The PISA 2012 scores were released last week—and it turns out that a decade of No Child Left Behind education policies and initiatives has helped us to... stay in place! Scores in math, science and reading for 15-year-old students in the United States were stagnant, but our overall rankings fell as the scores for students in other countries went up.
Afterschool programs are integral partners in keeping kids active, motivated and healthy—both physically and mentally. An independent evaluation of A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT)—an afterschool program that provides healthy behaviors and youth development programs to students in economically disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles County—found that kids who participated in the program were physically active, made healthy food choices, became more self-confident and made gains in their academic performance. Key findings of the evaluation include:
- 77 percent of students in WFIT report that the program helped them feel motivated to participate in physical activities
- 8 in 10 students in the program share that WFIT helped them drink water more often and close to 7 in 10 students say that the program helped them to eat more fruit
- More than 80 percent of high schoolers and 75 percent of middle schoolers in the program say that WFIT helped them feel more confident, persevere and think about goals for the future
- More than 7 in 10 WFIT participants report that being involved in the program helped them complete their homework on time
- 81 percent of the high school and middle school students in the program say participating in WFIT helped them to get better grades
- Compared to high school seniors who never participated in WFIT, high school seniors who participated in WFIT at least 1 of the 4 years they were in school had higher graduation rates
This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA)reached a two year budget deal. The compromise deal restores $63 billion of the harmful sequester cuts that have resulted in decreased federal support for a variety of education opportunities for young people, including support of afterschool and summer learning programs.
The budget deal, reached after weeks of negotiations following the government shutdown in October, restores almost two-thirds of the scheduled non-defense discretionary cuts in 2014, providing $45 billion split evenly between defense and nondefense discretionary spending. For 2015 the agreement adds $18 billion, again split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) provides much-needed certainty for FY2014 and FY2015 and paves the way for passage of appropriations bills through regular order, rather than through continuing resolutions and crisis management. While a deal has been struck between budget committee chairs, the full Senate and House must still pass the BBA and the president must sign it into law. It's important to note that initial reaction to the deal from both parties has been positive. If the deal fails, however, a full year continuing resolution with additional sequestration cuts will be the result, likely meaning a continuation of harmful sequestration cuts that are impacting children and youth.
By Jen Rinehart
A new report from the Coalition for Community Schools highlights the prevalence of expanded learning opportunities, including afterschool and summer programs, in community schools—schools that unite with community partners to offer a range of supports for youth, families and communities with the goal of improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.
“The Growing Convergence of Community Schools and Expanded Learning Opportunities” confirms what afterschool and community school advocates have often touted: expanded learning opportunities are a key component of the community schools strategy. Based on a survey of community schools, the report finds:
- Close to 90 percent of the community school initiatives surveyed describe the expansion and improvement of expanded learning activities as part of their community schools strategy.
- Approximately one-third of respondents indicated that at least half of their work focuses on expanded learning opportunities (compared to all other possible opportunities and supports, such as health services, mental health services, and family and community engagement).
- Of those who offer expanded learning, 90 percent offer afterschool and nearly 70 percent offer summer programs. About one-quarter offer extended school day and expanded learning opportunities during the conventional school day.
Alberto Cruz is the Senior Youth and Family Director for the West Side YMCA in New York City and an Afterschool Ambassador emeritus.
Through the generous support of the Robert Bowne Foundation and the Afterschool Alliance, teens from the West Side Y’s Teens Take the City (TTC) program headed off to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with our elected officials to speak on behalf of YMCA of Greater New York afterschool and youth programs.
West Side Y teens set out to take over D.C. and were led by former Afterschool Ambassador and current West Side Senior Youth and Family Director Alberto Cruz and Teen Program Director Johann Dubouzet. While learning about the political landscape in Washington, teens had the opportunity to meet with legislative aides from Reps. Rangel, Serrano and Engel and with aides in Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand to speak about the importance of supporting teen programs and in particular the Teens Take the City program. TTC gives teens the opportunity to learn and participate through mock proposal writing, research and presentations about city government.
Center for Civil Justice, in partnership with the ConAgra Foods Foundation, has created a documentary on Federally-Funded Afterschool Meals. In the video, you'll find information on Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), Afterschool Meals (CACFP), and Summer Meals (SFSP):
The newly-released School Improvement Grants (SIG) analysis and assessment data shows that schools receiving such grants have increased proficiency rates in math and reading since the program was implemented two years ago. The SIG Program is a major component of the Department of Education’s game plan to help turn around the nation’s lowest performing schools. SIG funds are awarded by state education agencies to local education agencies to close, transform, restart or turn around low performing schools. Afterschool is mentioned in Department of Education guidance as part of turnaround and transformational strategies.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan commented on the progress and said “To build on this success in our disadvantaged communities, we must expand the most effective practices to accelerate progress for students and prepare them for success in college and careers.”
So what are some of these effective practices? Of the three programs highlighted in the department’s press release two weeks ago, two grantees used expanded learning time within school and/or afterschool programs within their turnaround plans. Using SIG funds for expanded learning time ensures other funding streams like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative can support afterschool, summer learning and before-school programs.