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In the Field Snacks
NOV
17
2016

IN THE FIELD
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New campaign encourages older adults to show up for kids

By Elizabeth Tish

Afterschool programs use many community partners to be successful, including adults in the communities they serve. Adult engagement with youth-serving organizations can offer a great benefit for both the organizations and youth involved.

Today, the Generation to Generation campaign is being launched by Encore.org. The campaign will mobilize 1 million people over the age of 50 to show up for kids, support innovative pilots to bring generations together in ways that make lives better for all, and amplify a positive conversation about intergenerational collaboration in America.

Generation to Generation will tell the stories of those already improving the lives of young people and will mobilize more adults 50+ to do the same through paid or volunteer roles. The campaign will work with a coalition of partner organizations who are already doing youth-focused work and could benefit from an infusion of experienced talent - organizations like Playworks, Jumpstart for Young Children, the Boys & Girls Club of America, MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Strive for College. Community-wide efforts to create intergenerational impact zones are planned in Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston, Seattle and elsewhere.

How can you be involved with Generation to Generation?

  1. Take action. Are you an adult over the age of 50 with an interest in using your experience to serve youth? Act now – find out if any local organizations are looking for volunteers.
  2. Get social. Join the Afterschool Alliance and Encore.org in celebrating today’s launch of the Generation to Generation campaign and stay tuned for more opportunities to engage with this mission.
  3. Share your story. Are you an adult over 50 with a compelling story about how you support young people? Submit your story and read others' inspiring stories about the impact they're making. 
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learn more about: Youth Development Community Partners
NOV
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Evaluation as a mission-driven investment

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the first post of the series, which explores evaluation lessons from Dallas Afterschool.

This post is written by Jason Spector, senior research & evaluation manager for After-School All-Stars, a national afterschool program serving more than 70,000 low-income, at-risk students across 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The After-School All-Stars of South Florida celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 with the Miami Marlins.

I recently left a meeting thinking I’m no longer doing the job I was hired to do. But for a professional evaluator of afterschool programs, change is a good thing.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) to launch our national evaluation department two and a half years ago, my primary goal was to measure and support ASAS’ outcomes as the organization entered into an expansion phase. While I currently maintain this responsibility, our national evaluation team is now focused on examining program quality as opposed to outcomes measurement. Why the change? Simply put, we realized our top priority was to boost our quality, because when we do, the impact and outcomes will follow. 

This type of a shift is not an easy decision for a nonprofit to make. As nonprofits move toward more advanced outcomes measurements to satisfy increasingly savvy funders, leaders everywhere are faced with some critical questions:

  1. Should I deepen my organization’s investment in evaluation?
  2. What can I expect to receive in return?

These questions carry an assumption that an investment in evaluation is inherently not an investment in your organization’s mission and programs. Furthermore, many program leaders assume that evaluations must yield large positive outcomes in order to attract new funders and compensate for the “cost” of not putting dollars directly into program operations. But this logic fails to consider the many benefits evaluations afford organizations. 

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog
OCT
26
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest Blog: Making room for flexibility in afterschool

By Robert Abare

Written by Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education and Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which administers YouthQuest, a high-quality afterschool program serving more than 2,000 students each year in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan.

When you walk into a fast food chain, you probably have a good idea of what to expect. The food, the service, the building’s layout—it’s all fairly predictable. Your experience at one location will be similar to your experience at another.

While that’s a great model for a restaurant franchise, it doesn’t work as well for youth programming. After all, many afterschool programs are offered at multiple sites, each with its own students, its own culture, its own strengths and its own challenges. One size does not fit all.  

At YouthQuest, each of our 15 sites follows the same framework, but how that framework is carried out can look very different based on the school. Three key factors that impact this include:

  1. The needs of the students. One of our sites serves two children who are hearing impaired. Rather than offer only select programming to these students, we’ve partnered with the day school to provide interpreters after school. This has allowed the students to take part in all of YouthQuest’s activities, including violin lessons.
  2. The needs of the school. One of our partner schools recently moved to a balanced calendar, or a calendar with a shorter summer and several short breaks throughout the school year.  This change meant that the calendar for the school's YouthQuest program had to change as well. As such, YouthQuest modified its program to match the day school’s schedule and will provide optional enrichment programming during these modified school breaks.
  3. Student voice and choice. Each YouthQuest site has its own advisory council, in which students make important decisions about program content, such as field trips and service learning projects. As a result, students feel a unique sense of ownership over the program.

