It seems these days that if you’re keeping up with what’s happening in education, you can’t help but hear about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Last week, our vice president for policy and research, Jen Rinehart, wrote a stellar blog that not only walks you through what the Common Core State Standards are, but explains why they were developed, what they mean for education policy and the valuable role the afterschool field can play to support learning under the Common Core.
To keep up the Afterschool Alliance’s drumbeat of providing the afterschool field with helpful information connecting afterschool and the Common Core, I tuned in to “Leveraging Expanded Learning Opportunities to Support Common Core Implementation,” a webinar hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and America’s Promise Alliance. The webinar featured Jenell Holsted, Ph.D. of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who discussed a recent brief, “Making the Connection: Next Generation Learning and Expanded Learning Opportunities,” and Sarah Cruz, director of expanded learning opportunities at the Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities (NJSACC), who shared information about New Jersey’s statewide pilot training program that helps providers align their programming with the Common Core State Standards.
By Jen Rinehart
While volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom recently, I noticed a stack of kindergarten math workbooks that proudly advertised, “Aligned with the Common Core State Standards.” It was a clear sign that the Common Core standards have arrived in classrooms across the country and a reminder to me that the Afterschool Alliance can help afterschool providers better understand Common Core and what roles afterschool stakeholders can play in supporting learning under the Common Core.
So what are the Common Core State Standards? They are a set of standards in reading/language arts and math that resulted from several years of collective thinking by teachers, researchers and leading experts in the education field about what students should know and be able to do in mathematics and English language arts. Prior to the Common Core, most states had their own individual sets of standards.
Why do the Common Core State Standards exist? Proponents of Common Core argue that with the adoption of the standards, students who move from state to state, and especially students in military families who might make multiple moves in a K-12 career, will have a smoother transition because the schools in each state will be working from the same set of high expectations about what kids in each grade should be able to do. They also point out that states can share instructional resources like textbooks and even assessments, which are currently under development and expected to be rolled out during the 2013-2014 school year. As you might imagine, there are alsoeducation leaders who question the value of Common Core, particularly since the Common Core were not pilot tested prior to roll out to nearly all states, and who view Common Core and the related assessments as costly (both for the country and our children’s futures) experiments in learning.
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.
By Jodi Grant
This week I was in Kansas City as a keynote speaker for the 2013 Best Practices Forum on Dropout Prevention, hosted by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. I was thrilled to be a part of the event and share with the audience the many ways the afterschool field is helping our students come to school, stay in school and graduate. Afterschool programs are an instrumental part of any effort to help our students not only graduate from high school, but prepare them for lifelong success and help shape the adult he or she will become.
This is why I am so pleased with the newly released video (below) and guidebook by America’s Promise Alliance, “Expanding Learning, Expanding Opportunities.” Both the video and accompanying guidebook highlights the many ways expanded learning opportunities—including afterschool programs, summer learning programs, and expanded learning time—are providing our kids with opportunities to express themselves creatively, explore their interests and gain hands-on learning experiences they might not have during the school day. Also included are a variety of resources, such as research, best practices and toolkits to assist those interested in learning more about the out-of-school hours.
“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.
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.
On March 14, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui announced a plan to develop a new statewide initiative to enhance the learning experience of intermediate and middle school students during the afterschool hours. According to the lieutenant governor’s office, the Hawaii Intermediate/Middle School Challenge will provide a comprehensive social and educational foundation that will enrich the lives of intermediate/middle school students throughout Hawaii through a broad base of programs and activities, outside of regular instructional hours. The program seeks to include academic enrichment, arts and culture, and sports and will be designed to help prepare students for high school, college, the workforce and their communities.
The new initiative addresses the need to keep young people safe and engaged during the hours immediately following school. Afterschool programs are shown to increase or improve school attendance, behavior and coursework—all key indicators in whether a middle school student will graduate. Furthermore, studies show that crimes committed by or against juveniles occur with greater frequency on schools days and roughly between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m.
The Hawaii Intermediate/Middle School Challenge was inspired by After-School All-Stars Hawaii, a comprehensive, high quality afterschool program for middle school students that provides free, engaging afterschool programming that helps young people succeed in school and in life. The program serves middle school youth ages 12-15 during the afterschool hours of 3 to 6 p.m. at eight middle schools on Oahu. Students from After-School All-Stars joined the lieutenant governor for the announcement.