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JUN
9
2016

RESEARCH
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New civil rights data reveal nearly 1 in 5 high schoolers are chronically absent

By Jen Rinehart

This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released “A First Look” from the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which shows that students of color, students whose first language is not English and students with disabilities are not getting the same opportunities to learn as their counterparts who are white, whose first language is English or who do not have disabilities.

The data are from a survey of all public schools and school districts in the United States. The CRDC measures student access to courses, programs, instructional and other staff, and resources—as well as school climate factors, such as student discipline and bullying and harassment—that impact education equity and opportunity for students. 

For the first time, CRDC also looks at chronic student absenteeism, and finds that more than 6.5 million students (13 percent) missed 15 or more days of school (nearly a month of school) during the 2013-14 academic year. The chronic absence data reveal differing rates of chronic absenteeism among subgroups of students:  

  • Within the high school group, chronic absence rates are 26 percent for American Indian or Alaska Native students, 22 percent for African American students, 21 percent for Multiracial, 25 percent for Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students and 20 percent for Latino students compared to 18 percent overall.
  • Among elementary students, American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students are twice as likely to be chronically absent as white elementary school students.
  • Children with disabilities are more likely to be chronically absent in both elementary and high school.
JUN
9
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: June 9, 2016

By Luci Manning

Underwater Robotics Team Comes Up a Winner (Petoskey News-Review, Michigan)

After months of research and hard work, the East Jordan afterschool underwater robotics club’s vehicle came out on top at the Great Lakes Regional Competition. In addition to developing a remotely operated underwater robot designed to collect and analyze spilled oil samples, each team in the competition created a fictitious company to market their product and services. “This competition is very real, as there are deadlines, teamwork, collaboration, communication skills, and innovative engineering challenges,” team coach and STEM instructor John Twichel told the Petoskey News-Review.

State Schools Chief Richard Woods Promotes Summer Reading in Macon (Macon Telegraph, Georgia)

Georgia school superintendent Richard Woods joined local librarians and superintendents last week to promote the Middle Georgia Regional Library System’s summer reading program. The state education department has partnered with several organizations to donate more than 100,000 books to children this summer, and the reading program is trying to encourage students to read at least 25 hours this summer. “Reading doesn’t just stop at the end of school,” Woods told the Macon Telegraph. “It needs to continue during the summer.”

Taking Afterschool on the Road (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York)

Afterschool Ambassador Marcel Braithwaite discusses the importance of federal and local funding for afterschool programs in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “Last week, I joined more than 150 afterschool advocates from 36 states… to send a message to Congress that we need to make afterschool a priority…. Lawmakers must resist efforts to balance the budget on the backs of schoolchildren. Securing funding for the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families is vital for our neighborhoods and our communities. It was a message our lawmakers needed to hear, and we were proud to deliver it!”

Education for Homeless Kids Gets a Boost (Deseret Morning News, Utah)

The Utah State Board of Education recently approved funding to make sure summer education for homeless children starts on time this year. The board unanimously approved $15,000 to fund the Road Home’s Midvale Center’s summer program, which serves about 50 homeless students, according to the Deseret Morning News. The all-day program includes meals, academic instruction, field trips and other fun activities. “Children experiencing homelessness can lose an estimated three to six months of educational attainment with each episode of homelessness,” said State Rep. Steve Eliason, who secured the appropriation. “This funding will help mitigate this issue for some of the most at-risk students in the state of Utah.” 

JUN
8
2016

POLICY
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Speaker Ryan outlines "A Better Way" to tackle poverty

By Jillian Luchner

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Yesterday, June 7th, House Speaker Paul Ryan presented A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, a new policy paper on poverty representing the recommendations on issues in welfare, workforce and education by the House Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility.

webpage outlining the plan breaks the message on poverty alleviation into 5 main ideas:

  • Reward Work
  • Tailor Benefits to People’s Needs
  • Improve Skills and Schools
  • Plan and Save for the Future
  • Demand Results

The overarching philosophy of "A Better Way"

The plan emphasizes streamlining programs, noting that “today, 13 federal agencies run more than 80 programs that provide food, housing, health care, job training, education, energy assistance and cash to low-income Americans.” The plan asks for focus to be shifted to the individual rather than compartmentalized among bureaucratic offices, such that the foundation of aid becomes an individual’s goals, and the measure of success becomes an individual’s rise from poverty.

The plan suggests that, with the individual at the center, states, localities and communities become best positioned to determine, direct and coordinate supports for recipients of government services. In streamlining, government must pay attention to redundancies, waste, fraud and abuse, and coordinating data and services while maintaining individual privacy. Resources should be dedicated to evidence-based programs with histories of getting results.

