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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

POLICY
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Bipartisan Afterschool for America's Children Act introduced in the Senate

By Erik Peterson

With the Elementary and Secondary Education Action (ESEA) reauthorization process underway in the Senate HELP Committee, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced their bipartisan Afterschool for America’s Children Act in the Senate today.  The Afterschool for America’s Children Act legislation reauthorizes the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative and builds on past afterschool and summer learning program success.  The bill was introduced this week in the wake of a proposal to eliminate 21st CCLC through ESEA.

 The bill:

  • 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 towards 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.

The bill was introduced in the 113th Congress as S. 326, signifying the hours from 3PM to 6PM when young people need access to quality afterschool programs that keep them safe and inspire learning.  Among the groups registering support for the bill in the 113th Congress were the Afterschool Alliance, After-School All-Stars, American Camp Association, American Heart Association, A World Fit For Kids, Champions, Harlem RBI, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Collaboration for Youth, Save the Children and the United States Tennis Association. 

In addition to these organizations, it’s important that Congress see a strong showing of support from afterschool advocates across the country.  Your senators want to hear from you!  Take action now by urging your senators to sign on as co-sponsors to support the next generation of afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs that are re-engaging children in their education and future.  Share personal examples or experiences that illustrate the importance of these out-of-school programs for enhancing learning, keeping kids safe and helping working families.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Federal Funding Federal Policy
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JAN
29

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

By Dan Gilbert

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
28

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  January 28, 2015

By Luci Manning

Giving Young Athletes in New York a Fighting Chance (New York Times, New York)

Retired police officer Pat Russo works with youths on fitness, schoolwork and discipline, preparing hundreds of young men and women to face everyday challenges.  Despite all the young people throwing punches, Russo swears the Atlas NYPD Cops and Kids Boxing Program is not about boxing—it’s a way to heal rifts between young people and police and to teach kids the importance of staying healthy and staying in school.  For high school senior Elijah Johnson, the afterschool program is working.  “I used to get into the wrong stuff,” he told the New York Times.  “When I started boxing, I learned to discipline myself, how to be on time, how to dress properly, stay focused on school and be willing to work.”

Mentoring Program Helps Boys at Dixie Magnet Elementary Show Respect and Gain Self-Confidence (Lexington Herald Leader, Kentucky)

One by one, fourth- and fifth-grade boys in the Operation Making a Change afterschool group at Dixie Magnet Elementary stood at the front of the room and explained how they had shown leadership in the past week.  One had defused a bullying incident, another tutored kindergarten students and a third gave money to a homeless person.  The mentoring program is meant to teach these young men basic social and leadership skills, like how to show respect, set goals and take on responsibility at school.  Dixie Dean of Students Cheri Presley told the Lexington Herald Leader that the boys support each other and have developed a sense of family, especially with their mentors.  “Dixie as well as most other elementary schools have primarily female staffs,” she said.  “To bring men into the picture and mentor these boys, I feel like it’s been a huge success.”

Home Depot: Teaching Life Skills to Students (Jackson Sun, Tennessee)

At a Home Depot in Jackson last week, John Ducrest taught 13 children how to use simple tools, repair a hole in a wall and to cover damage.  The workshop was part of Keep My Hood Good, an afterschool mentoring program for children in high-crime areas.  Founder Juanita Jones said her mission is to equip the children to give back to their communities, the Jackson Sun reports.  Future workshops will teach other indoor and outdoor home repair and gardening projects, and Home Depot plans to partner with Keep My Hood Good on additional community service activities.

Mentoring Program Keeps Teen on Proper Path (Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois)

The Lawndale Christian Legal Center opened in 2010 to provide legal representation to area families, but its leaders quickly recognized that the youth they encountered needed more than legal help.  Organizers started an afterschool mentoring program targeting high school students on probation and in need of guidance.  “This is such an important relationship because there’s so many kids out here who are lost,” afterschool program director Maurice Harris told the Chicago Sun-Times.  “They don’t have the relationships with people that show continuous support with their daily life problems.”  Mentors follow the students throughout high school, eventually helping them with college applications and even job placement.  The center also provides academic tutoring, substance-abuse counseling, community service projects and social outings for the teens. 

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learn more about: Health and Wellness Community Partners
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JAN
27

STEM
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The latest in STEM learning research: January 2015

By Melissa Ballard

Interested in what current research in education is saying about STEM learning?  Don’t have time to keep up with it all?  We hear you!

We’ve been a part of the Relating Research to Practice project for a while now, and we think it’s a fantastic resource.  Along with a group of researchers from the Exploratorium, the University of Washington and Kings College London, we monitor more than 10 peer-reviewed journals in science education, museum studies and the learning sciences.

