Earlier this month, Champions® and the National AfterSchool Association released their second annual “Out-of-School Time Survey.” The survey found an overwhelming majority of elementary and middle school superintendents believe in the academic, social and behavioral benefits afterschool programs provide to their students. In addition to viewing afterschool programs as an environment where children can improve their core academic skills—such as reading, math and science—96 percent of superintendents agree that the most important afterschool programs improve study skills and more than 9 in 10 superintendents surveyed agree that the most important afterschool programs increase students’ social interactions and engagement (92 percent). More than 4 in 5 superintendents say that the most important afterschool programs are those that offer activities not present during the traditional school day (82 percent).
A key take away from this survey is that school superintendents understand the true value of afterschool programs and recognize that schools and students benefit from support of afterschool programs. Schools aren’t alone in the charge to ensure that all students receive a quality and well-rounded education. Afterschool programs are able and willing partners to prepare students for success in school, career and life.
My youngest brother absolutely hated reading when he was in elementary school. And then he was introduced to the Harry Potter series in middle school. Suddenly he couldn’t get enough of reading. Harry Potter was his gateway into the world of books. When he finished with the series, he proactively looked for other books that he would enjoy. His teachers commented that he was more attentive in class and making gains in his studies. It seems too simple to be true, but sometimes introducing kids to interesting and engaging reading materials can get them hooked on reading—a skill that helps foster academic benefits and positive attitudes toward school, career and life.
The recently released joint issue brief by Scholastic Family and Community Engagement (FACE) and the Afterschool Alliance explores the role of reading in a child’s life, and the unique ways afterschool programs can incorporate reading into their curricula and start kids on the path toward a lifelong love of reading. “The Life-Enhancing Benefits of Reading in Out-of-School Programs” points to research that demonstrate the number of positive outcomes associated with avid reading, such as academic gains, increased drive to do well in school and improved self-esteem.
“Perhaps the most critical decision parents make in balancing their work and home life is choosing the type of care to provide for their children while they work.” We at the Afterschool Alliance couldn’t agree more with this statement by Lynda Laughlin, author of a Census Bureau report released last week analyzing child care patterns and costs. A positive and encouraging finding of the report is that the percentage of school-age kids who have no regular child care arrangement—kids in self-care—has decreased, and this is particularly true of children with a single, employed parent.
“Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011” examined the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data to determine the child care arrangements of preschoolers (children under 5) and school-age kids (children ages 5 to 14) and found that between 1997 and 2011, the percentage of school-age children in self-care who lived with a single, employed parent decreased from 24 percent to 14 percent. One explanation offered for this decrease was increased investment in afterschool programs. This rationale is highly probable, given that federal funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers—the only federal funding dedicated exclusively to before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs—was first appropriated $40 million in 1998, and has grown to $1.1 billion for FY2013 and serves approximately 1.1 million kids.
For D.C. locals, April brings to mind cherry blossoms and the start of spring weather. For the Afterschool Alliance, April means it’s time to release the new MetLife Foundation and Afterschool Alliance compendium! This week, we are disseminating “Afterschool in Action: Innovative Afterschool Programs Supporting Middle School Youth” at the National AfterSchool Association Annual Convention in Indianapolis, IN. This compendium features four issue briefs that explore the critical role quality afterschool programs play in meeting the needs of middle schoolers, their families and their communities. The issue briefs address arts enrichment in afterschool, the role of afterschool supporting successful parent engagement efforts, afterschool programs promotingmiddle school improvement efforts, and digital media and learning in afterschool.
In keeping with the tradition started last year, we have once again included in-depth profiles of the five Afterschool Innovator Award winners, including a historical overview of the program, main sources of funding and their recommendations for other programs. The award winners—The Wooden Floor in Santa Ana, CA; Latino Arts Strings & Mariachi Juvenil Program in Milwaukee, WI;Kid Power Inc.,—The VeggieTime Project in Washington, D.C.; Parma Learning Center in Parma, ID; and Green Energy Technologies in the City in Lansing, MI—share the inspirational work they are taking on with their middle school students, giving readers an in-depth look at each program’s mission, theory of change, curriculum, and institutional growth and development.
