foundation is supporting a new initiative under the leadership of Terry K. Peterson that will share the opportunities and potential of expanded learning opportunities in an upcoming compendium of more than 40 articles. In one of the compendium’s March articles, written by Joseph Durlak and Roger P. Weissberg, the two respected researchers summarize and explicate the highlights from their recent research findings. Durlak and Weissberg’s article entitled “Afterschool Programs That Follow Evidence-Based Practices to Promote Social and Emotional Development Are Effective” surveys the previous evidence base on afterschool and contends that the value of high quality programs to society is undeniable. The authors also show that early studies that were critical of afterschool programs were misguided in their attempt to collectively group all afterschool programs together, as not all programs are made in the same mold and offer a vast array of services to students. Instead, they argue, we should look at “what research-based design elements should be included to make [afterschool programs] more successful.” In their research, Durlak and Weisberg were able to identify four evidence-based practices that were predictive of academic and social success for students:
- Sequenced step-by-step staff training approach (S)
- Active forms of learning (A)
- Focused specific time and attention on skill development (F)
- Explicit, defined skills that are being promoted (E)
MetLife’s Survey of the American Teacher, which was just released today, is one of the most enlightening reports on U.S. education that has hit the Web so far this year, and it has some very interesting findings. Most notably, the survey shows that teachers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs, and at the Afterschool Alliance, we feel that those teachers need additional support to make a positive and rewarding impact on children in schools that are facing exceptionally difficult budget restrictions. Additionally, we found it particularly alarming that many teachers reported that their schools were eliminating social services, arts and afterschool programs, which offer additional assistance for students and often provide a reprieve for over-burdened teachers. While many of the survey’s findings are disheartening, we’re hopeful that the Survey of the American Teacher will promote awareness of the fact that America’s children, teachers and families are struggling to survive in these tough economic times and that more resources are necessary to help them weather the storm.
Key findings from the survey include:
- Teacher job satisfaction has dropped 15 points since 2009, from 59% who were very satisfied to 44% who are very satisfied, the lowest level in over 20 years.
- Three-quarters (76%) of teachers report that their school’s budget decreased during the past year.
- More than one-third (36%) of teachers report reductions or eliminations of programs in arts or music (23%), foreign language (17%) or physical education (12%) in the last year.
- A majority (63%) of teachers reports that class sizes have increased in the last year.
- Seven in ten (72%) parents and two-thirds (65%) of students worry about their family not having enough money for the things they need, and 62% of parents and 54% of students worry about the parents’ losing or not being able to find a job.
You can check out the entire survey on MetLife’s website.