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AUG
18
2017

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher, part II

By Guest Blogger

Welcome to part II of our Q&A with Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to oneof the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which establish that there is in fact clear evidence demonstrating that 21st CCLC work for students. To read part I, click here.

What changes would you like to see in terms of 21st CCLC data collection and evaluation?

This is a big question. First, I think we need to be clear around the purposes we’re trying to support through data collection and evaluation. Normally, we think about this work as falling within three primary categories:

  1. Data to support program staff in learning about quality practice and effective implementation
  2. Data to monitor the participation and progress of enrolled youth
  3. Data to assess the impact of the program on youth that participate regularly in the program

States have done an amazing job over the span of the past decade to develop quality improvement systems predicated on using quality data to improve practice (purpose #1). Effective afterschool quality improvement systems start with a shared definition of quality. In recent years, state 21st CCLC systems have come to rely upon formal assessment tools like the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) and the Assessment of Program Practices Tool (APT-O) to provide that definition, allowing 21st CCLC grantees to assess how well they are meeting these criteria and crafting action plans to intentionally improve the quality of programming. Use of these tools typically involves assigning a score to various program practices in order to quantify the program’s performance and establish a baseline against which to evaluate growth. A recent report completed by AIR indicates approximately 70 percent of states have adopted a quality assessment tool for use by their 21st CCLC grantees. Our sense is that these systems have been critical to enhancing the quality of 21st CCLC programs, and any efforts to modify the 21st CCLC data collection landscape should ensure program staff have the support and time necessary to participate in these important processes.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Evaluation and Data
AUG
14
2017

RESEARCH
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How does afterschool contribute to military readiness?

By Leah Silverberg

U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue

In 2016, the Council for a Strong America released America Unprepared, showing data that more than 70 percent of young adults in the United States would not qualify for military service due to obesity and other health issues, poor academic performance, drug abuse, or involvement in crime. As a solution to this lack of “citizen-readiness,” the council suggested support for voluntary home-visiting programs, high quality early education, science-based nutrition standards for school foods, and the reinstitution of physical education programs.

We have one more suggestion: quality afterschool programs. Many afterschool programs are already tackling the issues of health and wellness, academic achievement, and child safety.

Fighting fit

60 percent of young adults are overweight or obese. For the military, this translates to 31 percent of all young adults who apply to serve being disqualified from service. Furthermore, lifetime obesity is determined during school-age years. While obesity remains a large problem in the United States, the percentage of schools that require students to take physical education has declined to only 77 percent.

AUG
2
2017

RESEARCH
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AFT poll shows opposition to federal funding cuts to education

By Nikki Yamashiro

The clear message coming out of a recent national poll on attitudes toward federal education spending is that voters are overwhelmingly opposed to the federal government cutting funds for public education.

In the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates for the American Federation of Teachers, close to 3 in 4 voters say that they are opposed to the Trump administration’s proposal to cut federal spending on education by 13.5 percent while “cutting taxes for large corporations and wealthy individuals” and 73 percent say that they find this to be an unacceptable way to reduce spending by the federal government. When asked about the proposed elimination of funding for afterschool and summer learning programs, more than 7 in 10 voters responded that it was an unacceptable cut.

JUL
28
2017

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher

By Guest Blogger

In May, the proposed FY2018 budget eliminated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs. In the budget, a justification given for the elimination of funding was that there is no demonstrable evidence that 21st CCLC programs have a positive impact on the students attending the programs. Although we have highlighted the existing body of research underscoring the difference 21st CCLC programs are making in the lives of students participating in programs, we decided to go directly to the source, asking someone who has conducted evaluations on 21st CCLC programs for 14 years. 

We posed a few questions to Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically, and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to two of the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which establish that there is in fact clear evidence demonstrating that 21st CCLC work for students. 

What are the strongest findings across your research on 21st CCLC programs? Do you see any important non-academic benefits from afterschool and summer learning programs?

