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.
The president recently released his budget request for FY2014 and we wrote about the implications for afterschool in a recent blog post. The budget proposes a sweeping (and unprecedented) reorganization of federal STEM education investments—it consolidates or restructures 114 programs out of the existing 226 federal STEM programs. In the budget proposal, 78 programs are terminated and the funds from these programs ($176 million dollars) are redirected to other agencies, 49 programs are consolidated within agencies and 13 new programs have been proposed.
The $176 million from the eliminated programs would be split as follows:
- $100.3 million to the Department of Education for K-12 education programs
- $51.1 million to the National Science Foundation for undergraduate education and fellowship programs
- $25 million to the Smithsonian Institution for a new STEM engagement initiative
There are several places to get the full details of the president’s budget request for STEM education—the White House R&D budget site and the American Institute of Physics FYI analysis are good places to start.
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.
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.
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.
Members of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) were recently surveyed about afterschool programs in their schools, their involvement with the programs, and views on the role of afterschool science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. The survey results indicate that school-day staff are highly involved in afterschool STEM and clearly believe the afterschool space can support students’ learning within school hours.
Close to 8 in 10 survey respondents identified as educators; the remaining worked as administrators (6%) or played other professional roles (15%). Respondents taught multiple subjects in their schools; most teach science (93%), and smaller numbers teach math (26%), technology (19%) and engineering (15%).
Approximately three-fourths of respondents have an afterschool program at their school, and 78% of those include a STEM component. Of those respondents in schools who don't have afterschool STEM offerings, more than 9 in 10 believe they should.
For the subset of respondents whose schools have STEM afterschool programs, the programs are largely run by the school itself (68%). Other common providers are community organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, or Girls Inc. (15%); for-profit organizations (14%); universities or colleges (11%); and informal science education organizations like science centers or zoos (11%).
About 8 in 10 respondents participate in their school’s afterschool STEM programs. Of these, 85.1% are lead teachers and 14.9% are assistant instructors. Assistant instructors co-teach with other STEM teachers, community and parent volunteers, and local STEM professionals. Others who are not teaching or assisting in the classroom sometimes serve in a leadership role, such as a director or coordinator, and may also be involved in content development and instructor training.
On the heels of the Afterschool for All Challenge, there have been a number of activities in Washington as we move into the middle of February. From the State of the Union earlier this week to a day of action on sequestration today, the impact on education in general and afterschool and summer learning programs in particular are highlighted below:
- Supporting all 50 states to provide access to preschool for all low- and moderate-income children: The president is proposing to work with Congress to provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-old children with high-quality preschool—while also expanding these programs to reach hundreds of thousands of additional middle class children—and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies, so that all children enter kindergarten prepared for academic success.
- Creating a Master Teacher Corps of exemplary educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM): President Obama is calling on Congress to commit new resources to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps, enlisting 10,000 of America’s best and brightest science and math teachers to improve STEM education across America’s schools.
- Modernizing America’s high schools for real-world learning: The president is announcing a new competition to kick-start a redesign of high schools to emphasize real-world learning. The president’s plan will invest in redesigning high school to focus on providing challenging, relevant experiences as well as reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers and that create classes that focus on technology, science, engineering and other 21st century skills.