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Snacks by Nikki Yamashiro
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

RESEARCH
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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

RESEARCH
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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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MAR
12

RESEARCH
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And the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner is...

By Nikki Yamashiro

Congratulations to New American Pathways’ Bright Futures Afterschool Program, our first Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner!  The Afterschool Alliance and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation recognized Bright Futures yesterday morning at the joint National AfterSchool Association (NAA) annual convention and Afterschool Alliance Afterschool for All Challenge.

Jackson Routh, community initiatives manager at the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, shared with the audience a moving story of Dollar General’s co-founder, J.L. Turner, who had to drop out of school in the third grade due to his father’s passing, leaving school without the ability to read.  Turner went on to successfully establish Dollar General, but recognizing that all children are not afforded equal educational opportunities, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation was created to ensure that every individual has the foundational skills to succeed in school and career and supports literacy building efforts across the country.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Literacy
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JAN
22

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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
20

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New report: Findings on expanded learning time in four states

By Nikki Yamashiro

Last week, the Center on Education Policy (CEP), based at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, released “Expanded Learning Time: A Summary of Findings from Case Studies in Four States,” a report examining the strategies being used by schools and school districts to expand learning time, as well as the impact, challenges and successes of expanded learning time (ELT) initiatives.  While the report includes a number of insights regarding what ELT looks like at various sites and how schools and districts have implemented ELT, a central takeaway of the report is that ELT is just one way schools can help improve student achievement.  Authors of the study, as well as education leaders interviewed for the study, agree that although ELT can have a positive effect on student achievement in school if it is a part of school improvement efforts, it should be one of an assortment of strategies to improve student achievement. 

The report focuses on 17 low-performing schools within 11 school districts that have implemented expanded learning time.  The four states in which the school districts are located—Connecticut, Colorado, Oregon, and Virginia—have been granted Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) waivers, which means that they have greater flexibility on how to use certain federal funding streams for increased learning time, and a majority of the schools either received School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding or were identified as a “priority” school under ESEA waivers.  The report’s authors conducted site visits of all 11 school districts and a majority of the schools, interviewing close to 50 education leaders, including education officials, district leaders and school principals.  Below are key findings from the report:

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learn more about: Extended Day
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