JUL
10
2017

RESEARCH
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New resources for STEM in afterschool from the Research + Practice Collaboratory

By Leah Silverberg

Check it out: the Research + Practice Collaboratory has some new and updated resources for the afterschool field! If you are not familiar, the Research + Practice Collaboratory works to bridge the gap between education research and STEM education implementation. The Collaboratory’s goal is to increase communication and partnerships between educators and researchers to promote the co-development research-based tools that are grounded in practice.

Case study teaches research and collaboration through tinkering

In a recent blog post, Jean Ryoo from the Exploratorium talks about her partnership with in-school and out-of-school time practitioners to create a conference presentation for school administrators and in-school and afterschool educators. The presentation was intended as an opportunity for afterschool professionals to share ideas with the larger education community and showcase collaboration across institutions, research, and teaching.

JUL
5
2017

RESEARCH
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Evaluating afterschool: Building an evaluation advisory board

By Guest Blogger

By Jason Spector, Senior Research & Evaluation Manager at After-School All-Stars

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the sixth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthird, fourth, and fifth posts of the series.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) in 2014, I represented the sole member of our research and evaluation department. It was a great opportunity to craft a vision, and one that I greeted with excitement, but there was definitely anxiety as well. I was fresh out of grad school—learning how to operate in a national organization while also feeling siloed. To help break down the silos, our leadership encouraged me to develop a board of strategic advisors.

During the last few years, the National Evaluation Advisory Board has played a critical role in helping us grow our department, craft a vision for our work, develop a language and strategy around our program quality assessment, deepen our evidence base, and advance the intentionality of our program model. It’s a resource I highly recommend for organizations who are looking to become more strategic in their work.

If you decide to form your own evaluation advisory board, here are four key ideas to keep in mind:

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data Guest Blog
JUN
6
2017

RESEARCH
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Evaluating afterschool: Answering questions about quality

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Jocelyn Michelsen, Senior Research Associate at Public Profit, an Oakland, California-based evaluation consultancy focused on helping high-performing organizations do their best, data-driven work with children, youth, and families.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the fifth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthirdand fourth posts of the series.

Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar: you keep up with new research on afterschool by reading articles and newsletters, following thought leaders, and attending conferences—but it is still hard to sort through all the information, let alone implement new strategies. Research often seems out of touch with the realities of programs on the ground, and while many anecdotal examples are offered, how-to guidelines are few and far between.

As an evaluator consulting with diverse afterschool programs across the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, I frequently hear this frustration from program leaders. There is a real gap between the research and the steps that staff, leadership, and boards can take to build quality in their own programs. Additionally, it can be hard to sift through the research to get to the ‘why’—why implement these recommendations, why invest time and resources, why change?

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data
MAY
4
2017

RESEARCH
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5 ways afterschool prepares kids to succeed in the workplace

By Charlotte Steinecke

Cultivating tomorrow’s workforce remains a central part of the discussion about America’s economic future. As today’s children begin to develop the skills they will need in the workplace, experts in the education and afterschool fields are turning their attention to the ways that afterschool can contribute to that development.

In the summer of 2016, the Riley Institute at Furman University surveyed afterschool state network leads using a comprehensive skills list from the National Network of Business and Industry Associations and additional skills from other nationally-regarded organizations. Survey responses illustrate the extent to which workforce readiness skills are developed in afterschool programming and the strategies programs use to grow those skills. Here are some main highlights from the study:

  • The top five workforce readiness skills developed by afterschool are teamwork, communication, problem solving, self-confidence, and critical thinking
  • 87 percent of survey respondents report that afterschool programs help develop self-confidence “a lot” – 89 percent report similar levels of improvement for teamwork skills, and 81 percent report gains in communication skills
  • STEM/robotics programs are top performers for fostering self-confidence, problem solving, and teamwork development
  • Afterschool programs create environments where students can engage in reflection, discussion, and argumentative essays to build their critical thinking skills
  • In-school attendance, behavior, and academic performance are seen to improve for students in afterschool programs

Check out the full results of the study here. To learn more about the skills lists utilized for this survey, head over to the Business Roundtable skills list, the Indiana skills list, and the profile of a South Carolina graduate.

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learn more about: Economy Youth Development