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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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JAN
29

RESEARCH
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The eighth-to-ninth grade transition: How afterschool can help

By Dan Gilbert

This is first in a series of blogs the Afterschool Alliance will publish exploring the challenges of transitioning to high school, and how out-of-school time can help. 

The transition from middle school to high school is a tumultuous one, a transition in which students encounter many possible obstacles.  They must navigate shifting social structures and build new relationships in a new and unfamiliar environment, all while dealing with more difficult and rigorous coursework than in previous years.

A number of studies have shown that how students fare in the eighth-to-ninth grade transition can be a powerful predictor of whether or not they will graduate from high school on time, or at all.  Educational data show that there are consistently more students in the ninth grade than in either the eighth or the tenth grades, a phenomenon that experts commonly refer to as the ‘ninth grade bulge.’  This is largely attributable to two factors: first, more students fail the ninth grade than any other grade, and second, more students are held back in ninth grade than any other grade. According to the National High School Center, “a disproportionate number of students who are held back in ninth grade subsequently drop out.”

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learn more about: Youth Development
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JAN
22

POLICY
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Senate HELP Committee holds hearing on testing and accountability

By Sophie Papavizas

On Wednesday, January 21, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) under Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) held a hearing on Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.  The hearing focused on reviewing the testing and accountability measures for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

This was the first hearing for the HELP Committee in the 114th Congress and Chairman Alexander used the opportunity to outline his agenda for the new Congress, reiterating his commitment to fixing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and promising to have a bill ready for the floor by the end of February.  A working draft for the bill was posted on the Committee website last week and presents two options for testing.  The first option gives flexibility to the states to decide what to do, while the second option maintains current law testing requirements.

Below is a list of the witnesses present at the hearing.  Their written testimony can be found here.

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learn more about: Congress ESEA Federal Policy
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JAN
20

CHALLENGE
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Join us in Washington, DC for the 2015 Afterschool for All Challenge!

By Rachel Clark

This March, we’re teaming up with the National AfterSchool Association Annual Convention and afterschool professionals from around the country to meet face to face with Members of Congress and urge them to support the millions of kids and families who rely on afterschool programs. In 2014, participants from 46 states met with their US Senators and Representatives—this year, bring your powerful story to our nation’s capital to share with 2,000 afterschool professionals and with our federal elected officials.

This spring will be one of the most critical times on Capitol Hill for friends and advocates of afterschool programs. Congress will likely be rewriting federal education, child nutrition, juvenile justice and STEM legislation this year, making decisions that will impact access to quality afterschool, before school, and summer learning programs for millions of children. Your elected officials need to hear your voice and story to fully understand the value that these programs have on the lives of young people.

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learn more about: Advocacy Afterschool for All Events and Briefings
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JAN
16

POLICY
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21st CCLC initiative eliminated in Sen. Alexander's ESEA reauthorization discussion draft bill

By Erik Peterson

As we previewed earlier this week, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process officially kicked off late on Tuesday night with the release of Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) staff discussion draft reauthorization bill.  The proposed “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015” would replace the 2001 No Child Left Behind law and seeks to increases flexibility for states under a reduced federal footprint.  The proposed bill offers two approaches to annual testing requirements, makes teacher evaluation through test scores optional and eliminates a range of existing programs including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative that currently provides afterschool and summer learning programs to more than 1.6 million students.

Separately on Wednesday, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the Chairman’s draft by expressing serious concern with a number of provisions.  The tentative process moving forward includes a number of discussion sessions giving Senate HELP Committee members’ staff an opportunity to fully understand the 400-page bill, followed by negotiations to determine the legislation that will be marked up in the Senate HELP Committee likely during the middle of next month.  An ESEA bill could be debated on the Senate floor as early as this spring or summer.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Congress ESEA Federal Funding Federal Policy Legislation
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JAN
13

POLICY
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New year, new Congress, new momentum

By Erik Peterson

2015 has only just begun but Congress is already into its second week and legislative priorities are emerging for the year ahead.  The 114th Congress convened last week with Republicans controlling both the House (246 Republicans to 188 Democrats, 1 vacancy) and the Senate (54 Republicans to 44 Democrats, with 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats) as a result of the 2014 midterm elections.  What does the 114th Congress have in store that could impact afterschool and summer learning programs?  Plenty.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Advocacy Congress ESEA Events and Briefings Federal Funding Federal Policy Legislation
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DEC
22

RESEARCH
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New report: Ready for Fall?

By Jen Rinehart

December is about the time I start thinking about summer.  Not because I don’t enjoy the cold, but because it's when I register my daughter for her summer program to make sure that she doesn’t miss out on all the fun, enrichment and learning that comes with participating in summer programs.  Research shows that my family is not alone in our need for summer programs.  According to America After 3PM, more than half of families want their children to participate in summer learning programs. 

Ready for Fall?, a new report from the RAND Corporation and The Wallace Foundation, sheds some light on why families value summer learning programs so much.  RAND found that students attending voluntary, school district-led summer learning programs entered school in the fall with stronger mathematics skills than their peers who did not attend the programs.  In fact, students in the summer learning programs began the following school year with the equivalent of more than one-fifth of a year’s growth in math skills.   

The RAND research includes summer learning programs in five urban areas and examines whether and how two consecutive summers of voluntary, district-led summer programs—offering academic instruction and enrichment activities like arts and field trips— help boost low-income students’ success in school.

