Jeff Cole is the associate vice president of school-community partnerships for the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and Network Lead for the Nebraska Community Learning Center Network.
As a first time participant in the Afterschool for All Challenge, I really didn’t know what to expect as we were filing into the Russell Senate Office Building. Having nominated Kristin Williams, Director of Community Initiatives at Omaha’s Sherwood Foundation, as Nebraska’s Afterschool Champion (a MUCH deserved recognition for all her work promoting afterschool programs in high poverty schools in Omaha and across the state), I knew state level advocates would be recognized for their work. I didn’t realize that a bipartisan group of senators and representatives would be joined by other national advocates and young people from nearby programs at the “Breakfast of Champions” to make such a strong case for why afterschool programs are so important for our nation’s future before heading to meetings on Capitol Hill.
I was especially hearted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) comments in support of S. 326, which strengthens the crucial federal 21st CCLC grant program, highlighting how important afterschool programs are for residents of her largely rural state. I was honored to have the opportunity to chat with and share my enthusiasm for rural afterschool programs with Sen. Murkowski as she was leaving the ornate and historic Kennedy Caucus Room.
I carried this enthusiasm for the importance of rural afterschool programs over into the meetings that I had with 4 of Nebraska’s 5 Congressional delegations after the “Breakfast of Champions.” Retiring Sen. Mike Johanns met with our group and reflected on his understanding of the importance of afterschool programs that he gained while serving as Nebraska’s governor.
On the heels of the Afterschool for All Challenge, there have been a number of activities in Washington as we move into the middle of February. From the State of the Union earlier this week to a day of action on sequestration today, the impact on education in general and afterschool and summer learning programs in particular are highlighted below:
- Supporting all 50 states to provide access to preschool for all low- and moderate-income children: The president is proposing to work with Congress to provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-old children with high-quality preschool—while also expanding these programs to reach hundreds of thousands of additional middle class children—and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies, so that all children enter kindergarten prepared for academic success.
- Creating a Master Teacher Corps of exemplary educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM): President Obama is calling on Congress to commit new resources to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps, enlisting 10,000 of America’s best and brightest science and math teachers to improve STEM education across America’s schools.
- Modernizing America’s high schools for real-world learning: The president is announcing a new competition to kick-start a redesign of high schools to emphasize real-world learning. The president’s plan will invest in redesigning high school to focus on providing challenging, relevant experiences as well as reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers and that create classes that focus on technology, science, engineering and other 21st century skills.
On Feb. 7, 2013, hundreds of you across the country stepped up to the challenge and reached out to your elected officials to let them know that you support afterschool for all:
- More than 120 Congressional offices
- Across 36 states
- More than 100 district meetings & site visits
- Hundreds of phone calls and emails to Congress
- Digital Learning Day celebrations in 23 states
Arkansas: The Arkansas Out of School Network worked with allied organization Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to take the Afterschool for All Challenge to the state capitol in Little Rock on February 7. Child advocates from across the state met at the Arkansas State Capitol to participate in the legislative process, meet with local legislators, attend legislative committee meetings, and observe lawmakers voting on bills that affect the lives of children and their families.
In conjunction with Kids Count Day, Arkansas Senate Bill 249 was introduced to provide $5 million to fund the pilot phase of the Positive Youth Development Act.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe stopped by Kids Count Day to lead pre-k children in singing Itsy Bitsy Spider. Watch:
Pittsburgh: Director Mila Yochum of Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST) had several local advocates join her at a series of meetings at the local offices of Rep. Mike Doyle and Sens. Pat Toomey and Pat Casey.
More than 200 state afterschool leaders and experts backed up your outreach with face-to-face meetings on Capitol Hill with senators and representatives to echo your message that afterschool works to keep kids safe, inspire learning and help working families.
What’s the secret to a child’s success?
Funny enough, failure may be a part of the answer. Not surprisingly though, a strong and supportive parent or adult mentor and what Paul Tough likes to call “character” are also key pieces to answering this age-old question asked by everyone from parents to educators to social scientists to policy makers.
Tough, New York Times best-selling author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character spoke at the opening plenary session of the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks annual conference yesterday. He began his speech with the idea that we are using the wrong strategies to help kids in our schools succeed and the conventional wisdom that has governed our thinking about education and success is misguided. As a nation, we have been obsessed with “cognitive hypothesis”—the belief that IQ scores alone measures what matters in determining success.
