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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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JUN
8
2016

RESEARCH
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How afterschool systems can connect the dots between data and best practices

By Robert Abare

Having witnessed the benefits that afterschool programs provide students, parents and communities, many U.S. cities are building afterschool systems to link and sustain high-quality afterschool programs and boost access for those in need. But to ensure afterschool systems continually improve and effectively impact their communities, these systems need to collect and properly analyze student data. 

A new report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and produced by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, titled Connecting the Dots: Data Use in Afterschool Systems, provides research-based strategies to help afterschool systems achieve this goal. 

The report's executive summary notes that previous studies have focused on the application of technology to collect data. Connecting the Dots, however, has found that people and practices are just as important to consider when setting up an effective data collection system. The study focuses on nine cities that are part of the Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative, a multi-year effort to strengthen the systems that support access to and participation in high-quality afterschool programs for low-income youth. The nine cities are:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Denver, CO 
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Nashville, TN
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Saint Paul, MN

Is your city not listed? Interested in learning what Connecting the Dots has to say about collecting and applying student data on a large, city-wide scale?

Here are three basic strategies to implement an effective data system:

Start small. Many cities found that starting with a limited set of goals for data collection and use, or by launching a new data system to a limited group of providers, was an effective way to gain solid footing in data collection before scaling up.

Provide ongoing training. Given that many programs face high staff turnover rates, it's important to have an ongoing training system so that new staff can quickly get a grasp of data collection techniques, technologies and practices. 

Access data expertise. There are many ways for cities to locate a data collection partner and capitalize on their expertise. Some cities identified a research partner who participated in the development of their data system, while other cities leveraged the relationship primarily for access to data, analysis and reporting of data collected by providers. Some cities did not develop relationships with external research partners, but instead relied on the expertise of internal staff. The ultimate goal is to ensure that someone with skills in data analytics is providing guidance.

JUN
2
2016

RESEARCH
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Policy priorities to make data work for students

By Nikki Yamashiro

Student data is a valuable resource for afterschool programs. It helps inform program providers about their students’ needs, the programming that will best support their students and the program’s impact on students’ progress. As important of a role that data play for afterschool programs to best meet the needs of their students, many programs face obstacles accessing their students’ data collected by schools due to privacy and sharing concerns.

Recognizing that data collection and data sharing are essential to ensure that all students receive a great education, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) released four policy priorities to take quality data collection and data sharing from a vision to a reality. DQC’s fact sheet, Time to Act: District Actions to Make Data Work for Students, outlines how district leaders can take the initiative and make progress on this front, many of which encourage data sharing with partners, including afterschool programs.

Here are the four policy priorities to make data work for students:

  1. Measure what matters. This includes establishing a governance body that oversees the district’s data use and policies, as well as designing data systems that meet the district’s specific needs.
  2. Make data use possible. Establish a culture that understands the value data brings and provide the necessary support—such as policies, practices and trainings—to make sure that all stakeholders, including afterschool programs and parents, know how to use the data effectively.
  3. Be transparent and earn trust. Communicate regularly with the community to identify their needs and constantly talk to parents about the ways in which their child’s data is being protected. Engage all stakeholders in planning and governance activities. 
  4. Guarantee access and protect privacy. Make certain that student data is kept private while allowing all stakeholders, including afterschool programs and parents, to access student data that is tailored to their needs.

Promoting policies that form stronger data sharing partnerships between schools and afterschool programs is a win-win for all parties involved. It’s a win for schools, whose partners will have greater information on how to support students; it’s a win for afterschool programs, who will be able to better serve their students; and, most importantly, it's a win for students, whose educational experience will be better tailored to their needs. Visit DCQ’s website to download the fact sheet or learn more about their new agenda launched last April that focuses on data sharing.  

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learn more about: School Improvement
MAY
13
2016

RESEARCH
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Can the U.S. reach 90 percent high school graduation by 2020?

By Erin Murphy

High school graduation rates have continued to grow over the last decade, reaching a record high of 82.3 percent. This graduation rate is 10 percent higher than at the turn of the century; however, over the last year the rate of increase has begun to slow. If the graduation rate continues to slow, we will not be on track to reach the goal of 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

Earlier this week, America’s Promise Alliance, with support from Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, released the 2016 Building a Grad Nation Report, which explores strategies to reach this major graduation goal as part of the GradNation Campaign.