That said, it’s important that the program remains consistent where it matters most. In our case, all sites support YouthQuest’s core curriculum, goals and mission. We continue to offer monthly professional development, share the same lesson plans between sites and meet regularly to ensure that all staff are on the same page.

So, while each site’s methods and program may vary, at the end of the day, we’ve all accomplished the same goal: providing students with fun, engaging programming that connects to the school day.

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learn more about: Guest Blog School Improvement
OCT
17
2016

IN THE FIELD
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HEPA standards keep kids nourished and active in Johnson County, Kansas

By Robert Abare

Written by Matt Freeman

Participants in Johnson County Parks and Recreation District's "Kids' Triathlon." Image via JCPRD on Facebook.

In Kim Chappelow-Lee’s telling, “the graham cracker community” doesn’t change its ways easily. In her role as Children’s Services Manager for the Johnson County, Kansas, Park and Recreation District, Chappelow-Lee challenged her team to adopt Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards within the district’s 30 afterschool sites, which collectively serve 1,800 children.

Particularly on the healthy eating front, however, the transition required overcoming a certain resistance to change. “We’ve totally revamped our food service and snack menu,” she explains. “But it wasn’t easy. It’s much simpler to serve processed, packaged foods to large groups than fresh items.” She says that program directors and staff were both “reluctant to give up convenience, and skeptical of how children would receive such a drastic change.”

To get over that hump, Chappelow-Lee’s team sought help from a nutritionist at the local health department, who went through the existing menus with staff and a nutritionist, bringing an outside and expert voice to the conversation and reinforcing the need to move away from the status quo.

“We can now honestly say that we’re serving healthy snacks and that there’s always fresh fruit or vegetables on the menu,” Chappelow-Lee says. That marks a significant change from a menu that was heavy on graham crackers, cereal and other processed food. “Those kinds of items were easy to get at the Sam’s Club, and easy to store. But it left us feeding children a lot of goldfish crackers. We had a ‘snack-em’ mentality, where we wanted to get this over within five minutes or so.”

“We can now honestly say that we’re serving healthy snacks and that there’s always fresh fruit or vegetables on the menu.” 

As a result of HEPA, snacks are now incorporated into the wind-down period at the beginning of each afternoon. Food is served family style, and staff encourage children to linger and unwind from the school day. “We’ve also incorporated some cooking clubs where they prepare food one day and consume it the next. They might create a ranch dip and prepare carrots, celery and sliced peppers. Last winter, they made a lot of quick and easy soups and stews to cook in the crock pot for the next day. And we’ve gotten rid of the ‘let’s get this over with’ attitude. That’s been a very positive change.”

She adds that while healthier foods are a bit more expensive for the program, “it’s not nearly as budget-prohibitive as we thought it would be, so it’s not breaking the bank.”

OCT
6
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How a summer learning program helped one community's literacy problem

By Jodi Grant

For the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), English language literacy is both an essential and a challenging aspect of students’ learning. More than 91 percent of SAUSD’s 53,000 students are Hispanic and 60 percent are learning English as a second language. More than 90 percent are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch.  It’s clear that developing literacy skills is crucial for these students to succeed in school, career and life.

Many students fall behind over the summer, especially in reading. The National Summer Learning Association reports that every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading while their higher-income peers make slight gains… By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2 1/2 to 3 years behind their peers.

Parents seek to overcome the “summer slide” through summer learning programs. According to our America After 3PM household survey, 62 percent of California parents say they want to enroll their children in a summer learning program, 77 percent agree that summer learning activities help kids maintain academic skills and 90 percent support public funding for these programs.

Teaching literacy through the power of publishing

Leaders at the SAUSD summer learning program, Engage 360°, were looking for a creative way to help students make gains in writing and literacy, so they turned to the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS program. It helps young people in grades K-12 to become writers, and therefore more comprehensive readers, by allowing them to author and publish original stories inspired by artwork on pre-illustrated (yet wordless) children’s books. Engage 360° operates at SAUSD’s elementary school locations, serving approximately 4,000 students over the summer.

