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Snacks by Nikki Yamashiro
MAY
22

RESEARCH
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New Harvard Family Research Project commentary: Why student engagement matters

By Nikki Yamashiro

Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool,” a new commentary out of the Harvard Family Research Project, discusses the importance of youth engagement in students’ learning, relationship building and development, and the vital role afterschool programs play in engaging youth with the learning opportunities around them. The commentary delves into four dimensions of engagement:  1) cognitive engagement, 2) behavioral engagement, 3) social engagement and 4) emotional engagement. The piece not only calls attention to the need to create environments that engage students in these various dimensions, but outlines the many ways afterschool programs are encouraging student engagement. Below are a few examples of steps programs can take and have taken to leave students wanting more:

  • Cognitive engagement: Steps programs can take within this engagement dimension that deals with critical thinking, problem solving, developing new skills and learning new information include offering new activities that youth express an interest in; customizing and scaffolding activities that can facilitate students moving up the learning ladder; and providing encouragement and support to students as they navigate challenging activities and situations.
  • Behavioral engagement: Practices to support behavioral engagement—which refers to the attendance, behavior and participation of students in afterschool programs—include creating an environment where students can have fun and feel safe and relaxed, providing stability through the intentional structuring of the program, and offering a variety of learning experiences—such as field trips and technology training—to grow attendance and participation in programs.
  • Social engagement: Helping youth to feel like part of a community includes designing activities that create meaningful and positive group interactions, offering activities and devices that spur communication and collaboration, and building a sense of community for youth, both within and outside of the afterschool program.
  • Emotional engagement: Emotional engagement, referring to students feeling accepted and appreciated for who they are, can be supported through practices such as encouraging meaningful relationships between program staff and students and providing students leadership roles within the program.

“Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool” also includes data from Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM survey, which finds that parents view afterschool programs not only as a space that keeps their children safe, but also as an enriching learning environment. The commentary is a part of the latest edition of the FINE Newsletter, which you can access on the Harvard Family Research Project’s website.

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learn more about: America After 3PM
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MAY
20

RESEARCH
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New findings on high school graduation rates are in...

By Nikki Yamashiro

…And overall, the outlook is positive, with the nation’s high school graduation rate reaching 81.4 percent—the highest it has ever been. Last week, the 2015 edition of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic was released and found that for the third year in a row, graduation rates have stayed on target to reach the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. The report by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, and in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, uncovers that increased graduation rates among Hispanic and African-American students, a decrease in the number of “dropout factories”(high schools with low graduation rates), and 29 states reaching at least the national graduation rate average of 81.4 percent, have helped to move the national graduation rate closer to the 90 percent graduation rate goal.

To continue to increase graduation rates and reach the 90 percent high school graduation rate target by 2020, Building a Grad Nation singles out five key drivers to focus on:

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learn more about: Academic Enrichment
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MAY
13

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: The Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities establishing a new research resource for the afterschool field

By Nikki Yamashiro

Dr. Kimberley Boyer is the executive director of the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation (CVAF). In 2014, CVAF launched the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO)—a peer-reviewed, online, open-access publication—where she serves as the chief editor. The JELO connects research and promising practices throughout California and the nation, fostering a dialogue that engages both researchers and practitioners in the field.

Evidence-based programming is becoming a major thrust in expanded learning. While a multitude of research about the impact of expanded learning exists, it is not always easy to find. This was the dilemma I encountered when I started working for the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation in 2007. I remember approaching our then executive director at that time, and expressing the need to develop a resource that houses reliable studies and research about the positive impacts of afterschool programs. I said, “What about developing an academic journal that can house work like this? Then researchers, practitioners, legislators and advocates can have this information.” Now, I also mentioned to her that I was completing my dissertation that focused on afterschool programs and was beginning my search to find a journal to submit for publication. I found that there was very few to none of these specific journals available. Fast forward to 2014 and the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) was born. It took a few years and a few journal name changes, but the JELO is finally here and I couldn’t be more proud to share it with the field.  

