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Who is Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos?

By Erik Peterson

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump announced the selection of Michigan philanthropist and education activist Betsy DeVos as his nominee for education secretary. DeVos is an advocate for school choice, including private school voucher programs, and is a past chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan.

DeVos is expected to go through the confirmation process in the Senate early next year. Little is known about her position on education issues; however, she has reportedly kept quiet about Common Core, which President-elect Trump heavily criticized during the campaign. She has served as chairwoman of the board of the Alliance for School Choice and heads the All Children Matter Political Action Committee, which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, tax credits to businesses that give private school scholarships, and candidates who support these causes.

Her other activities on behalf of public-school reform have included membership on the boards of directors of  Advocates for School Choice, the American Education Reform Council, and the Education Freedom Fund. She has chaired the boards of Choices for Children and Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), and is chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs."

DeVos also serves on the board the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization connected with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush that envisions an education system capable of maximizing every student's potential for learning and preparing them for success in the 21st century. 



3 tips on nominations for the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award

By Nikki Yamashiro

After two years of reading nominations for the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award, the staff at the Afterschool Alliance has learned a lot about the work accomplished by the afterschool field. We’ve seen students becoming reporters and editors in a Dane County, Wisconsin, afterschool program that focuses on publishing student-run newspapers for the area. We’ve discovered an afterschool program in Atlanta, Georgia, that works with the area’s immigrant and refugee population, providing one-on-one support and a literacy curriculum designed for English language learners to ensure that students are academically prepared to enter high school.

We’ve also learned the qualities shared by strong nomination forms, and the mistakes commonly made by nominators. For these reasons, as well as to help answer frequently asked questions about the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award (still accepting nominations!), we hosted a webinar on Nov. 10. In the webinar, we shared insights on the award process, answered audience questions, and offered tips to filling out the nomination form. 

The call for nominations doesn’t close until Dec. 16, so you still have time to nominate a program!  Here are three tips to consider from the webinar before getting started:

1. Be an advocate for your program.

How can you differentiate your program from the other programs that are being nominated? Think about how your program is helping meet the needs of your students, parents and/or community. Is there something about the community the program serves that should be highlighted? Is there strong data that demonstrates the positive impact of the program? There are a number of open-ended questions in the nomination form; use each question as an opportunity to highlight for reviewers the role that the program is playing to help its students. Be an advocate for your program and make the strongest case possible to help reviewers recognize its value.

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learn more about: Funding Opportunity Literacy


New report sees how state policies can promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

By Robert Abare

This post was originally published by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition.

new report from RTI International examines an emerging trend that uses state policy to promote healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Based on stakeholder interviews and state case studies, the authors conclude that the state policy approach holds significant promise if it avoids creating unfunded mandates.

Jean Wiecha and Kristen Capogrossi of RTI International, in "Using State Laws and Regulations to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs," explain that the National AfterSchool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, developed by HOST in 2011, have offered comprehensive guidance to the OST field on how to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Large national organizations have adopted some or all of these standards in their programs--but recent studies suggest that about 40 percent of NAA members still have not heard of them. State or local laws present one option to increase awareness, uptake, and implementation of these standards,

Wiecha and Capogrossi therefore interviewed nine experts who were knowledgeable about the NAA HEPA Standards and active in national OST policy, advocacy, and service issues. They also conducted case studies in California and North Carolina, which have had recent experience with legislation in this area. They concluded:

Under the right circumstances and when crafted the right way, state policy approaches have the potential to result in faster, more equitable, and more thorough improvements to healthy eating and physical activity in OST settings compared with the status quo focus on private-sector dissemination and training efforts. Regulation that uses incentives and voluntary participation could result in increasing the number of OST programs promoting health among children and their families in low-resource communities. In addition, regulation (especially when integrated with existing OST regulation) could serve to elevate healthy eating and physical activity to the same level of importance as other regulated OST quality content areas.

At the same time, the authors caution that "policy efforts should proceed carefully in order to allow the field the opportunity to identify which best practices in policy design maximize benefit and minimize risk," and suggest that different states may wish to move forward at different speeds. They add, "Policy efforts should explicitly identify and mitigate the risk of creating unfunded mandates, which may have the unintended consequence of widening quality gaps between high- and low-resources sites or, worse, drive low-resource sites out of business by imposing costs and other burdens involved with the improvement process."

The report was commissioned by the Healthy Eating Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness State Policy


Weekly Media Roundup: November 23, 2016

By Luci Manning

Students Partner with Elementary School, Teach Science (Stanford Daily, California)

Twice a week, elementary schoolers at East Palo Alto Charter School receive special science lessons from Stanford University students as part of the Science Bus afterschool program. The lesson plan is entirely devised by the Stanford students and includes a mix of lectures, field trips, events and fun experiments like mixing Coke and Mentos to explore chemical reactions. Mentorship is another important aspect of the Science Bus, according to third-year doctoral student Josh Eggold, who heads the program. “In contrast to a one-time event, we see the same students time and time again....These one-on-one relationships are a great foundation for us to have a meaningful impact in the students’ lives,” he told the Stanford Daily.