“We wanted to counteract learning loss over the summer and make it fun for kids to work on their literacy skills and English language proficiency,” said Michael Baker, SAUSD’s District Coordinator of Extended Learning Programs.

Through collaborative and independent processes, kids in the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS craft original stories—including characters, plotlines and setting descriptions. Their stories are saved online for students and educators to access and then printed professionally.

“WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS disguises literacy education as fun,” said Meredith Scott Lynn, WRiTE BRAiN’s Founder & CEO. “It’s a project-based approach to literacy. Kids in the program have to invent real worlds for the imaginary characters in the books. They have to solve the real world problems posed by working in a group comprised of individuals with differing opinions and perspectives, and then create the processes by which the imaginary characters in their books solve their own problems.”

Baker praised the program’s structured approach to promoting creativity. “One of the major hurdles kids face when writing is the question of ‘what do I write about?’ WRiTE BRAiN addresses this question in a systematic way, guiding students step-by-step as they work together and independently to build valuable 21st century skills.”

“When kids go home, they all want to talk about their books with their parents,” Baker added. "They take ownership of their work and are proud of it.”

OCT
4
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Promising practices for social and emotional learning

By Robert Abare

Written by Haviland Rummel, Executive Director of the Susan Crown Exchange (SCE).

How do young people learn to thrive? This is the driving question behind SCE’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Challenge, which sheds new light on how afterschool programs can equip teens with valuable social and emotional skills. We know that skills like emotion management and problem-solving are important for life success, but less is known about the strategies and practices around how to build these skills in afterschool organizations.

The SEL Challenge brought together experts in youth programming, developmental science, program evaluation and performance measurement in a two-year learning community to explore how six SEL skill sets—emotion management, empathy, teamwork, responsibility, initiative, and problem solving—are best cultivated in teens.

The programs ranged from the fairly large, such as the Voyageur Outward Bound program in St Paul, MN, where 18 fulltime staff take young people of all ages into wilderness adventures, to the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, where six staff engage the city’s youth through hands-on, programming inspired by the heritage of the sea. Although the content of these programs couldn’t be more varied, each in its own way helps students develop motivation, coping skills, agency and self-awareness. The close relationships and self-confidence that result are more important than the content.

Each of these programs is helping to turn kids into well well-rounded adults with skills to navigate life. We found that all children—no matter where they live or what they’ve been through—can deepen their social and emotional growth. Most of all, these young learners taught us that these programs really change the trajectory of their lives, unveiling their abilities to endure and advance.

This work is summarized in a free field guide called Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices for Social & Emotional Learning and accompanying website, SELpractices.org, which offer youth-serving organizations of all types strategies, case studies, resources and tools to remix and adapt the SEL practices in their own settings. The guide supports expert practitioners and novices alike in improving the intentionality and impact of social and emotional skill building and assessment. We are keenly aware that this is new territory and a first draft, but we’re clear that the programs that we studied hold profound lessons to help kids become responsible and grounded adults, ready to function in the workplace or in college, and certainly as citizens.

Later this month, the SEL Challenge Technical Report highlighting the methodology and findings of the two-year study will be released by the David P. Weikart Center. We invite you to join a Thought Leader Roundtable webinar discussion at 2 pm ET on October 20 to learn more about the findings and their implications for policy and practice. You can also download the SEL field guide for free at SELpractices.org.

SEP
28
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Tips for getting started from Dallas Afterschool

By Robert Abare

Program evaluation can be an overwhelming and intimidating undertaking for afterschool program providers. There are questions ranging from where to start to what to do with evaluation results and everything in-between that program providers need to think about. To answer some of the common questions raised by afterschool program providers about evaluations and to help make evaluations more approachable, the Afterschool Alliance has started a new blog series,"Evaluating afterschool," on program evaluation best practices. For this blog series, the Afterschool Alliance turns to program providers in the field who can offer tips and lessons learned on their evaluation journey.

The first blog of this series is written by Rachel Johns, the research and evaluation manager at Dallas Afterschool in Dallas, Texas. Dallas Afterschool promotes, expands and improves the quality of afterschool and summer programs in low income neighborhoods in our community.

This spring, Dallas Afterschool released findings from the 2014-2015 school year as part of an ongoing, engaged evaluation process. Our dynamic partnership with the Center on Research and Evaluation at Southern Methodist University has allowed us to explore questions about how to improve the quality of afterschool programs effectively and efficiently, and how the quality of an afterschool program might affect students in our context. As we enter our fourth year of this evaluation, we'd like to share some of what we have learned in the process.         