We know, based on numerous evaluations of 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), that children who participate in these afterschool programs, especially children who regularly attend the programs, show improvement in their academic performance, engagement in school and overall behavior. The recently released report by American Institutes for Research (AIR), Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Year 2 Evaluation Report, adds to the body of evidence that shows afterschool programs are making a positive impact on children’s school day performance.
AIR’s evaluation found that students participating in the Texas 21st CCLC program—also known as Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE)—saw improvements in their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and math scores, fewer disciplinary incidents than non-participating students, fewer school absences, and an increased likelihood of being promoted to the next grade. One statistic I found to be especially impressive was regardless if a student regularly attended the ACE program, participants in 9th grade through 11th grade were significantly more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The report found that for students who attended the program 30 to 59 days, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 79 percent. For students who attended the program 60 days or more, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 97 percent.
The above statistic transitions nicely to another key finding of the study: regular attendance in the ACE program matters. Students who attended the ACE program for 60 days or more demonstrated better outcomes than their peers who participated in the program for 30 to 59 days. Students who attended the ACE program more frequently showed greater improvement in their TAKS reading and math scores, lower disciplinary incidents, fewer absences from school and a higher rate of grade promotion. AIR reported that when compared to students who attended the program for 30 to 59 days, the grade promotion rate for students who participated in the ACE program for 60 days or more was 23 percent to 40 percent higher.
Last week Alliance for Excellent Education hosted a webinar on the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership. The panel—moderated by Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia—included Laurie Barron, EdD, Principal, Smokey Road Middle School (GA); Adam Gray, Mathematics Teacher, Boston Latin School; John Jenkins, EdD, Regional Director of New York, School Leaders Network; Dana Markow, PhD, Vice President, Youth and Education Research, Harris Interactive; and Dennis White, Chief Executive Officer and President, MetLife Foundation.
It was a great discussion that featured a variety of leaders in the education field and focused on the ever growing responsibilities and challenges that school leaders face. My biggest take away from both the webinar and the survey is that as principals and teachers deal with increasing responsibilities and shrinking school budgets, and as job satisfaction among teachers and principals decreases, the role of afterschool programs is now more important than ever. Afterschool programs can be a vital partner for schools; providing instrumental support by offering additional learning opportunities to students and creating an environment where students can build on the lessons learned during the school day.
A second important piece that stood out to me in the conversation and the survey is the growing role of the Common Core State Standards in the schools. While almost all principals and teachers say that they are knowledgeable about the Common Core State Standards and are confident that teachers have the ability to teach the Common Core, a majority of both groups believe that implementing the Common Core is challenging for school leaders. As a number of schools continue to work to align their curriculum with the Common Core, it is an opportune time for afterschool programs to think about their possible contributions to support the Common Core and the part they can play to help teachers, principals and school leaders implement the Common Core.
Last week got off to an exciting start for me. Usually on a Monday morning at 8:00 a.m., I’m on the Red Line train on my way to work. But last Monday I was at the Building a Grad Nation Summit, organized by America’s Promise Alliance here in Washington, D.C., sitting in a packed ballroom listening to Gen. Colin Powell, founding chair of America’s Promise Alliance and Alma Powell, chair of America’s Promise Alliance convey the importance of coming together as a nation to prepare youth to be our future leaders.
This year’s Grad Nation Summit is part of America’s Promise Alliance’s campaign to end the high school dropout crisis and ready youth for college and their careers. The opening plenary began with encouraging statistics from the recently released “Building a Grad Nation” report:
- Between 2006 and 2010, high school graduation rates have increased five points,
- Wisconsin and Vermont are the first two states that have reached the goal of 90% high school graduation rates, and
- There are fewer dropout factories, and fewer students attending them, in 2012 compared to 2011.
Despite these promising developments, challenges persist. The national graduation rate is still below 80%, with some state graduation rates as low as 58%. We need to do much more if we want to ready students for success in college and their careers. It was exciting to hear so many different perspectives about the importance of reaching the goal of a 90% graduation rate by 2020 and what goes into building a grad nation. It was estimated that if we had reached a 90% graduation rate, the additional graduates from a single class would have earned $5.3 billion in income and generated more than 37,000 jobs. The audience heard from research experts like Dr. Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Angela Duckworth, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania; leaders from the business community like Laysha Ward, president of community relations at Target and Beth Shiroishi, vice president of sustainability and philanthropy at AT&T; and special guests like Former First Lady Laura Bush.