The arts can play an incredibly important role in a young person’s life. They can spark creativity and motivation in students—they are a way for young people to express themselves, to gain a better understanding of who they are as individuals, to build confidence and increase engagement in learning. Afterschool arts programs are a critical partner to help ensure that the arts—which encompass everything from dance to digital media arts to poetry slams and everything in-between—is accessible to all youth, especially those in low-income areas where participation is low.
Today, The Wallace Foundation and Next Level Strategic Marketing Group released a national study, “Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs from Urban Youth and Other Experts.” This new study offers insights into what urban, low-income tweens–young people ages 10-13—want in an afterschool arts program and shares 10 principles to attract and keep this audience, who are often thought of as hard to engage, in programs.
The reports gives an unusual public glimpse into decisions such as how tweens decide what to try, what to stick with, and how their friends and family influence their decisions–the kind of consumer research businesses spend millions of dollars on but rarely release.
I think you’ll like this piece of news. I’m excited to share that we’ve extended the deadline for nominations for the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards! We’ve pushed back closing nominations until Oct. 21 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. This means you now have a full extra week tonominate an afterschool program serving middle schoolers for a chance to win $10,000 and be featured in our series of issue briefs and in ourAfterschool in Action compendium!
With your help, we will be able to highlight five innovative afterschool programs demonstrating excellence in the following four categories:
- Why Data Matters: How Afterschool Programs Use Data to Improve Programming
- Students with Disabilities and Other Special Needs and Afterschool
- The Role of Afterschool and the Common Core State Standards
- Keeping Kids Safe and Supported in the Hours After School
New research by Deborah Vandell—founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine—and colleagues finds that not only do students in afterschool programs see academic gains, but afterschool programs are also helping to close the achievement gap. The findings—summarized nicely in “Afterschool Is a Real Solution Linked to Closing the Gap”—show that students participating in afterschool programs, especially students who regularly participate in afterschool programs, see gains in their math achievement and academic performance, improve their work habits, and have better school day attendance.
This guest blog is by Usha Chidamber, a D.C. Schools certified educator and management consultant working on education research and policy issues.
Fall’s familiar sight of yellow school buses ferrying students heralds the start of a new school year of activity, learning and challenges. For high school seniors the school year brings college applications, senior projects, proms and graduation! But not for the 1 million students who fail to graduate each year. Sadly, it’s common to see students skipping school, hanging out at street corners and edging toward juvenile crime. In support of September being Attendance Awareness Month, the Afterschool Alliance is releasing the issue brief, Preventing Dropouts: The Important Role of Afterschool that shines a light on the national dropout problem and the increasingly important role of afterschool in helping kids stay in school.
While encouraging progress has been made on increasing the national graduation rate over the last decade (now 78.2 percent), graduation gaps remain among racial minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged students. Dropping out, first and foremost, represents a significant loss for the individual who drops out. And for the nation, dropping out represents lost productivity, taxes, earnings, savings, and increased costs due to unemployment and crime.
I enjoy every opportunity I have to listen and learn firsthand about issues related to the afterschool field, and last week was no exception. I was excited to be able to attend Washington Post Live’s 2013 Childhood Obesity Summit, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and hear directly from policy makers, experts and advocates about childhood obesity—an issue very much of concern to afterschool. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF, kicked off the event emphasizing the recent progress we’ve made as a nation in regard to turning a corner on childhood obesity rates as rates decrease in cities across the country. Yet despite this progress—which was made possible through a variety of actions and actors, including afterschool programs—there’s still much more work to be done.
In my opinion, her most significant point was that right now, we understand better than ever before what works and what doesn’t to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. Dr. Janet Collins, associate director for program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reinforced this point during her panel discussion, referring to childhood obesity as one of our “winnable battles.”
“I could no longer work without this program. I love it and my son loves it!!!”
“As long as I have child care, I won’t have to worry about losing my job.”
“I need this service! Knowing my child is in a place that helps him do his homework and where he can do fun activities helps me…”
This is just a small sampling of quotes from working parents in New York City illustrating the crucial role afterschool programs and child care play in their lives.
“Cuts to Child Care and After-School Will Force Parents Out of the Workforce,” a report released earlier this year by the Campaign for Children, surveyed more than 5,700 working parents in March 2013 and found that almost all working parents depend on child care and afterschool programs to remain in the workforce. Almost all working parents surveyed—a sizable 95 percent—said that they rely on child care and afterschool programs to keep their jobs. Parents employed in all fields—from health care to education to construction to law enforcement—and in all capacities—from nurses and hospital technicians to security guards and members of the New York Police Department—shared how important afterschool programs and child care was in their lives. A May 2012 survey by Campaign for the Children found that 1 in 3 parents who have children enrolled in an afterschool program would need to quit their jobs if the programs weren’t accessible to them anymore.
The Census Bureau’s new report citing a lack of change in household income and the poverty level from 2011 to 2012 may not sound like terrible news, but Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families and Budgeting for National Priorities project, may have said it best: “The poverty and income numbers are a metaphor for the entire economy…Everything’s on hold, but at a bad level.”
According to the report, in 2012 there were 9.5 million families living in poverty. Looking at children under the age of 18, there were more than 15 million living in poverty. To help put the figure into perspective, that number is greater than the total 2012 estimated populations of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. While the report points out that both numbers weren’t statistically different than the numbers from 2011, it highlights the staggering number of children and families who are struggling in today’s economic environment.
A Huffington Post piece by Mark Shriver, senior vice president for strategic initiatives for Save the Children, makes some excellent points linking the Census Bureau report to what is taking place in Congress right now. His example of the tough choice Save the Children had to face because of cuts to their Head Start programs in Louisiana—having to choose between closing one community’s classroom over another—during a time when children and families need more support, not less, was incredibly upsetting. But, unfortunately, this is a choice many youth serving providers, including afterschool programs, are forced to deal with. I hope you’ll take the time to read the rest of Mark’s piece "Boom and Bust: Economic Recovery Falling Short for Kids."