It seems these days that if you’re keeping up with what’s happening in education, you can’t help but hear about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Last week, our vice president for policy and research, Jen Rinehart, wrote a stellar blog that not only walks you through what the Common Core State Standards are, but explains why they were developed, what they mean for education policy and the valuable role the afterschool field can play to support learning under the Common Core.
To keep up the Afterschool Alliance’s drumbeat of providing the afterschool field with helpful information connecting afterschool and the Common Core, I tuned in to “Leveraging Expanded Learning Opportunities to Support Common Core Implementation,” a webinar hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and America’s Promise Alliance. The webinar featured Jenell Holsted, Ph.D. of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who discussed a recent brief, “Making the Connection: Next Generation Learning and Expanded Learning Opportunities,” and Sarah Cruz, director of expanded learning opportunities at the Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities (NJSACC), who shared information about New Jersey’s statewide pilot training program that helps providers align their programming with the Common Core State Standards.
Earlier this month, Champions® and the National AfterSchool Association released their second annual “Out-of-School Time Survey.” The survey found an overwhelming majority of elementary and middle school superintendents believe in the academic, social and behavioral benefits afterschool programs provide to their students. In addition to viewing afterschool programs as an environment where children can improve their core academic skills—such as reading, math and science—96 percent of superintendents agree that the most important afterschool programs improve study skills and more than 9 in 10 superintendents surveyed agree that the most important afterschool programs increase students’ social interactions and engagement (92 percent). More than 4 in 5 superintendents say that the most important afterschool programs are those that offer activities not present during the traditional school day (82 percent).
A key take away from this survey is that school superintendents understand the true value of afterschool programs and recognize that schools and students benefit from support of afterschool programs. Schools aren’t alone in the charge to ensure that all students receive a quality and well-rounded education. Afterschool programs are able and willing partners to prepare students for success in school, career and life.
My youngest brother absolutely hated reading when he was in elementary school. And then he was introduced to the Harry Potter series in middle school. Suddenly he couldn’t get enough of reading. Harry Potter was his gateway into the world of books. When he finished with the series, he proactively looked for other books that he would enjoy. His teachers commented that he was more attentive in class and making gains in his studies. It seems too simple to be true, but sometimes introducing kids to interesting and engaging reading materials can get them hooked on reading—a skill that helps foster academic benefits and positive attitudes toward school, career and life.
The recently released joint issue brief by Scholastic Family and Community Engagement (FACE) and the Afterschool Alliance explores the role of reading in a child’s life, and the unique ways afterschool programs can incorporate reading into their curricula and start kids on the path toward a lifelong love of reading. “The Life-Enhancing Benefits of Reading in Out-of-School Programs” points to research that demonstrate the number of positive outcomes associated with avid reading, such as academic gains, increased drive to do well in school and improved self-esteem.
“Perhaps the most critical decision parents make in balancing their work and home life is choosing the type of care to provide for their children while they work.” We at the Afterschool Alliance couldn’t agree more with this statement by Lynda Laughlin, author of a Census Bureau report released last week analyzing child care patterns and costs. A positive and encouraging finding of the report is that the percentage of school-age kids who have no regular child care arrangement—kids in self-care—has decreased, and this is particularly true of children with a single, employed parent.
“Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011” examined the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data to determine the child care arrangements of preschoolers (children under 5) and school-age kids (children ages 5 to 14) and found that between 1997 and 2011, the percentage of school-age children in self-care who lived with a single, employed parent decreased from 24 percent to 14 percent. One explanation offered for this decrease was increased investment in afterschool programs. This rationale is highly probable, given that federal funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers—the only federal funding dedicated exclusively to before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs—was first appropriated $40 million in 1998, and has grown to $1.1 billion for FY2013 and serves approximately 1.1 million kids.
Are you a maker? Have you ever built a house made of cake, painted a mural, sewed a dress, designed a video game, or created something for school or for fun? If so, the Instructables Make-to-Learn Youth Contest is for you! Youth between the ages of 13 and 18 can share their projects by uploading photos, videos or step-by-step photo instructions to the contest website and answering four easy questions:
- What did you make?
- How did you make it?
- Where did you make it?
- What did you learn?
Three Grand Prize winners will receive a 32GB iPad mini; a $50 gift card to the iTunes App Store; and a $200 gift card to SparkFun, Home Depot or Amazon. Five First Prize winners will be awarded a $200 gift card to SparkFun, Home Depot or Amazon; and 10 Runner Up Prize winners will receive a $50 gift card to SparkFun, Home Depot or Amazon. All award winners will have the opportunity to star in a professionally produced mini-documentary. The deadline for applications is April 15. For more information, visit http://m2l.indiana.edu/make-to-learn-challenge/.