Considerations for practitioners

While an evaluation as extensive as Dallas Afterschool’s may not be practical for all organizations due to financial or human capacity restraints, there are many ways to enhance your benefit from any evaluation process.

  1. Clearly define the questions you want answered and circle back to them often. These questions are the guidepost for your evaluation and can help keep you focused on the pieces of data and the analyses that matter most. Evaluation becomes less useful when it lacks direction or tries to address too many questions.
  2. Plan for more time than you think you need. If you know what questions your evaluation is asking and what data needs to be collected to answer those questions, then you have a great start. Collecting your own data can make scheduling simple, but if you rely on colleagues to collect some of it, plan for an extra week buffer. Competing priorities can make data collection fall to the back burner, but good data collection is essential for a useful evaluation. Additionally, the amount of time it takes to clean that data to make it ready for analysis can be hard to estimate. When data is derived from many different sources or is collected inconsistently, you never know what you might find or need to correct.
  3. Regularly monitor your data to save a headache in the end. Especially if several people are collecting and entering data, regular monitoring of the data can give you the opportunity to retrain before a lot of time is wasted on data “cleaning” and correcting work that has already been done.
  4. Provide more support than you expect people will need. Some people may not need training or support, but you never know who will. You may need to document protocols for data collection, provide periodic trainings, or help staff and stakeholders to understand the process and the results.

Leveraging a university partner

Dallas Afterschool partners with a local university to access expertise in evaluation design and analysis, as well as to enhance our self-reflection with external perspectives. Though choosing a university partner and engaging with them throughout the evaluation process may be daunting or even confusing, consider the following to maximize your organization’s benefit and enjoyment of the process.

  1. Know what you want. Do you simply need a report for a specific grant requirement, or are you looking for a thought partner to challenge your assumptions about your program and help you make it even better? Many evaluators jump at the chance to help a program that truly desires to improve and is willing to engage with them throughout the entire process.
  2. Develop a symbiotic relationship. Find out what research the university is interested in doing that your organization might be able to help with. Are they working on anything that might benefit your field or an issue related to your population? By opening your program to engage in research or evaluations that align with your mission but extend beyond your own evaluation, you can develop a relationship with your University partner that is beneficial to both entities and potentially addresses systemic issues that your program could not affect on its own.
  3. Trust their academic expertise but challenge the practical application of results. University partners can provide excellent direction on the design and methods of your evaluation, but you know your population best. If they propose an angle for the evaluation that doesn’t seem especially useful to your program or its participants, push back and work together to find an angle that does. Evaluators want their work to be used to help programs and the people they serve, so don’t be shy.
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learn more about: Evaluations Community Partners
SEP
27
2016

IN THE FIELD
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New trends in afterschool covered at 21st CCLC Summer Institute

By Elizabeth Tish

This past July, the U.S. Department of Education held the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) 2016 Summer Institute in Phoenix, AZ, where presenters shared their valuable experiences and insights about how to develop, implement and sustain successful 21st CCLC afterschool programs

The Afterschool Alliance team presented on a number of topics:

  • The state of 21st CCLC. For the Institute’s opening plenary session, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance Jodi Grant joined Rhonda Lauer of Foundations, Inc. and Sylvia Lyles of the U.S. Department of Education to outline the current status of 21st CCLC. Their presentation primarily focused on the recent passage of the new national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and how the law aims to improve the education and afterschool landscapes.
  • Juvenile justice. Executive Director Jodi Grant also joined Marcel Braithwaite of the Police Athletic League and Marcia Dvorak of the Kansas Enrichment Network in a breakout session on investing in afterschool and juvenile justice partnerships. Their presentation explored the current research on juvenile crime and the ways afterschool programs can get involved to make communities safer.
  • New science standards. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Manager for the Afterschool Alliance Melissa Ballard joined Rachel Chase of the Hunter Case 21st CCLC program to present on the Next Generation Science Standards and their implications in afterschool. These standards for STEM learning have already been adopted by many states and school districts across the country.

Resources from presentations at the 21st CCLC Summer Institute have just now become available! You download them on the 2016 21st CCLC Summer Institute website