By Jen Rinehart
I’m not much of a Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopper. But the one purchase I did make over the Thanksgiving weekend was putting a deposit down toward my daughter’s summer program. Her afterschool program heeded the advice of the National Summer Learning Association, the Wallace Foundation and others by starting their summer planning early and offering parents an incentive to sign up now so that the program can effectively continue to plan and be ready when school lets out for the summer.
A report released by the Wallace Foundation earlier this year, Getting to Work on Summer Learning: Recommended Practices for Success, provides summer learning programs with research-based strategies to help them effectively meet the needs of kids and families. A key practice in the report is that summer learning programs should start planning at least six months early—for most programs that means planning should be underway right about now. The recommended practices—which were covered in a previous Afterschool Snack post—focus on:
Please allow us a moment to toot our own horn a little bit.
One of the Afterschool Alliance’s core beliefs is that afterschool programs are essential for supporting working families. We believe that when children are safe, supported and learning, working parents are free to focus on the workplace, helping them to be more successful, and in turn, helping to create a better situation for the whole family.
Throughout the Afterschool Alliance’s 14 year history, we have remained committed to working families, including those on our own staff. That’s why we’re thrilled and honored to announce that the Afterschool Alliance has been recognized by Washingtonian magazine as one of the best places to work in Washington, D.C.
Washingtonian magazine named the Afterschool Alliance a ‘small gem’ as part of its "50 Great Places to Work" issue for the Washington, D.C., metro area. The bi-annual issue on the best places to work in the D.C.-area states that “staffers at this DC nonprofit, which supports afterschool programs, feel challenged and recognized and love the warm culture.”
Last night Congress passed a bill based on an agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that ended the the 16-day federal government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, avoiding an international economic crisis.
After 16 days of the vast majority of the Federal workforce at home (90 percent of the Department of Education was furloughed), the bill reopens the government by providing funding through Jan. 15, 2014, at last year’s levels. For key federal funding that supports afterschool and summer learning programs, like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative and Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), the bill means funding at last year’s levels despite increasing program costs and growing demand for quality afterschool programs. The agreement also leaves in place the sequester, which is expected to result in an additional 7.2 percent cut to federal non-defense discretionary programs on Jan. 15. Education advocates are hopeful that the conference committee established by the agreement will address the pending sequester cut. A final budget for FY2014 will have to be negotiated, voted on and signed by the president before the funding runs out on Jan. 15.
STEM, child care & federal policy filled the agenda when state afterschool networks came to Washington
Late last month, leaders from more than 40 state afterschool networks, including representatives from state education agencies, gathered for several days in Washington, D.C., for a national convening: “Expanded Learning Opportunities: STEM Programs and Systems.”
The convening, co-hosted by the Department of Education, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, focused on creating positive STEM outcomes for more students through collaboration and cooperation among national, state and local partners. Sessions allowed network leaders and education officials to work together to consider how to leverage investments and actions to expand the availability of quality informal science in afterschool and impact more students across the country.
Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton opened the conference with a well-received talk on the partnerships necessary to generate the best possible STEM outcomes in young people. Stating that learning occurring after school is just as essential as learning taking place during the school day, the deputy secretary demonstrated his understanding of the depth and power of informal STEM education occurring in quality afterschool programs.
Cognizant has opened up the 2014 grant application period for Making the Future Afterschool and Summer programs. Developed in partnership with the Maker Education Initiative and the New York Hall of Science, Making the Future provides grants to community organizations to run hands-on, Maker-movement inspired programs in an afterschool or summer camp setting. Cognizant believes that Maker activities not only engage and excite kids but can spark interest in STEM and the arts, as well as develop their creative capabilities.
Child-serving U.S. nonprofit organizations wishing to run afterschool, in-school, and summer Maker programs can apply until Nov. 15, 2013. Programs must support the program’s mission, which is to inspire young learners in the STEM disciplines by providing fun, hands-on learning opportunities. Visit www.cognizant.com/aboutus/makingthefuture to download the grant application.
Every day in communities across the country, there are countless unsung heroes working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of the children and families they serve. Among them are the mentors, volunteers, staff and other educators that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families during the hours after school and over the summer.
We might not always get the opportunity to thank them, but this fall, we’re teaming up with Bright House Networks to celebrate Lights On Afterschool by shining a light on the afterschool and summer learning programs that are making a difference.
Your program could win up to $2,000 in the Lights On Afterschool Facebook Photo Contest! Starting tomorrow, submit a photo that creatively shines a light on your program and the afterschool activities and staff that enrich and inspire the students and families in your community. Be as creative as possible—the four photos with the highest number of likes will win cash prizes for their afterschool program!
Last week, the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) and the School Superintendents Association (AASA) held a briefing on Capitol Hill to release their report, “Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement.” The 100-plus-page report takes a thorough and critical look at Race to the Top (RTTT)—examining the drivers of the achievement gap, the ability of RTTT to adequately and effectively address the achievement gap, and the RTTT-funded states’ progress toward fulfilling their RTTT commitments.
The panelists at the event included report author and BBA National Coordinator Elaine Weiss; AASA’s Associate Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Noelle Ellerson; author and University of California, Berkeley Professor David Kirp; and Superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools Michael J. Martirano. Weiss spoke to the report’s finding that to receive RTTT funding, states generally proposed unrealistic agendas for closing student achievement gaps. She expressed her hope that this report will encourage policy makers to revisit RTTT and use the successes and challenges of the last three years to make necessary modifications to the policy.
A key finding of the report is that while RTTT focuses largely on tackling school day academics, it fails to address the drivers of the achievement gap that take place outside of school—many of which, the report states, “account for the majority of the achievement gaps.” In discussing the out-of-school drivers of the achievement gap—such as early childhood experiences, physical and mental health, and housing and neighborhoods—the report highlights the important role afterschool and summer learning programs play in mitigating the educational achievement gap.
While this November is not a Congressional election, there are a number of state and local races that are garnering national attention—and afterschool programs have been a part of several of those election campaigns. In particular, the governor’s race in New Jersey and the mayor’s race in New York City have featured candidates proposing substantial expansions of afterschool programs.
Democratic New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono has incorporated afterschool as part of her education platform. In general she has pushed for additional resources to ensure that all children in New Jersey have the supports and opportunities they need. Her education platform specifically includes a vision for supporting afterschool programs:
Restore funding for before and afterschool care programs. Before and afterschool programs provide students with meaningful recreation and enrichment opportunities and ensure the process of learning continues even outside the classroom. Restoring funding to these programs will be critical to helping our students thrive.