The creation of the JELO was further spurred by the interest of OST/expanded learning program providers, educational administrators, community members, and young people in the Central Valley of California to create such a project. As more experts joined the conversation, the discussion grew to incorporate research and programs within California and throughout the nation. The mission of this journal is to foster the discovery, collection, and dissemination of scholarly research and deeper learning from a variety of disciplines related to out-of-school-time or expanded learning time. This work builds upon Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, edited by Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D. This groundbreaking compendium contains studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders including community leaders, elected officials, educators, researchers, advocates and other prominent authors. Very few academic journals dedicate themselves primarily to the field of expanded learning. Research in this field is being sought out by institutions of higher learning, as well as policy makers and advocates. From an academic standpoint, this area of research has grown to the point that merits the development of a publication like the JELO. From a policy and advocacy standpoint, the JELO increases public awareness of the field of expanded learning, but also supports empirical research. Finally, from a practitioner standpoint, the JELO provides guidance and insights about innovative practices that are being applied elsewhere.

Our inaugural issue launched in the spring of 2014 and our second issue was just released. The second issue of the JELO features a dialogue between Michelle Perrenoud, of Los Angeles County Office of Education, and Dr. Deborah Vandell, of University of California, Irvine, on the topic of the networks and systems which support the expanded learning field. Three articles are featured that focus on the value of networks and systems. Two articles discuss the importance of on-going communication between school day and afterschool providers to maximize student impact. The third article articulates the importance of staffing structure, staff knowledge, and external partners as key factors associated with effective inquiry-based science opportunities in expanded learning programs. To download both issues of the JELO and to learn about submitting an original article, please go to: http://www.centralvalleyafterschool.org/case-for-afterschool/the-journal-of-expanded-learning-opportunities-project/.

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog Youth Development
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APR
14

IN THE FIELD
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In case you missed it: A recap of the Building Literacy in Afterschool webinar

By Nikki Yamashiro

A geography quiz bowl set in the style of the game show Jeopardy, field trips to cultural institutions, and teaching playwriting while building communication and leadership skills—these are just a few examples of the ways three afterschool programs featured in our webinar earlier this month are engaging their students in literacy and helping to develop their students’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills. 

The Simpson Street Free Press afterschool program located in Dane County, Wisconsin; Positive Direction Youth Center from Terrell County, Georgia; and the 2015 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner, New American Pathways’ Bright Futures Afterschool Program from Atlanta, Georgia, shared everything from tips on how to build on—but not replicate—what their students are learning during the school day to components of quality instruction to how to engage parents and families in their child’s education.  Speakers on the webinar also answered questions from the audience on how to foster and sustain student engagement in literacy building activities, how they worked to develop partnerships and relationships with their students’ schools, and how and why they provide targeted support to their students who are struggling in school.

If you missed the webinar, visit our webinar archives page where you can watch the recording; download the PowerPoint slides; and access resources that were included in the webinar from Simpson Street Free Press, Positive Direction Youth Center and New American Pathways’ Bright Futures Afterschool Program.  You can also read more about the important role afterschool programs are playing to help develop their students’ literacy skills in our latest issue brief, “Building Literacy in Afterschool.”

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APR
9

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: Congress should follow the research and support after-school programs

By Nikki Yamashiro

Deborah Lowe Vandell is a distinguished education researcher and founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine.  This blog post was originally published in The Hill.

Effective afterschool programs can improve students’ academic achievement, work habits and personal behavior. They serve kids at a critical time—the hours after 3 in the afternoon when they would otherwise be out of school and on their own. 

Now, it’s a critical time for these afterschool and summer programs.

Congress is considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the leading federal legislation that funds primary and secondary education. 

Among the many decisions that Congress will make is whether to maintain funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These federally funded afterschool and summer programs serve some 1.6 million students a year, primarily students from low-income communities. These programs offer high-quality, hands-on activities under the supervision of caring, specially trained staff.  Most studies agree that high-quality afterschool programs are making a huge and helpful difference in youngsters’ lives.  