Then, we write short briefs intended for educators who work in afterschool and summer programs, at science centers and museums, and in other out-of-school time settings.  The briefs are written with the interests, needs, and institutional settings of these educators in mind, with the hope that they'll be used to inform professional development, discussion, reflection and practice.

So whether you’re interested in equity, identity or environmental education—there’s something for you!

Want to get the monthly updates in your inbox? Register on the RR2P website and elect to receive the monthly digests.  And be sure to follow the RR2P project on Twitter and Facebook!

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learn more about: Science
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JAN
23

STEM
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Afterschool STEM in the Senate ESEA working draft

By Sophie Papavizas

Last week, the Afterschool Alliance published a blog post highlighting the elimination of funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization working draft.  Investments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (know as the STEM fields) are also missing from the bill.  The last reauthorization, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), included a single competitive grant program dedicated exclusively to STEM at the Department of Education.   The program, named the Math and Science Partnership Program (Title II. B), was a major source of funding for professional development of math and science teachers in some states but is not included in Chairman Alexander’s current working draft.

In a letter to Senate and House Committee leadership, James Brown of the STEM Education Coalition expressed two priorities for STEM in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.  The first is to continue to include science in the testing and accountability framework.  The second is to include a dedicated Federal funding stream for STEM-related activities.  With the accountability system’s focus on reading and math, many schools are spending less time on science and diverting funding to preparation for high-stakes tests.  Computer science and engineering are completely absent from many schools.

Afterschool programs have long stepped up to the plate to fill this gap, offering hands-on, quality learning experiences for students in a variety of STEM subjects.  The Afterschool Alliance has highlighted some of these programs in our STEM Storybook.  We need more investments in STEM education and in afterschool to ensure that our students are prepared for STEM careers.  Let your representatives know—check out our advocacy toolkit and the Afterschool Alliance ESEA reauthorization action alert.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Congress ESEA Federal Funding Federal Policy Science
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JAN
22

RESEARCH
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Afterschool programs inspiring students with a connected learning approach

By Nikki Yamashiro

Today, afterschool programs are providing their students a host of learning opportunities—from designing websites to writing poetry to gardening, he list goes on and on.  But what many afterschool programs share is the way in which they approach creating learning opportunities for their students—finding new ways for students to take part in activities that are relevant to them, while building academic and workplace skills and knowledge.  Afterschool programs have been among the pioneers in applying a connected learning approach—creating a learning environment for students that builds on their interests; introduces them to new passions; provides mentors and a supportive peer network; and links this engagement to academics, careers and civic participation. 

Our new report, “Afterschool Programs: Inspiring Students with a Connected Learning Approach,” discusses the role afterschool programs play in the ecology of learning, where programs can help bridge the divides that exist in terms of access to additional learning opportunities, access to caring mentors, and access to resources and peer networks that can excite young people about the acquisition of knowledge.  The report also dives into connected learning, exploring this educational approach that is the intentional linkage of ones’ interests, peer groups and academics, and how it capitalizes on the benefits of all three areas to create a learning experience that is both powerful and enduring. 

Included in the report are examples of afterschool programs that are offering connected learning opportunities that join together their students’ interests, peer networks and academics, as well as key takeaways from programs.  For example, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, students at Createch Studio—a partnership between the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department—are able to help design the program’s space, can take part in a youth advisory council and provide input on activities offered at the program.  Students can take part in a variety of activities—such as videography, dance, design and photography—where they have the ability to create, remix and share their work.

If you’re interested in learning more about connected learning, be sure to take a look at the “Resources” section at the end of the report that includes information on networks for educators, additional reports and websites focused on connected learning.

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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
22

POLICY
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New York City moving toward afterschool for all

By Rachel Clark

This month, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong announced the opening of 49 new School’s Out New York City (SONYC) programs, adding 2,500 afterschool seats for middle schoolers.  During his term, the Mayor aims to provide an afterschool program to any middle schooler who wants one.

271 SONYC programs were launched in September, marking the largest expansion of afterschool for middle schoolers in city history, and likely in the nation.  According to Mayor de Blasio, New York City’s historic investment in middle school afterschool has resulted in enrollment reaching 121 percent for the more than 75,000 city-funded afterschool seats currently available to middle school students.  Before the expansion, New York City was already far above the national average for afterschool participation, with 28 percent of children participating compared to 18 percent nationally.

“With thousands of new seats added for our city’s youth at diverse non-public schools and community centers citywide, more of our parents and families can rest assured their children have positive alternatives during a key period of their lives,” said Mayor de Blasio.  “Every middle schooler in New York City deserves access to a safe and engaging environment after the school bell rings.”

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