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Afterschool Policy Snacks
SEP
12
2016

POLICY
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Afterschool & Law Enforcement: New tools for working with school resource officers

By Erik Peterson

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present this post as part of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement blog series. For more information on the ways afterschool programs are partnering with local police, check out our previous blogs on building relationships and trust, the motivations for partnerships and on the law enforcement caucus’ briefing on youth mentoring.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice released several new tools in the form of letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed school resource officer (SRO) programs. School resource officers are law enforcement officers who provide security and crime prevention services to school communities. These new tools are intended to help SRO programs improve school climate, ensure safety for students and support student achievement in schools nationwide.

To the extent a local decision is made to use SROs in community schools, these resources will help state and local education and law enforcement agencies responsibly incorporate SROs in the learning environment. Additionally, the Departments have highlighted tools available for law enforcement agencies that also apply to higher education campus law enforcement agencies.

To assist states, schools and their law enforcement partners in assessing the proper role of SROs and campus law enforcement professionals, both the Education Department's and the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services released letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed SRO programs and calling on leaders of institutions of higher education to commit to implementing recommendations from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing in the campus policing context.

To assist in the K-12 context, the Departments also jointly released the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics. These new resources can help education and law enforcement agencies that use SROs to review and, if necessary, revise SRO-related policies in alignment with common-sense action steps that can lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students while safeguarding their civil rights.

Afterschool advocates at the state and local level have been working with community organizations, school district leadership and law enforcement on using the afterschool setting as a venue to build better relationships between law enforcement and young people. The new tools released by the Departments of Education and Justice are a welcome addition to the resources available for this work. 

SEP
1
2016

POLICY
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Evidence-based practices in education

By Jillian Luchner

Photo by Andrei Firtich

The reauthorized national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) puts an increased emphasis on states and school districts using evidence-based practices in many areas. Under ESSA's Title I, schools designated by their state as “in need of improvement” must create a school improvement plan with at least one activity or program that has a related study showing it meets one of the identified tiers of evidence: strong, moderate or promising (described below).

In addition to this requirement, seven different competitive grants in ESSA will give priority to applicants who meet the top three evidence-based tiers. Although 21st Century Community Learning Centers are formula funded and do not require stringent adherence to evidence based practices, eligible entities are still expected to use best practices to improve student outcomes. Fortunately, there is a substantial and growing evidence base on the positive effects afterschool has on youth development outcomes.

This March, president Obama also signed the Evidence-Based Policy Making Commission Act of 2016. The commission established by the act has designated appointees and is beginning its work. The government’s focus on evidence seems here to stay.

Below is an overview of the evidence tiers specific to ESSA, concluding with resources to find evidence-based programs and develop new studies to add to the field of research.

Here are the four tiers of evidence-based practices in ESSA

  • STRONG. Strong studies show positive and meaningful (“statically significant”) results with randomized control trials (RCT). RCTs are viewed as the gold standard of evaluation because they are the best way to determine the effectiveness of a program or policy. RCTs take a large group of people and randomly assign them to the intervention being evaluated (the “treatment” group, in this case, is an afterschool program) or assign them to have no intervention (also known as the “control group”). However, the level of resources (time, money, expertise, etc.) necessary for RCT studies makes them incredibly difficult to implement and limits their availability. This is why it’s important that the law also includes the following tiers of evidence.
  • MODERATE. A moderate study will demonstrate a meaningful positive result on student outcomes based on a quasi-experimental study—a study that, like RCTs, has a “control” group and a “treatment” group, but unlike RCTs, it does not include the random assignment to a group.
  • PROMISING. A promising study—or correlational study—is one that shows a relationship between an activity or program and student improvements, but it does not prove that the specific activity or program under study was the cause of the change. For example, a correlational study may find that there is a relationship between gains in students’ communication skills and their participation in an afterschool program, but it would not be able to say for certain that participating in the afterschool program caused students to improve their communication skills.
  • UNDER EVALUATION. In this final, fourth tier of evidence, the law recognizes that the evidence base is itself a work in progress. The “under evaluation” designation exists for activities and programs that, while yet untested, are rationally derived from research and will be tracked to see what effects they have.
JUL
27
2016

POLICY
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Congressional staff learn how to support rural afterschool programs

By Erik Peterson

The benefits provided by afterschool programs can be integral to the fabric of a rural community—including STEM learning experiences, community connections, caring mentors, and healthy snacks and meals. On July 26th, a Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing on “Afterschool in Rural America” highlighted research and experiences from providers that demonstrates how rural parents not only view afterschool programs as a support system for children’s academic growth, social development, and overall health and wellness, but how they also regard programs as a critical resource for working families.