Where does your state stand? This map shows how well states are progressing toward the goal of 90 percent high school graduation (or Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate, AGCR) by the year 2020.

To introduce the findings from this report, America’s Promise Alliance hosted a webinar where expert speakers and co-authors discussed the progress and challenges in ending the high school dropout epidemic and achieving a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020. Speakers included:

  • John Bridgeland, CEO and president, Civic Enterprises
  • Jennifer DePaoli, Senior Education Advisor, Civic Enterprises
  • Robert Balfanz, Director of the Everyone Graduates Center, School of Education at John Hopkins University
  • Tanya Tucker, Vice president of Alliance Engagement, America’s Promise Alliance
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learn more about: Education Reform School Improvement
MAY
4
2016

RESEARCH
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Webinar recap: Afterschool in rural communities

By Erin Murphy

Afterschool programs are an integral partner for rural communities: keeping kids safe, inspiring learning and supporting working families. The Afterschool Alliance recently explored the current state of afterschool in rural communities in our America After 3PM special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural CommunitiesLast week, we followed up on this issue in our audience-centric webinar, Afterschool in rural communities: what you need to know.

Afterschool participation in rural communities has increased over the last five years to 13 percent, or 1.2 million children. However, unmet demand for afterschool in rural communities is high; for every one child in a program, there are three more who are waiting to get in. Based on an online survey of individuals registering for this webinar, the three guest speakers—Marcia Dvorak, director of the Kansas Enrichment Network; Steph Shepard, director of Altoona Campus Kids Klub and Dan Brown, director of Abilene’s Before and After School Program—were asked to speak about topics that were of most interest to survey respondents. These topics were funding and sustainability, transportation, partnerships, parent engagement and recruiting and retaining program staff.

As director of the Kansas Enrichment Network, Marcia provides support to many rural afterschool programs, and she shared a few tips on creating high-quality rural afterschool opportunities.

  • Utilize your state network! Networks are a great resource for providers with information on funding opportunities, curriculum, professional development and more.
  • Messaging is key. Speak to the needs of your community, highlight how afterschool can meet these needs and emphasize the cost effectiveness of programs.
  • Support advocacy with research. Use good data sources to make the case for afterschool programs.
  • Consider diverse funding sources. Funding is always one of the biggest challenges to afterschool programs. Consider 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), national corporations, NSF, NASA, and community businesses and foundations.
  • Quality is key. High-quality programs are more effective and gain community support. Adhere to state and federal guidelines, considering issues such as dosage, professional development and programming offered.
  • Professional development. Many organizations provide free webinars online that act as great learning opportunities for staff at little-to-no cost for the program.
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learn more about: Equity Rural School Improvement
MAR
1
2016

RESEARCH
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See how local partnerships are overcoming national gridlock

By Robert Abare

A new report released today reveals the ways local collaborations between varied organizations, government offices, and nonprofit institutions are yielding improved education outcomes for children in cities across the country. The report, Collective Impact and the New Generation of Cross-Sector Collaborations for Education, was conducted by researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University and commissioned by The Wallace Foundation.

Why is local collaboration taking flight? The answer may come as little surprise: dysfunction in Washington. Congressional gridlock has increasingly impeded the availability of federal funding opportunities, and the top-down school improvement strategies brought by No Child Left Behind have left many education advocates dissatisfied with national initiatives. To overcome these hurdles, local governments and organizations have been forging relationships in order to find alternative ways of improving education results. This process is often referred to as "collective impact," but was renamed "cross-sector collaboration" by the authors of this new report.

Intriguingly, the report does not attempt to determine if these collaborations are successful. Rather, it chronicles intriguing patterns in the current generation of collaborations, which suggest a new level of attention being given to the political, operational, and educational dynamics that can make or break these initiatives. In order to provide children with critical support as soon as possible, these collaborations have side-stepped an age-old argument in Washington: do disadvantaged students require the support of schools alone, or a range of societal initiatives and aids?