The RAND study also highlights some of the program practices associated with student success and offers recommendations based on those practices.  Among their recommendations:

  • Offer programs that operate five-to-six weeks and, if math outcomes are a goal, provide 60 to 90 minutes of mathematics each day.
  • Strongly encourage consistent student attendance, protect time for academic instruction and help teachers maximize instructional time inside the classroom.
  • Select reading teachers for summer programs carefully, choosing effective reading teachers with grade-level experience in either the sending or receiving grade.
  • In terms of student achievement in reading, set clear expectations for student behavior, ensuring consistent application across teachers, and develop methods of maintaining positive student behavior in class. 

This is the first in a series of reports from this research.  The next report will look at the effect of one summer of programming on achievement, attendance and behavior and subsequent reports will share two years of impact data.  Collectively, these reports will helps us all better understand how to design and implement summer learning programs, what outcomes the programs are likely to produce and what practices are associated with success.

Check out this video for more on the research findings and the importance of making sure that all students are ready for fall.

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DEC
19

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Every Hour Counts, a report from Vermonts PreK-16 Council

By Erik Peterson

Dr. Holly Morehouse is the Executive Director of Vermont’s statewide afterschool network. Vermont Afterschool, Inc., is a statewide nonprofit that supports organizations in providing quality afterschool, summer and expanded learning experiences so that Vermont’s children and youth have the opportunities, skills and resources they need to become healthy, productive members of society.

 

 

For every $1 invested in quality afterschool and summer learning programs, Vermont sees a return of $2.18 in long-term benefits and savings.

This is just one of many findings in a new report, Every Hour Counts: Vermont’s Students Succeed with Expanded Learning Opportunities, from Vermont’s Working Group on Equity and Access in Expanded Learning Time.

The Working Group formed last June as a subcommittee of Vermont’s PreK-16 Council upon direction from the state legislature to evaluate issues of equity and access in Vermont’s Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs), including afterschool and summer learning programs. The group was charged with identifying:  key elements of quality ELOs; ways to increase access and remove barriers to ELOs across the state; and recommendations for how ELOs can support student success in Vermont.

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Caption: Vermont Afterschool, Inc. Executive Director Holly Morehouse (center in blue) presenting the Every Hour Counts report to Vermont’s PreK-16 Council.

Making the case for ELOs

With only six months to collect data, outline our findings and develop meaningful recommendations, time was short. It helped our work immensely to be able to draw on existing research and advocacy materials. Instead of trying to come up with separate quality standards, the Working Group adopted the Afterschool Alliance’s principles for effective ELOs. We also greatly benefited from the release of the America After 3PM report and data, and built off of the Afterschool Alliance’s talking points to emphasize that afterschool and summer programs keep kids safe, inspire learners and help working families.

Connecting to broader conversations in the state

The Working Group was sensitive to concerns over rising costs and increased pressures on Vermont’s education system. Instead of portraying ELOs as something added on top of these demands, we included a section highlighting how ELOs help schools and communities do what they’ve already been asked to do. In particular, the Working Group focused on how ELO programs support Vermont’s education vision by addressing the academic achievement gap and summer learning loss; supporting schools in meeting Vermont’s new Education Quality Standards; and providing opportunities in line with Vermont’s recent “Flexible Pathways” legislation.

Recommendations

Particularly exciting is the report’s recommendation to ensure that by 2020 children and youth in every Vermont community have access to quality Expanded Learning Opportunities. Getting buy-in around that statement is a big step forward for afterschool and summer learning in Vermont.

Even though we included data on how ELOs can save Vermont money over time, the Working Group decided not to include a specific financial request in the report. We wanted to avoid the cost debate that could have distracted from the message. The Working Group felt it was most important to get broad-based buy in behind the report and recommendations first. Now that the PreK-16 Council has approved, the report will be presented to a joint meeting of the Vermont House and Senate Education Committees in mid-January. In the following months, the network will develop a corresponding proposal about what it would take in funding and infrastructure to meet the goals presented in the recommendations (i.e., access in every Vermont community).

Thank you to our funders

Key to the success of the working group was analytical support that the network was able to provide through a Network Data Grant from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the C.S. Mott Foundation. The goal of this grant initiative is to help statewide networks collect relevant out-of-school time data and effectively share the data with state legislators and legislative staff, as well as other key state policy makers. 

 

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Caption: Students engaging in STEM activities at Winooski, VT’s 21st Century Community Learning Center summer learning program.

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DEC
15

POLICY
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UPDATE: FY15 spending bill passed into law; includes increase in federal afterschool funding

By Erik Peterson

After a week of wrangling and late night sessions in Congress, the Senate passed the hybrid continuing resolution/omnibus government-spending bill HR 83 the evening of Saturday, December 13th. The final bipartisan vote in the Senate was 56 to 40. The House passed the bill two nights earlier on Thursday, Dec. 11th, by a bipartisan vote of 219-206. The bill funds most federal programs through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2015, and provides temporary funding for the Department of Homeland Security through a Continuing Resolution that expires on February 27, 2015. The President is expected to promptly sign the bill into law.

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 funds the government at $1.014 trillion in discretionary spending in compliance with the bipartisan Murray-Ryan budget agreement of December 2013. Overall the Department of Education was funded at $70.5 billion, a decrease of $133 million compared to FY14. With regard to afterschool and summer learning programs, funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was increased by $2.3 million for FY15, bringing the total to $1.152 billion, up from $1.149 billion in FY14.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Budget Department of Education ESEA Federal Funding Federal Policy Legislation
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