An audience of Congressional staffers and representatives from national organizations heard from an expert panel about why the demand for afterschool programs in rural America is even greater than the overall national demand:

Nikki Yamashiro, director of research for the Afterschool Alliance, spoke on data gathered from parents and rural afterschool providers and featured in the 2016 America After 3PM Special Report: The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities, sponsored by John Deere. Nikki reported on statistics about the demand for afterschool, including the finding that 3.1 million rural children who aren’t in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available. She also noted how parents say that afterschool supports children and families, and that rural support for public investment in afterschool is strong. She also touched on the challenges faced by rural providers, including those challenges around providing quality STEM learning opportunities.

Liz Nusken, technical advisor for the YMCA of the USA, spoke about rural afterschool from the perspective of a national afterschool program provider. She painted a clear picture of what a rural YMCA program looks like, and the ways that YMCAs and schools work together in rural communities with key academic and behavioral outcomes. In particular, her presentation spoke to the work of the YMCA Achievement Gap Initiative in rural communities.   

Tammy Shay, director of programs, policy and communications for the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network, talked through rural afterschool from a state perspective covering three key areas:

  • Assets of rural providers. Strong partnerships are key to success for afterschool in general—but absolutely essential in rural communities, where everyone wears many hats and can speak about a variety of issues. Schools are "community schools" in rural areas by default, and afterschool programs can be the bridge between schools and other services in area.
  • Transportation challenges. The distances involved and high costs of transportation for rural afterschool program providers form a large hurdle for rural providers to overcome.
  • The supports that rural programs need. The briefing emphasized the importance of 21st CCLC funding, which helps to provide a backbone for programs that includes supporting core staffing that is needed to loop in other partners, managing day to day operations, and finding and retaining staff.

Tammy also detailed the Maryland STEM ambassador program as an example of how statewide afterschool networks create a bridge and make essential connections between community assets in rural areas across the state. 

This briefing covered an important topic for the afterschool field. America After 3PM research found that for every one rural child in an afterschool program, there are three more rural children who are missing out on the amazing opportunities that afterschool programs have to offer. Afterschool supporters and providers can learn more about rural afterschool programs through the 2016 America After 3PM Special Report: The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities and the rural afterschool data dashboard.

JUL
18
2016

POLICY
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Confirmed: funding for afterschool maintained in House education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

Participants from the Alternatives Inc. afterschool program visit the Capitol during this year's Afterschool for All Challenge.

As previewed on the Afterschool Snack last week, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill on July 13th and 14th, maintaining funding for federal afterschool and summer learning programs. In total, the draft bill includes $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, which is $569 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.8 billion President Obama's budget request.

According to a statement by the Appropriations Committee, “funding within the bill is targeted to proven programs with the most national benefit.” The bill cuts discretionary funding for the Department of Education by $1.3 billion compared to fiscal year 2016 levels, but keeps 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) level with last year’s funding at $1.16 billion.

The new Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grant program in Title IV Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is funded at $1 billion, $700 million above the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request, for grants that provide flexible funds to states and school districts to expand access to a well-rounded education (including afterschool STEM initiatives), improve school conditions, and improve the use of technology. The bill also includes $10 million for Full Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants whereas the Senate version of the bill had provided no funding for FSCS.

The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

With regard to 21st CCLC, the funding level set in the House bill will allow 21st CCLC to continue providing quality afterschool and summer learning programs for almost two million children through local school-community partnerships. The bill also funds the Child Care Development Block Grant at $2.8 billion, a significant funding stream for school-age child care.