But now these programs are in danger of being cut back or even closed down, depriving poor kids of crucial opportunities to learn and develop during the non-school hours. Unless this initiative is preserved as a dedicated stream of funding, these afterschool programs offered in collaboration with local partners including public schools, community organizations such as YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs, and faith-based organizations will be seriously jeopardized. 

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APR
7

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Promoting family engagement in afterschool

By Nikki Yamashiro

Study after study confirms the importance of family engagement in a child’s development.  A new article in the April issue of Phi Delta Kappan, “Engage families for anywhere, anytime learning,” shifts the focus of the conversation from if family engagement is important to how to better engage families.  Written by Heather B. Weiss, founder and director of the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) and M. Elena Lopez, HFRP’s associate director, the article discusses the need to look to the out-of-school time hours to help promote family engagement efforts. It also focuses on three principles to create a “more equitable approach to family engagement based on family strengths as well as the shared responsibility assumed by families, schools, and communities for children’s positive academic and social development across time and the many settings where children learn:”

  1. Shared responsibility:  Families, schools and communities coming together and working together to create a learning environment that helps students grow and thrive. The authors include the example of Makeshop, an exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh that works with a variety of partners—including schools, a library and a university—to create a space where children and their families can work together to tinker and learn about new objects using a mix of materials and technology—from circuit boards to wooden toys. 
  2. Connection:  Connecting children to a variety of learning opportunities in and out of school, where parents, schools and communities find ways to facilitate, encourage and sustain participation in afterschool and summer learning programs.  The Greenwood Shalom afterschool program, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is included as an example of an afterschool program that not only provides targeted support to their students, but to their families as well.  The program offers parent empowerment seminars, information sessions on college enrollment and voter registration, and helps facilitate meetings between families and school day staff. 
  3. Continuity:  Leveraging the collective support of families, schools and communities to ensure that students have afterschool and summer learning opportunities available and of interest to them as they grow and move through elementary, middle and high school.  The example provided is Comienza en Casa (It Starts at Home), a program serving migrant preschoolers and kindergarteners in Milbridge, Maine, that offers support to children and their families as children transition from learning at home to a kindergarten classroom.  The program works closely with their students’ school, as well as a local library, to help with the transition, and also creates individualized learning goals for parents to work on with their child at home.

To learn more, read the full article in the Phi Delta Kappan.  If you’re looking for additional examples of the ways in which afterschool and summer learning programs are helping support parent engagement efforts, you can also read our issue brief, “Afterschool: A Key to Successful Parent Engagement.”

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MAR
19

RESEARCH
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New afterschool infographic: Helping kids get healthy and stay healthy

By Nikki Yamashiro

To complement last week’s release of Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM special report, “Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity,” and in conjunction with our participation in MomsRising’s #WellnessWed TweetChat yesterday, we just released a brand new infographic that illustrates the important role that afterschool programs play to keep kids healthy and active during the after school hours.  Based on responses from our national household survey, this infographic shows that parents want healthy options for their children after school, and among parents who have a child in an afterschool program that offers healthy foods or opportunities for physical activity, satisfaction is high.

This infographic—the third in our series of afterschool infographics—is another simple, but powerfully engaging way to make the case of the importance of afterschool programs. 

Help us spread the word about why we need afterschool programs and post, tweet or pin this!

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MAR
13

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What does health and wellness in afterschool look like in your state?

By Nikki Yamashiro

Thanks to new state maps on our interactive Web dashboard, the answers to this question are right at your fingertips.  Building off of the recent release of our America After 3PM special report, “Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity,” the updated dashboard gives you a state-level look at a number of health and wellness findings, including the role parents believe afterschool programs should play providing healthy foods and keeping kids active and how afterschool programs are faring in meeting the needs of their students and families in these areas.

Color-coded maps, as well as bar graphs, make it easy to see how parents in Montana feel about afterschool programs providing healthy foods compared with parents in Missouri.  It turns out 3 in 4 parents in both states agree that afterschool programs should provide healthy foods. 

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learn more about: America After 3PM Health and Wellness Nutrition
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