Porzingis to Donate $500 per Block to NY-Area Hoops Program (Wall Street Journal, New York)

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has pledged to donate $500 for each of his blocked shots this season to the RENS, a nonprofit basketball program, according to the Wall Street Journal. The “KrisStops” campaign will benefit the group’s Ben Jobe Educational and Scholarship Fund, which provides third- through eighth-grade students with tutoring, SAT prep and tuition money.

Inner City Figure Skating Program Comes to Detroit (Associated Press, Michigan)

The successful Figure Skating in Harlem program is making its way to cities across the country, starting with Detroit. Figure Skating in Detroit’s (FSD) inaugural year will serve 300 Detroit girls ages 6 to 15 through community workshops, summer camps, afterschool programs and more. “This is a youth development opportunity for Detroit’s young women, wrapped around the fun, artistry and discipline of figure skating,” FSD leader Geneva Williams told the Associated Press. The program empowers young girls with a combination of skating instruction, STEM-focused academics, entrepreneurship, leadership and social skills, critical thinking and healthy living resources.

From Lunches to Laundry, Schools Extend a Helping Hand beyond the Classroom (Chambersburg Public Opinion, Pennsylvania)

The Chambersburg Area School District is hoping to improve its students’ academics by focusing on the ‘whole child.’ District schools and local nonprofits, have built a network of support services meant to meet students’ basic needs and put them on a path to success. In addition to afterschool programs, the new initiative includes installing a washer and dryer to help homeless students, a food pantry that students can access on weekends or other days when the school is closed, a pediatrics clinic, English-language classes, and more. “Not all our students are “needy” in the sense of being poor or disadvantaged, but all have special needs,” director of support services Tamera Stouffer told the Public Opinion. “We want to meet all those needs and be the public school of choice.” 



ESSA offers opportunities for the arts

By Elizabeth Tish

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) officially replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the guiding, major federal education law in December of 2015. Since implementing ESSA takes time, ESSA’s changes will start taking effect during the 2017-18 school year. ESSA includes several opportunities for states and local school districts to utilize flexible federal funds to provide students with afterschool and summer learning programs, STEM learning, physical activity, and arts education.   

The Arts Education Partnership, working with the Education Commission of the States, recently released ESSA: Mapping Opportunities for the Arts. The new resource can help school and community based afterschool providers and advocates understand how ESSA opportunities can support arts education that contributes to a well-rounded student education.  

Opportunities for the arts in Title I programs

The programs of ESSA's Title I, Part A are designed to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education. The evidence-based programs supported by Title I funds assist students who are academically at risk, and these programs help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those who enjoy more resources. There are many opportunities to include arts education opportunities that help achieve these goals in Title I, Part A:

State plans. Each state must submit an accountability plan to the Department of Education each year, including at least one indicator of school quality or student success beyond student achievement, graduation rates and English proficiency. This means that states could choose to include an arts-related indicator, such as the number of arts course offerings, the percentage of high school students enrolled in arts courses that provide postsecondary credit, or the proportion of certified arts educators to students.

Local Education Agency (LEA) plans. To receive Title I funding, a district must submit a plan to the state education agency that describes how it will identify inequities in educational opportunities and help close the achievement gap for all students, including a description of how the district will provide a well-rounded education. A district can choose to provide a description of its arts education programs and the role of those programs in providing all students a well-rounded education. LEAs can opt to use their Title I Part A funds to support out of school arts programming as well. 

Schoolwide Programs. To be eligible for schoolwide program funds, schools must have at least 40 percent of their students identified as coming from low-income families and create a schoolwide plan which embraces whole school reform. As a part of a well-rounded education, these plans may incorporate the arts as strategies to provide all students the opportunity to achieve.

Targeted assistance schools. Schools that do not meet the poverty threshold for schoolwide programs can use Title I funding to create programs targeted to help academically at-risk students meet the state’s academic standards. The arts, as part of a well-rounded education, can be included as a potential strategy for meeting the objectives set by schools for the Targeted Assistance Schools programs, using the traditional school day or out-of-school time.

Parent and family engagement. Engaging the families of students is an important aspect of ESSA and appears in several areas of Title I. Examples of family engagement using the arts might include: incorporating arts programming in a back-to-school night, schools providing parents with expectations for their children in arts classes, or encouraging parents to work with their schools in developing schoolwide plans that value the arts as a strategy in closing the achievement gap.

To learn more about ESSA and the arts, read the full report and visit this webpage for additional resources on topics such as accountability, assessments, and state plans.  Have more questions about how ESSA affects afterschool? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions on 21st CCLC and ESSA.

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learn more about: ESEA Federal Policy Arts


What are you doing for Computer Science Education Week?

By Melissa Ballard

This December 5-11, join the Afterschool Alliance in celebrating the importance of computer science education for all kids for the 2016 Computer Science Education Week. Planning an Hour of Code with your students and participating in our tweet chat is a great way to start!