On the Senate side, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee marked up its FY17 spending bill earlier this summer, cutting $117 million from 21st CCLC

Add your voice to the debate on afterschool funding

Given the activity in the House and Senate around important policy and funding decisions, now is an opportune time to reach out to members of Congress to remind them of the value of afterschool and summer learning programs in inspiring learning, keeping young people safe, and helping working families.

JUL
8
2016

POLICY
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Afterschool and summer learning protected in FY17 House education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Committee today marked up its fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, which could be debated and voted on by the full Appropriations Committee the week of July 11th. In total, the draft bill includes $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, which is $569 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.8 billion below the President’s budget request.

Unofficial reports: 21st CCLC avoids funding cut

According to a statement by the Appropriations Committee, “funding within the bill is targeted to proven programs with the most national benefit.” The bill cuts discretionary funding for the Department of Education by $1.3 billion compared to fiscal year 2016 levels but (according to unofficial reports) keeps 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) level with last year’s funding at $1.16 billion. This news on 21st CCLC funding will need to be confirmed once language is officially released. 

The new Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grant program in Title IV Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is funded at $1 billion, $700 million above the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request, for grants that provide flexible funds to states and school districts to expand access to a well-rounded education (including afterschool STEM initiatives), improve school conditions, and improve the use of technology.

The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

With regard to 21st CCLC, the funding level set in the House bill will allow 21st CCLC to continue providing quality afterschool and summer learning programs for almost two million children through local school-community partnerships. The bill also funds the Child Care Development Block Grant at $2.8 billion, a significant funding stream for school-age child care.

On the Senate side, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee marked up its FY17 spending bill earlier this summer, cutting $117 million from 21st CCLC

Add your voice to the debate on afterschool funding

Given the activity in the House and Senate around important policy and funding decisions, now is an opportune time to reach out to members of Congress to remind them of the value of afterschool and summer learning programs in inspiring learning, keeping young people safe, and helping working families.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Congress Federal Funding
JUN
30
2016

POLICY
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New House bill gives career and technical education a modern upgrade

By Jillian Luchner

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has released the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act”, a bipartisan bill updating Perkins career and technical education (CTE) legislation, which was last authorized in 2006. The proposed update includes many positive changes that recognize and support the work afterschool and summer providers are doing to help students enter the workforce prepared and ready for well-paid, in-demand careers.

Main tenets of the bipartisan bill

The 2016 legislation focuses on providing students with opportunities to pursue recognized postsecondary credentials that are aligned with the employment needs of the surrounding economy, especially in high-skill, high-wage careers.

The bill is friendly to afterschool in many areas. The bill recognizes the important role that afterschool plays in planning CTE offerings and the benefits of including community-based partners as active participants in that planning. The bill language includes community based organizations explicitly as eligible entities (capable of receiving funding). Afterschool is at the table!

The bill also allows career exploration and other activities to be allowable starting as early as the 5th grade (the previous limit was 7th grade). The bill supports STEM learning for underrepresented students, and career pathways for non-traditional careers, such as girls in computer science. The bill draws out the role of competency based education (digital badges, for example) in local CTE programs. The bill continues to mention the importance of employability skills, many of which overlap with social and emotional learning. And the bill also establishes an “Innovation Grant Program,” which reserves 25 percent of an initial $7.5 million allocation for specific programs, including partnerships with non-profits.

The bill is still heavily focused on a tripod of secondary education, post-secondary institutions, and businesses as the main players, however. This focus means that entities that do not fall into these three categories must ask to get a seat at the planning table. These entities include community-based programs, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (which will include workforce development as an allowable use when the Every Student Succeeds Act goes into effect next year), and other afterschool and summer providers working on employability skills and career pathways. As these entities are eligible for funding, this ask should not be too difficult. Additionally, groups that serve out of school or at-risk youth often are included, so the avenues for becoming involved in the planning process are many.

While the House has completed its proposal for revising the CTE law, the Senate has yet to unveil its plan, and the road to enactment isn’t entirely clear, given that legislators are about to leave Washington, D.C. until September. As a result of this timetable, there is still time for feedback and modification. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the House bill. Talking with your state CTE state director is another way to learn more about the current law and develop relationships around the work you are doing to prepare students for excellent, in-demand careers.