What his research uncovered was that an individual’s IQ and academic test scores weren’t the most significant factors in their life trajectory. What mattered more was the amount of trauma a child did or did not experience growing up—that the level of trauma one experienced in childhood had a direct linear correlation to negative adult outcomes. This means that the higher the trauma and stress levels a child experiences, the worse the outcomes would be in adulthood, such as higher levels of addiction and a higher likelihood of chronic illness. And the converse also held true, the lower the level of trauma, the healthier and better off the individual.
Tough then moved on to research supporting the notion that if we can improve a child’s environment, if we can combat the toxic stress that builds up in their system, and if we can reach them in early childhood and in their adolescence when they can be the most malleable, we can dramatically increase their prospects for success.
This morning I was lucky enough to be a part of the 500-person crowd at the National Press Club to celebrate the release of Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success. The impressive compendium includes studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 authors and is edited by Terry Peterson, Afterschool Alliance’s board chair and director of the Afterschool and Community Learning Resource Network.
Bill White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation kicked off the release with a rousing speech about the impact of afterschool and summer learning programs. He shared with the audience his belief that if you can educate, enrich and mentor youth in the afterschool and summer hours, they have a significantly better chance of having positive life outcomes. His remarks earned him a standing ovation from the crowd.
He then introduced the man of the hour, Terry, who took the stage and spoke about afterschool programs across the country—from New York to Florida to Texas—that were creating new and exciting ways for children to learn, such as through botany, the arts, robotics and fitness.
Terry stressed that because kids spend between 75 and 80 percent of their time outside of school, it is up to afterschool and summer learning programs to help students “catch up and keep up.” If afterschool and summer learning programs continue their work to create a spark of excitement for children to learn, partner with local schools, build on their community partners and engage families, there is a truly great opportunity to make expansions in the area of out-of-school time.
To close, Terry rallied the crowd of educators, researchers, policy makers and advocates with a call to action, stating that the evidence is in and the time is now to help spread this dream of quality afterschool for all.
Streamed live from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., this live webcast will unveil a groundbreaking new compendium,Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success.
Edited by our very own Board Chairman Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D., this seminal work features studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders including elected officials, educators, researchers, advocates and other prominent authors.
Join us for the live webcast at 9 a.m. EST as we highlight the bold and persuasive evidence from the field that engaging opportunities—drawing from robust partnerships—yield positive outcomes for students and for community and family engagement in learning. This webcast will be a great opportunity to help you prepare to take the Afterschool for All Challenge at home and make the case for afterschool to your Members of Congress.
Or, if you're going to be in D.C. on Feb. 5, we'd love to have you join us in person!
In conjunction with the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, this event and publication are made possible by the C.S. Mott Foundation.
- Mayor Christopher Coleman, City of St. Paul, MN
- Gail Connelly, National Association of Elementary School Principals
- Delia Pompa, National Council of La Raza
- Ayeola Fortune, United Way Worldwide
- Deborah Lowe Vandell, University of California, Irvine
- Jim Kohlmoos. National Association of State Boards of Education
Next week on Feb. 7, the Afterschool for All Challenge is an opportunity to raise your voice right in your own community to support the quality afterschool and summer learning programs that inspire young people to learn, support working families and keep children safe. Over the last 11 years several thousand parents, educators, young people and afterschool champions have come to Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill to make the case that afterschool, before school and summer learning programs are critical to the success of young people and a lifeline for parents.
This year we are changing it up and not asking advocates to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Afterschool for All Challenge. Because budgets are tight and times are uncertain at afterschool programs we are instead calling on friends of afterschool programs to call, meet in home district offices and email Congress on Afterschool for All Challenge day: Feb. 7, 2013. Here in Washington, we will be backing up your outreach at home through face-to-face meetings with Congress, as we team up with over 40 state teams who will be in Washington for the conference of the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks.
The results of the last 11 years of afterschool advocacy are clear: federal support for afterschool and summer learning through the 21st CCLC has grown—from being able to help 40,000 students access support in 1998 to helping more than 1 million young people last year. We know afterschool works and champions of afterschool are excellent at making the case:
- The Promising Afterschool Programs Study found that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs is linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and work habits. (University of California, Irvine, 2007)
- A meta analysis of 68 afterschool studies concluded that high quality afterschool programs can lead to improved attendance, behavior and coursework. Students participating in a high quality afterschool program went to school more, behaved better, received better grades and did better on tests compared to non-participating students. (Durlak, Weissberg & Pachan, 2010)
- The Promising Afterschool Programs Study found that students reported improved social and behavioral outcomes: elementary students reported reductions in aggressive behavior toward other students and skipping school; middle school students reported reduced use of drugs and alcohol, compared to their routinely unsupervised peers. (Policy Studies Associates, Inc., 2007)