No detailed funding plan is outlined; however, recommendations include support for funding measures such as increased use of vouchers for schooling and housing, social-impact financing, which encourages private investments toward solving public concerns and then reimbursing those investors who achieve successful outcomes for their expenses, plus a return. The plan also recommends tiered financing, which funds a preliminary testing of ideas, followed by a rigorous testing before scaling up what works, and increasing private access to credit through reducing regulations on community banks and credit unions.

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
7
2016

POLICY
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Cut to afterschool proposed in Senate LHHS Subcommittee education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

The FY2017 appropriations process started once again this week with the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee marking up and passing by a voice vote their FY2017 education spending bill today. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill this Thursday, with the House Committee likely to tackle their own version of the bill later this month. The bill sets funding levels for all federal education, human service, health and labor programs—including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which provides federal funds leveraged by local school-community partnerships to provide quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

While bipartisan (the first time a bipartisan bill has been passed out of the Subcommittee in 7 years, to be exact) the Senate LHHS FY2017 spending bill includes cuts to education and other programs that provide necessary supports to children and working families due to a spending allocation that was $270 million less than FY2016 and tremendous competing pressures for funding. It also must be noted that no “poison pill” policy riders were included in the bill, thus further ensuring bipartisan passage of the measure.

Proposal cuts afterschool by $117 million

With regard to key federal efforts that support afterschool and summer learning programs, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was funded at $1,050,000,000—a cut of $117 million below the current FY2016 level of $1.166 billion. The proposed level is slightly above the level authorized in last year’s ESSA bill, however it represents about a 10 percent cut from the current funding level. If the Senate bill were to become law, approximately 117,000 children would lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs next year.

The Senate LHHS bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, which is $270 million below the FY2016 level and $2 billion below the President’s budget request. The bill funds the U.S. Department of Education at $67.8 billion, a $220 million decrease below the comparable FY2016 level. In addition to 21st CCLC, funding levels for a number of other programs that support afterschool include:

JUN
6
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How to effectively message afterschool

By Jillian Luchner

Participants of the 2016 Afterschool for All Challenge last May discussed strategies to effectively message STEM programs at the Afterschool STEM Hub meeting.

Do you need to translate your accomplishments in out-of-school time programming into effective messages to politicians, parents, funders, educators and students? Last month, Every Hour Counts, a coalition of afterschool partners, issued Messages Made Simple to help you make the case.

Messages Made Simple can be used by providers, advocates and intermediaries of all types to promote and communicate the messages and purpose of afterschool and summer learning programs. Pick and choose what is most relevant or helpful to you and your organization.

How to message afterschool, based on highlights of the report:

  • Determine and express the unique value of your organization.
  • Focus on outcomes, rather than the process. Explain the changes and benefits your work brings and what problems you solve, rather than details of how you do your work.
  • Target your message to each audience based on what motivates each of them.
  • Provide concrete, specific examples—stories of your work—to explain your value.
  • Craft a story with attention to the storyteller, the medium, the narrative and how you want people to act/respond. A great worksheet on page 22 of the report helps guide this process.
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learn more about: Advocacy Community Partners
JUN
3
2016

RESEARCH
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The spring edition of the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities is here!

By Nikki Yamashiro

The third edition of the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) has arrived! This spring issue features a conversation about quality programming in afterschool, an article on the role that social emotional learning can play to close the achievement and learning gaps, and an article focusing on the links between professional development and quality STEM learning experiences.

 The JELO is an incredibly important resource for the afterschool field; it not only adds to the body of research on afterschool programs, but it makes the connection between research and practice for afterschool program providers and increases public awareness of the expansive work taking place in afterschool programs. In this issue, readers can:

  • Review a researcher and practitioner dialogue on quality in afterschool with Carol McElvain, managing technical assistance consultant for the American Institutes for Research and Michael Funk, afterschool division director for the California Department of Education. This piece provides a valuable look at the topic of program quality from both a researcher’s and a practitioner’s perspective—asking each about the value of quality standards, the costs associated with running a quality program, recommendations on how to run a quality program, and more.
  • Learn more about the relationship between professional development, staff beliefs, the quality of STEM learning activities and the impact on student outcomes. This research-based article digs into the impact that professional development in afterschool programs has not only on program staff, but on students in the program as well.
  • Better understand how afterschool programs’ focus on social emotional learning can help support its students’ school day success.

There’s too much information in this issue for one blog post to do it justice! Stay tuned for future blog posts dedicated to the link between professional development and STEM learning experiences and promising practices connected to social emotional development.

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learn more about: Youth Development
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