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learn more about: Academic Enrichment Youth Development
JUN
28
2016

POLICY
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Gains in Summer Meals, but work remains

By Erik Peterson

With summer 2016 in full swing, summer learning programs are again gearing up, and more than just minds will be filled before school starts up again in the fall. Once again, millions of children will receive meals through the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Meals program: ensuring that kids are nourished and healthy while they explore, learn and grow this summer.

Earlier this month, the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) released its latest Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation report, finding that summer nutrition programs nationally saw a modest increase of 11,000 participants from July 2014 to 2015. These numbers come after three years of significant program growth. According to the report, on an average day in July 2015, summer nutrition programs served lunch to nearly 3.2 million children across the country, equaling 15.8 low-income children participating for every 100 that receive a free or reduced-price lunch. The report again points to the challenges that summer learning programs face in operating the Summer Meals program and the barriers to participation for many families. 

One way to improve these numbers, according to the FRAC report, is through Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation currently being debated by Congress. The Afterschool Alliance supports a key proposal that can be included in the legislation, streamlining meal programs by allowing sponsors to provide food year-round, rather than in two separate programs during the school year and summer.

Summer learning providers are also a key player in boosting participation in the program. Currently it is too early to see how the numbers will translate to Summer 2016, but this is the time to build momentum. To find smart strategies for closing the hunger gap and increasing participation in summer meal programs, check out the USDA’s wide range of new and updated materials to make summer learning and summer meals better than ever in 2016.

JUN
23
2016

POLICY
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Who are "opportunity youth," and why do they need targeted support?

By Jillian Luchner

photo by Ryan Aréstegui

Research tells us that the human brain doesn’t fully develop from its youth into its adult version until about age 24. This knowledge adds an important perspective to the modern focus on early childhood education as an essential component of child development. The prolonged growth of the human brain is a clear indicator that older children—especially those who may not have enjoyed quality care early in their lives—also deserve targeted support, and that programs that help these children are critically important.

Investing in "opportunity youth" is a win-win

There are currently about 6.7 million "opportunity youth" across the United States, or youth between age 16 and 24 who are disengaged from school and work (sometimes called "disconnected youth"). The Opportunity Index provides the number of these youth in each state, among other relevant statistics. Estimates place the tax loss of these outside-the-workforce youth to be $11.3 billion annually. Additionally, these youth disproportionately increase costs associated with crime, health and welfare, creating an estimated social cost burden of $37,000 per youth per year. Appropriate support for these youth can help reduce hefty societal costs while expanding options for these youth: a win-win situation.

The federal government is taking strides to support older youth development, especially focusing on opportunity youth. The 2014 reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, formerly WIA), which encompasses workforce opportunities for all ages, provides funds to help older youth ages 14-24 engage in productive careers, and targets 75 percent of those youth funds to opportunity youth. The law contains an additional requirement that 20 percent of these funds be spent connecting youth to internships and work experience. Skills USA reports that 64 percent of youth make their career decisions based on their own experience and interests.

Also included in WIOA law is an innovative “Pay for Success” provision, based off the expectation of high economic returns associated with helping opportunity youth. The provision allows local workforce boards to allot 10 percent of their funding to programs in which government, non-profit, and for-profit entities take on the costs of helping these youth. These entities are reimbursed or provided with a performance bonus when they achieve an agreed upon outcome or measure of success, like a number of months of continuous, full-time employment.

Afterschool or summer learning program providers who already support at-risk youth should consider obtaining support via WIOA, through either the regular program model or pay-for-success model. WIOA funds can also be used to support certain populations of in-school youth. Community agencies and savvy programs can often “braid” funds between various youth dollars, such as those from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), as well as those from private investments, foundations, and local business. Performance Partnership Pilots provides an additional means of serving these youth through facilitating combining funding streams. WIOA provides $2.6 billion in state formula grants, and youth funds of about $830 million.

To see what opportunities may be available, you can connect with your local workforce investment or workforce development boards, the state and local decision-making bodies responsible for the use of WIOA funds. The boards in your area can be found by searching here.