Last week, Afterschool Caucus Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) put her support for afterschool programs and STEM education on the record on the Senate floor. Read her full statement below, or download here.
Madam President, I rise today to speak about the great work that afterschool and summer learning programs in California and across the country are doing to engage children and youth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
Afterschool and summer programs are a vital part of our country’s education tapestry. They provide engaging, hands-on learning experiences that stimulate student interest, develop crucial skills, and drive home the relevance of STEM to our daily lives. Out- of-school learning opportunities help children develop the academic and life skills, such as problem-solving and determination, which are crucial in STEM fields. Additionally, these programs provide key opportunities for mentors and role models to engage with children.
High-quality afterschool STEM learning programs are having a significant impact on the young people who participate in them. A recent study shows participants in afterschool and summer programs have improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, increased STEM capacities and skills, and a higher likelihood of graduating from high school and pursuing a STEM major in college.
Recently, I posted a blog highlighting the new and exciting ways libraries are engaging kids in the out-of-school hours, as well as the research in Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success—the extraordinary compendium released last month—that shows the positive impact libraries have on a student’s academic achievement and on their surrounding community.
In my previous blog I referenced a post by Marsha Semmel, IMLS director of strategic partnerships, who wrote, “Quality learning in out-of-school settings, which include libraries and museums, makes a proven difference in academic achievement, work, and life.” This week, I want to focus on the second institution included in her quote: museums.
The compendium highlights the role of informal learning environments, such as museums, in helping youth develop critical thinking skills and better understand the world’s inner workings through hands-on, experiential learning in the chapter "Museums as 21st Century Partners: Empowering Extraordinary ‘iGeneration’ Learning Through Afterschool and Intergenerational Family Learning Programs.” Learning Labs, a project supported by IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation, is a perfect example of the ability of museums to create spaces where youth help design activities, drive projects and shape their environment based on their interests. Kids are able to tinker with technology, explore new interests, and collaborate with peers and mentors as they hone their skills in a variety of mediums—such as graphic design, creative writing and video editing.
When Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 almost two years ago, they included a provision meant to be so difficult to swallow that it would force the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, to come together and pass a reasonable plan for reigning in the deficit. That strategy failed and the result is that the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester officially went into effect today—after a two month reprieve that resulted from the Jan. 1, 2013, fiscal cliff resolution.
- Approximately 30,000 low-income children of working parents would lose child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and many more would experience a reduction in services.
- Title I Grants to school districts would see a cut in excess of $750 million, denying funding to well over 2,500 schools serving more than 1 million disadvantaged students. These funds pay for teachers, tutors and afterschool programs. Sequestration would mean job losses for more than 10,500 teachers and aides.
- For the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, it is now estimated that about 58,000 young people would lose afterschool and summer learning supports, likely beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
|Photo from: YOUMedia at the Chicago Public Library.|
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently posted a blog about the exciting release of Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success. I was also able to attend the compendium’s release event at the National Press Club, which celebrated the milestone of amassing an immense body of research, best practices and commentaries that will be an invaluable and powerful resource to the afterschool field.
The blog, written by Marsha Semmel, director of strategic partnerships, perfectly summed up the gravity of the event, declaring, “…the power and importance of out-of-school learning is no longer a peripheral idea. Quality learning in out-of-school settings, which include libraries and museums, makes a proven difference in academic achievement, work, and life.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Libraries and museums play a significant role in the afterschool world, creating spaces where youth have the opportunity to discover who they are, explore their interests and engage in learning experiences that are relevant to, and meaningful in, their everyday lives. A chapter in the compendium, School and Public Libraries: Enriching Student Learning and Empowering Student Voices Through Expanded Learning Opportunities, not only digs into the research demonstrating the academic benefits for children who have greater access to books and reading opportunities and the positive impact of libraries on their communities, but gives a few examples of libraries providing expanded learning time opportunities.
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.
|Sen. Barbara Boxer at the "Breakfast of Champions"|
Following rousing speeches by Sens. Boxer (D-CA) and Murkowski (R-AK) last week during the "Breakfast of Champions," the bipartisan Afterschool for America’s Children Act, S. 326, wasintroduced in the Senate today. Sens. Boxer (D-CA), Murkowski (R-AK) and Murray (D-WA) introduced the Afterschool for America’s Children Act that reauthorizes the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative and builds on past afterschool and summer learning program success. The bill number, 326, symbolizes the hours of 3 to 6 p.m. when young people should have quality learning and enrichment opportunities.
- Strengthens school-community partnerships to include sharing of data and resources, the ability to better leverage relationships within the community and provide an intentional alignment with the school day.
- Promotes professional development and training of afterschool program staff.
- Encourages innovative new ways to engage students in learning that looks different from a traditional school day, with an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and physical activity and nutrition education. Supports approaches that focus on individualized learning that provide a variety of ways for students to master core skills and knowledge.
- Provides accountability measures that are connected to college- and career-readiness goals and show student progress over time toward meeting indicators of student success including school attendance, grades and on-time grade level advancement.
- Ensures that funding supports programs that utilize evidence-based, successful practices.
- Increases quality and accountability through parent engagement, better alignment with state learning objectives, and coordination between federal, state and local agencies.
- Does not prioritize any one model of expanded learning opportunities over another.
- Maintains formula grants to states that then distribute funds to local school-community partnerships through a competitive grant process.
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.