By Jen Rinehart
Today I was lucky enough to be part of the release of Lost Opportunity, a report on afterschool STEM participation by Change the Equation and Nielsen. This is a great new contribution to what we know about participation in STEM afterschool, and while we may not be happy about the results—only 1 in 5 kids participates in STEM afterschool—it is definitely a useful advocacy tool for the field.
- Urban students are more likely to be in afterschool than rural students.
- African-American and Asian kids are more likely to participate in afterschool compared to other ethnic backgrounds.
- Lower-income youth are more likely to participate than higher-income youth.
There is a difference between the two studies in terms of grade-level participation. Middle-grade-level kids are most likely to participate in STEM afterschool while elementary school kids are the most likely to be in afterschool overall. Perhaps the heightened middle school STEM afterschool participation can be explained by the longstanding, and warranted, concerns about kids losing interest in STEM during middle school and the resulting curriculum and materials that have been developed over the years to help prevent that from happening.
By Jen Rinehart
Last week in conjunction with Lights On Afterschool, we released the 2011 State-by-State Afterschool Progress Reports & Consumer Guides, sponsored by jcpenney. The Progress Reports reveal that many states are making progress, but all have unfinished business to keep kids safe and learning after the school day ends. All 50 states were measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best rating. No state received a 5 and only nine states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York) received a 4. Twenty states received a 3; 19 states a 2; and Delaware and Idaho received the lowest rating of 1.
In preparing these Progress Reports, we spent months examining how each state is helping keep the lights on for kids and families after school by considering: the availability of and participation in afterschool programs based on data from the landmark 2009 America After 3PM household survey; recent state policy activity and funding for afterschool programs; and state-level leadership on afterschool from policy makers. Taking a national view, we found:
- Twenty-one states are currently funding afterschool programs.
- Thirty-one states have an initiative in place that promotes quality in afterschool programming.
- Only 13 states have passed legislation that directly supports afterschool programs.
- Just 15 states have state-level councils, studies, pilots or ongoing legislative activity designed to advance afterschool.
- Only six states reduced the number of children in self-care in the afternoons from 2004 to 2009, the two years in which national household surveys were conducted.
Now that I can finally catch my breath after an exciting two days of afterschool advocacy, I thought it would be good time to share myAfterschool for All Challenge experience. This year, I ran and participated in two workshop sessions at the Challenge: “Middle School Innovation: Policy and Practice” and “Become an Afterschool Expert”. Both sessions were well attended with full rooms of over 60 people each, and the attendees were highly engaged in the issues at hand, making for two great research-focused sessions.
During the morning session, “Middle School Innovation: Policy and Practice,” I was joined by three program directors from our 2010 MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award winners: Rob Abbott (CHENY Beacon), Molly Calhoun (Bridge Project) and Jim Pugliese (LeAp 22). In the role of moderator, I discussed major policy initiatives relevant to middle school programs including the recently re-introduced Success in the Middle Act, which is sponsored by one of our afterschool champions this year, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Additionally, I discussed some middle school-specific research that could help make the case for an increase in middle school programs across the country. After a brief discussion amongst the session’s participants about the challenges the middle grades bring to afterschool care providers and a viewing of an Edutopia video concerning the successful Providence Afterschool Alliance After Zones initiative, I then introduced our first speaker: Rob Abbott, the Director of Youth and Family Services at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation in Brooklyn, NY, who helps to run the Cypress Hills/East New York (CHENY) Beacon afterschool program and talked about his role in the program and the Beacon’s innovative and comprehensive model. Next, Molly Calhoun, executive director of the Bridge Project in Denver, CO, talked about her STEM-related afterschool offerings at Bridge, including the use of digital technology to document science experiments. Molly also discussed the student-centered approach at Bridge, providing children with a number of different opportunities to grow through project-based learning. Finally, Jim Pugliese from LeAp 22’s art program in Bronx, NY, discussed how to start a successful afterschool program, stressing that patience and determination are the keys to quality. Jim also described the importance of instilling a passion for learning and discovery in children so that they remain engaged in their education. All three of the presenters were truly enlightening and provided the attendees with a rich knowledge base of how an effective middle school program is run.
At the Afterschool Alliance, we have always been aware of the challenges facing afterschool programs in rural areas. In 2007, we released an issue brief specifically addressing the unique viewpoint of rural programs and last year we published America After 3PM: From Big Cities to Small Towns, which highlights the major differences in all aspects of afterschool participation among rural, urban and suburban populations.
- Improved school grades;
- Improvedattitudes towards and engagement in school;
- Decreased behavioral problems;
- Increased academic test scores;
- Decreased drug use; and
- Improved school attendance
By Luci Manning
In a Rapid City Journal op-ed, Afterschool Ambassador Carla Allard writes about the need for afterschool programs in South Dakota. The Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM report found that nearly 49,000 young people in the state are responsible for taking care of themselves in the afternoon.
“But South Dakotans understand the value of afterschool programming, as we made clear at Mount Rushmore last fall when 300 adults and children rallied in support of this type of educational service” during Lights on Afterschool, Allard writes. “The central message was that afterschool programs do much more than occupy kids' spare time. They keep children safe, and are structured to inspire students to continue learning after 3 p.m.”
Ambassador Krina Lemons talked with the Statesman Journal about budget cuts that are threatening afterschool programs in the Salem-Keizer school district. The district’s afterschool programs serve more than 5,000 students, including many who are considered at-risk.
The Salt Lake Tribune highlighted the benefits of community partnerships in providing afterschool opportunities for students. “The Community Education Partnership of West Valley City, Inc., for example, helps to support 16 afterschool programs, most of them at Granite schools.” Afterschool Ambassador Margaret Peterson is the Partnership’s executive director.
For more information about Afterschool Ambassadors, click here.
Full disclosure – I often wonder whether locations for conferences are selected based on their utter lack of allure and intrigue (the less there is to distract us, the more time to spend participating in conference activities… right?). Well, that genius theory of mine was thoroughly disproven by my last trip, because I was whisked off to one of the most beautiful (and distracting!) places imaginable: Juneau, Alaska for the Alaska 21st Century Community Learning Center & Alaska Association for Community Education Winter Conference!
By Susan Rohwer
We have seen a year of unprecedented challenges for the afterschool field in 2010. Recent policy developments and the painful economic downturn have combined to make this a very difficult year for afterschool programs and the children, families and communities they serve.
We at the Afterschool Alliance are working intensively with our partners at the national, state and local levels to bring resources to those most in need, and to emphasize the crucial role played by afterschool programs nationwide.
But, as we enter 2011, significant challenges loom. The 112th Congress will consider an appropriations bill that threatens to cut funding for afterschool programs, at precisely the time when children and families need them the most. We will continue our efforts to help programs keep their doors open, and will collaborate closely with the Obama administration, U.S. Department of Education and Congress to ensure that afterschool is part of future education reform.
We need your help to continue this critical work, and are asking you to consider including the Afterschool Alliance in your new years giving. Any amount you can provide is greatly appreciated. All funds raised will go toward ensuring that America’s children and youth have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs. Donations can be mailed or made through our website at afterschoolalliance.org.