Plan an Hour of Code

Interested in getting your students started with computer science and coding? The Hour of Code is designed as an easy introduction to the topic for students and staff, as well as an opportunity to drum up support for computer science initiatives among community partners and stakeholders. Last year, almost 4,000 afterschool programs across the country hosted Hour of Code events—let’s keep growing our numbers!

Get involved in two simple steps:

  1. Get registered.
  2. Start planning with step-by-step instructions.

Just announced for 2016 Hour of Code is the addition of an all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial which lets students code their own Minecraft rules to create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!

Mark your calendar for our tweet chat

On Wednesday, December 7, at 2pm EDT, we’re teaming up with the National AfterSchool Association to dig into the challenges and opportunities around computer science for afterschool programs. We’ll have a focus on professional development needs for staff to successfully facilitate computer science and coding. Stay tuned for more info! In the meantime, follow @afterschool4all on Twitter and subscribe to our blog, the Afterschool Snack.



These twin sisters celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 by becoming math champions

By Robert Abare

One might not think that basketball can help kids gain critical math skills. But for twin sisters Patricia and Angela Rodas, that’s exactly the case. The Rodas sisters have become rather like local celebrities in the San Francisco Bay Area through their success in NBA Math Hoops, a board game and curriculum that helps kids learn math through the lens of professional basketball. 

To play NBA Math Hoops (and learn math at the same time) students divide into teams to analyze NBA and WNBA players’ stats, strategize, and solve increasingly complex math problems. On October 6, 2016, the Rodas twins showed off their math expertise gained through NBA Math Hoops by winning (for the second year in a row!) the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship, as part of the national kick-off for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Colleen Johnston, Program Manager for Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), has overseen the implementation of NBA Math Hoops at 55 of BACR’s afterschool program sites. Next year, NBA Math Hoops will be rolled out to more than 60 BACR schools in the Bay Area. Currently, NBA Hoops is in over 100 schools in the Bay Area.  It is primarily being played during Out of School time.

“This is disguised learning at its best,” said Johnston about NBA Math Hoops. “The game is fast paced, so it keeps kids engaged, and the curriculum associated with the game builds over time, so it has the capacity to teach both very basic math skills and the very advanced.”

Indeed, the Rodas twins said NBA Math Hoops is helping them succeed in the classroom. “Math Hoops has helped me get better with multiplication and be more confident in the classroom,” said Angela.

Angela added, “My parents like NBA Math Hoops because it’s improved my grades.”

Thanks to their previous success playing NBA Math Hoops and their participation in this year’s national Lights On Afterschool kick-off event, the Rodas twins have become local role models for their peers, showing them that anyone can do well in math. The twins have also helped shine a light on the power of afterschool programs to teach kids valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

“When they first started playing NBA Math Hoops, the twins were very shy and didn’t like public speaking,” said Johnston. “Now, they’ve become like local celebrities. The game has helped them realize how much they love math, and their confidence has grown so much that they’re already talking about college.”

Johnston also praised the curriculum for its ability to engage both boys and girls. “NBA Math Hoops includes both NBA and WNBA players, so both boys and girls can get excited about the game,” she said. “And for the past two years, the majority of the teams in the Elite 8 of the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship have been girls.”

BACR afterschool programs helped their students make strides in math for Lights On Afterschool on October 20, 2016, when programs held mini NBA Math Hoops tournaments, carnivals, and open houses. Lights On Afterschool calls national attention to how afterschool programs, like BACR and the program’s implementation of NBA Math Hoops, are working to provide kids with hands-on STEM learning experiences that prepare them for our complex and changing world.



New campaign encourages older adults to show up for kids

By Elizabeth Tish

Afterschool programs use many community partners to be successful, including adults in the communities they serve. Adult engagement with youth-serving organizations can offer a great benefit for both the organizations and youth involved.

Today, the Generation to Generation campaign is being launched by The campaign will mobilize 1 million people over the age of 50 to show up for kids, support innovative pilots to bring generations together in ways that make lives better for all, and amplify a positive conversation about intergenerational collaboration in America.

Generation to Generation will tell the stories of those already improving the lives of young people and will mobilize more adults 50+ to do the same through paid or volunteer roles. The campaign will work with a coalition of partner organizations who are already doing youth-focused work and could benefit from an infusion of experienced talent - organizations like Playworks, Jumpstart for Young Children, the Boys & Girls Club of America, MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Strive for College. Community-wide efforts to create intergenerational impact zones are planned in Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston, Seattle and elsewhere.

How can you be involved with Generation to Generation?

  1. Take action. Are you an adult over the age of 50 with an interest in using your experience to serve youth? Act now – find out if any local organizations are looking for volunteers.
  2. Get social. Join the Afterschool Alliance and in celebrating today’s launch of the Generation to Generation campaign and stay tuned for more opportunities to engage with this mission.
  3. Share your story. Are you an adult over 50 with a compelling story about how you support young people? Submit your story and read others' inspiring stories about the impact they're making. 
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learn more about: Youth Development Community Partners