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Snacks by Nikki Yamashiro
JUL
2

IN THE FIELD
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Are you a rural afterschool program provider? We need your help!

By Nikki Yamashiro

Together with the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, we are calling on all rural afterschool program providers to complete a short survey on the challenges and opportunities unique to their program. By completing the full survey—which should take less than 10 minutes of your time—your program will be entered in a drawing for the chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card. It’s a win-win situation. Filling out the survey will make sure that your voice is heard as we work to better understand the issues providers face and practices they implement when it comes to reaching and serving children and families in rural communities, AND your program has a chance to win an Amazon gift card!

We ask that each afterschool program designate only one staff member to fill out the survey on behalf of the program.

The survey is open for just two weeks, and will close on Wednesday, July 15 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

We’re excited to hear from you and learn more about all that you are doing for afterschool!

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learn more about: Rural
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JUN
17

RESEARCH
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Summer learning infographic: Summer learning matters!

By Nikki Yamashiro

Our new infographic—the fourth in our America After 3PM infographic series—is a simple and visually compelling way to share just-released America After 3PM findings. It reveals that participation in summer learning programs has increased over the past five years and that demand among parents for these programs is high. The infographic illustrates the learning loss that happens during the summer months and the re-teaching that takes place when the school year begins in the fall, the high demand for summer learning programs, and the value both parents and teachers see in summer learning programs to support student success. 

Help us spread the word that children and families need more summer learning opportunities! Post, tweet or pin any or all of our summer infographics that highlight why summer learning matters, that parents want summer learning opportunities for their children and the strong support that exists for summer learning programs

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learn more about: America After 3PM Summer Learning
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JUN
15

RESEARCH
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Soccer for Success keeping kids active and healthy

By Nikki Yamashiro

We know that afterschool programs across the country are helping to keep kids active and healthy, providing opportunities for physical activity, as well as offering healthy snacks and meals. The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s release of a new, independent evaluation of their Soccer for Success program—a free afterschool program serving approximately 30,000 children in underserved communities around the U.S.—further makes the case that afterschool programs have a positive impact on the health and wellness of students. The year-long evaluation, conducted by Healthy Networks Design & Research, looked at health indicators such as Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles, waist circumference and PACER test lap results and found that children in the program improved their physical fitness and overall health. The evaluation reports that students in the program:

  • Decreased their BMI percentiles,
  • Transitioned to healthier BMI percentile categories,
  • Decreased their waist circumference size, and
  • Improved their aerobic capacity

Soccer for Success is a great example of how afterschool programs encourage heathy habits by combining physical activity, nutrition education, mentorship and family engagement. The result is a dynamic program that addresses different aspects of youth development, from children’s health issues to juvenile delinquency. Read more about the Soccer for Success impact evaluation at ussoccerfoundation.org and find out what physical activity opportunities look like for kids in your state on our interactive web dashboard

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learn more about: Health and Wellness
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JUN
11

RESEARCH
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New summer learning numbers, new dashboard look

By Nikki Yamashiro

Last October, we took a look at how children spend the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. during the regular school year. As the temperature begins to rise and kids and families get ready for summer break, we have turned our attention to the summer months and what the summer learning program landscape looks like in the U.S. Answering questions like “what percentage of families have a child in a summer learning program?” and “how many families want their child to take part in a summer learning program?” our interactive Web dashboard—that includes data for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia—is an easy way to find out what participation in summer learning programs looks like in your state.

In addition to discovering what summer learning program participation and demand for summer learning programs looks like in your state, the dashboard also includes state-level information on the average amount of time children spend in a summer learning program, the cost of summer learning programs, and parent support for public funding of summer learning programs. For example, you can see that demand for summer learning programs ranges from 33 percent in North Dakota to 73 percent in the District of Columbia. 

Each state also has its own state-specific dashboard where, in addition to the new summer numbers, you can view everything from the number of children in an afterschool program to the percentage of children who receive a healthy snack or meal in their program to the percentage of parents who agree that afterschool programs help working families keep their jobs.

Our new summer numbers are complete with a new homepage for all of your America After 3PM needs. The homepage has been redesigned to help you more easily sort through and locate numbers from the original America After 3PM report release, findings from the special report on health and wellness in afterschool, and findings on summer learning programs. There is a wealth of data on the dashboard—find what interests you most!

Happy navigating!

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learn more about: America After 3PM Summer Learning
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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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