For D.C. locals, April brings to mind cherry blossoms and the start of spring weather. For the Afterschool Alliance, April means it’s time to release the new MetLife Foundation and Afterschool Alliance compendium! This week, we are disseminating “Afterschool in Action: Innovative Afterschool Programs Supporting Middle School Youth” at the National AfterSchool Association Annual Convention in Indianapolis, IN. This compendium features four issue briefs that explore the critical role quality afterschool programs play in meeting the needs of middle schoolers, their families and their communities. The issue briefs address arts enrichment in afterschool, the role of afterschool supporting successful parent engagement efforts, afterschool programs promotingmiddle school improvement efforts, and digital media and learning in afterschool.
In keeping with the tradition started last year, we have once again included in-depth profiles of the five Afterschool Innovator Award winners, including a historical overview of the program, main sources of funding and their recommendations for other programs. The award winners—The Wooden Floor in Santa Ana, CA; Latino Arts Strings & Mariachi Juvenil Program in Milwaukee, WI;Kid Power Inc.,—The VeggieTime Project in Washington, D.C.; Parma Learning Center in Parma, ID; and Green Energy Technologies in the City in Lansing, MI—share the inspirational work they are taking on with their middle school students, giving readers an in-depth look at each program’s mission, theory of change, curriculum, and institutional growth and development.
We know, based on numerous evaluations of 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), that children who participate in these afterschool programs, especially children who regularly attend the programs, show improvement in their academic performance, engagement in school and overall behavior. The recently released report by American Institutes for Research (AIR), Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Year 2 Evaluation Report, adds to the body of evidence that shows afterschool programs are making a positive impact on children’s school day performance.
AIR’s evaluation found that students participating in the Texas 21st CCLC program—also known as Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE)—saw improvements in their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and math scores, fewer disciplinary incidents than non-participating students, fewer school absences, and an increased likelihood of being promoted to the next grade. One statistic I found to be especially impressive was regardless if a student regularly attended the ACE program, participants in 9th grade through 11th grade were significantly more likely to be promoted to the next grade. The report found that for students who attended the program 30 to 59 days, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 79 percent. For students who attended the program 60 days or more, the likelihood of being promoted to the next grade increased by 97 percent.
The above statistic transitions nicely to another key finding of the study: regular attendance in the ACE program matters. Students who attended the ACE program for 60 days or more demonstrated better outcomes than their peers who participated in the program for 30 to 59 days. Students who attended the ACE program more frequently showed greater improvement in their TAKS reading and math scores, lower disciplinary incidents, fewer absences from school and a higher rate of grade promotion. AIR reported that when compared to students who attended the program for 30 to 59 days, the grade promotion rate for students who participated in the ACE program for 60 days or more was 23 percent to 40 percent higher.
Happy National Nutrition Month! An emphasis on raising a healthier, more active generation of kids to combat the growing epidemic of childhood obesity here in the U.S. has been a top priority for First Lady Michelle Obama. This month, the First Lady expanded her Let’s Move! campaign and launched Let’s Move! Active Schools, a collaboration with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and leaders from the public and private sectors to bring physical activity back to our schools. In an email announcing the program, the First Lady calls for champions to help create an active school environment and start creating change in their community.
Let’s Move! Active Schools also includes a before-school and afterschool component, recognizing these programs play a role encouraging kids to get active, stay active and lead healthier lives. If your afterschool program is thinking about launching a new physical activity program, here are two funding opportunities that may be of interest:
- ASAP Acceleration Grants – The Active Schools Acceleration Project is accepting applications for $1,000 grants to help programs get a new physical activity curriculum up and running in elementary schools. The deadline to submit an application is April 22, 2013.
- Carol M. White Physical Education Program Grant Announcement – This Department of Education grant provides funding to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations to start, expand or enhance physical education programs in school or out of school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The application deadline is April 12, 2013.
Let’s Move! Active Schools is a great initiative that couldn’t have come at a better time. Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) and the Physical Activity Guidelines Midcourse Report Subcommittee that found less than one-third of high school students met the government recommended one hour of physical activity per day. Not only are afterschool programs ideal partners in the effort to get kids active, but they are also helping kids eat nutritiously and make healthy decisions. Together with schools and communities, afterschool programs can help healthy kids to grow up to become healthy adults—let’s move!