JAN
21
2016

STEM
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The latest research in how policy is influencing STEM learning

By Erin Murphy

With the end of 2015 came large victories for afterschool. The passing of the new Every Student Succeeds Act secured the authorization of the 21st CCLC programs for the next four years, and the passing of the FY2016 omnibus spending bill increased funds for 21st CCLC by $15 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The omnibus also includes funding increases for education, health and human services, child care, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), all of which contribute to the development of high-quality out-of-school programs.

With education policy on our minds, we wanted to draw your attention to these new research briefs from the Relating Research to Practice (RR2P) project outlining the influence of education policy on K-12 STEM education.

High-stakes tests and ripple effects for science education

For almost two decades, strict accountability measures for schools have been in place across the country. In this study, Anderson investigated the effect of accountability on K–12 science instruction. Looking across multiple studies, he found that curricula have narrowed, less time is being dedicated to science, teacher morale is lower, and expectations for disadvantaged students have increased.

KEYWORDS: EvaluationPolicyTeaching

DEC
22
2015

RESEARCH
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How to use data to build an afterschool system

By Robert Abare

Earlier, we discussed the growing prevalence and importance of afterschool systems, or city-wide networks of program providers, government agencies, and like-minded organizations that unite to offer high-quality afterschool experiences to children. To ensure they are adequately fulfilling the needs of their communities, afterschool systems depend on collecting and interpreting data from surveys, records, and other sources. Data can help an afterschool program know whether to focus on reading or science, or reveal what areas of a city are most lacking in afterschool offerings. A report released by The Wallace Foundation, Growing Together, Learning Together: What Cities Have Discovered About Building Afterschool Systemshelps de-mystify this complex yet essential topic.

Before launching any specific plans to collect data, it's important to consider what questions most need to be answered, and what goals your afterschool system or community wishes to achieve. The Wallace report includes four preliminary questions to answer before attempting to collect data to improve program quality:

1. What types of data will drive the improvement we're seeking?

If you're attempting to understand community satisfaction with afterschool programming, will you analyze particiapnt attendance records or parent feedback? Or both? These are the types of questions that must be answered to ensure your efforts to gather data and apply it are effective.

2. When and how quickly do our data need to be analyzed and conveyed to providers in order for them to get the most use out of it?

Some data are more time-senstitive than others. For example, a program provider may want to know about issues with an individual child's attendance record ASAP, while attendance data on a city-wide scale is less urgent and can't be collected quickly.

3. Should our program providers assess themselves or be assessed by outside observers?

While some cities rely solely on self assessement to sustain afterschool quality, the general consesus is that the fresh perspective offered by external observations is highly valuable and leads to meaningful improvements.

4. How can we make the data we collect meaningful?

Data can be made meaningful through comparison:  by comparing programs to others in the same neighborhood, or by comparing entire afterschool systems across cities to see what practices are leading to the most positive outcomes. 

You can learn more about how afterschool systems use data, including how establishing a management information system (MIS) can lead to a constant stream of data collection and distribution, by reading the entire Wallace report. The report also explores other vital elements of afterschool systems, like leadership piplelines and coordination efforts, to offer a complete picture of the future of afterschool.

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learn more about: School Improvement Sustainability
DEC
22
2015

RESEARCH
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New report: How can afterschool programs support employability through social and emotional learning?

By Erin Murphy

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has released the second brief in their series “Beyond the Bell: Research to Action in the Afterschool and Expanded Learning Field.” This brief evaluates the role of afterschool programs in the development of employability skills through social and emotional learning.

Highlighting research over the last decade that has shown how employability skills—defined as general skills needed for workplace success at all employment levels across all sectors—are important for obtaining and keeping jobs and career advancement, the brief discusses why these skills may be equally or more important than cognitive skills in overall workplace success. This is important, because employability skills are likely more malleable than cognitive skills, meaning they can be developed and improved.

The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) organizes these skills into three overarching categories: applied knowledge, effective relationships, and workplace skills. Applied knowledge focuses on applied academic knowledge as well as critical thinking and problem solving abilities. Effective relationships include interpersonal skills, such as collaboration and communication, and personal qualities, such as responsibility and flexibility. Workplace skills include time and resource management and proper use of information and technology.

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learn more about: School Improvement Youth Development