By Jen Rinehart
Some of the strongest champions for afterschool are city and town leaders. Whether they approach afterschool from the lens of keeping kids safe; helping working families continue to work; or supporting students’ learning, health and wellness, city leaders are often quick to see the value of afterschool programs in their communities.
Just in the first few months of 2013, city leaders’ enthusiasm for afterschool has been evident at several afterschool-related events. Starting off with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s remarks at the release of the Expanding Minds and Opportunities Compendium in early February, where he spoke about how afterschool has been a key issue for him as mayor. Mayor Coleman and several other mayors, including Afterschool Alliance board members Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price co-authored an article for the Expanding Minds and Opportunities Compendium in which they said:
“Time and time again, we have seen how a high-quality afterschool program can change a young person’s life and how such programs can have a positive ripple effect on families and neighborhoods.”
Fortunately, The Wallace Foundation recognizes the important role that mayors and city leaders play in supporting quality afterschool and has been investing in city systems for years. On Feb. 21 and 22, nearly 400 leaders from 57 cities came together in Baltimore to discuss how to better coordinate efforts to support the availability of high-quality afterschool programs. The Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve After-School Conference focused on the role of afterschool systems, reaching youth most in need, financing afterschool systems and using data to drive continuous improvement. A summary of the event and links to related resources are now available courtesy of the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, a co-sponsor of the convening.
|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 Feb. 7, 2013, hundreds of you across the country stepped up to the challenge and reached out to your elected officials to let them know that you support afterschool for all:
- More than 120 Congressional offices
- Across 36 states
- More than 100 district meetings & site visits
- Hundreds of phone calls and emails to Congress
- Digital Learning Day celebrations in 23 states
Arkansas: The Arkansas Out of School Network worked with allied organization Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to take the Afterschool for All Challenge to the state capitol in Little Rock on February 7. Child advocates from across the state met at the Arkansas State Capitol to participate in the legislative process, meet with local legislators, attend legislative committee meetings, and observe lawmakers voting on bills that affect the lives of children and their families.
In conjunction with Kids Count Day, Arkansas Senate Bill 249 was introduced to provide $5 million to fund the pilot phase of the Positive Youth Development Act.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe stopped by Kids Count Day to lead pre-k children in singing Itsy Bitsy Spider. Watch:
Pittsburgh: Director Mila Yochum of Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST) had several local advocates join her at a series of meetings at the local offices of Rep. Mike Doyle and Sens. Pat Toomey and Pat Casey.
More than 200 state afterschool leaders and experts backed up your outreach with face-to-face meetings on Capitol Hill with senators and representatives to echo your message that afterschool works to keep kids safe, inspire learning and help working families.
Next week on Feb. 7, the Afterschool for All Challenge is an opportunity to raise your voice right in your own community to support the quality afterschool and summer learning programs that inspire young people to learn, support working families and keep children safe. Over the last 11 years several thousand parents, educators, young people and afterschool champions have come to Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill to make the case that afterschool, before school and summer learning programs are critical to the success of young people and a lifeline for parents.
This year we are changing it up and not asking advocates to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Afterschool for All Challenge. Because budgets are tight and times are uncertain at afterschool programs we are instead calling on friends of afterschool programs to call, meet in home district offices and email Congress on Afterschool for All Challenge day: Feb. 7, 2013. Here in Washington, we will be backing up your outreach at home through face-to-face meetings with Congress, as we team up with over 40 state teams who will be in Washington for the conference of the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks.
The results of the last 11 years of afterschool advocacy are clear: federal support for afterschool and summer learning through the 21st CCLC has grown—from being able to help 40,000 students access support in 1998 to helping more than 1 million young people last year. We know afterschool works and champions of afterschool are excellent at making the case:
- The Promising Afterschool Programs Study found that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs is linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and work habits. (University of California, Irvine, 2007)
- A meta analysis of 68 afterschool studies concluded that high quality afterschool programs can lead to improved attendance, behavior and coursework. Students participating in a high quality afterschool program went to school more, behaved better, received better grades and did better on tests compared to non-participating students. (Durlak, Weissberg & Pachan, 2010)
- The Promising Afterschool Programs Study found that students reported improved social and behavioral outcomes: elementary students reported reductions in aggressive behavior toward other students and skipping school; middle school students reported reduced use of drugs and alcohol, compared to their routinely unsupervised peers. (Policy Studies Associates, Inc., 2007)
Preparations for this year’s Afterschool for All Challenge are in full swing over here at the Afterschool Alliance! As part of our efforts to make sure you have all the tools you will need to take part in the Afterschool for All Challenge at home and make the case for afterschool, we have updated our Afterschool Outcomes document and our Evaluations Backgrounder.
The Afterschool Outcomes document concisely summarizes research findings that show afterschool programs:
- Improve students’ academic achievement, academic engagement and school attendance;
- Keep children safe;
- Improve health and decrease at-risk behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use; and
- Help working families.
The Evaluations Backgrounder provides more in-depth and detailed reviews of the existing research that documents the benefits linked to afterschool programs. It divides the research into findings on academic outcomes, student behavior and parental concerns about children’s safety. Additionally, a table of all evaluations referenced in the document is included at the end of the backgrounder. The table includes the evaluation’s subject of focus, type of study, a short description of the evaluation and key findings.