Ensuring all kids have access to afterschool meals was the theme of the latest webinar hosted by the Afterschool Alliance. The webinar, “Feeding America’s Children After School,” was held this past Wednesday and featured speakers that discussed how afterschool programs can successfully implement the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program is a federal child nutrition program that was expanded to every state through the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Afterschool programs that are located in or near a school with 50 percent or more of enrolled students participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible to participate in the program.
An ever-increasing body of research shows that high-quality afterschool programs can boost students' academic achievement, improve student attendance and graduation rates, and lead to higher levels of student engagement and better behavior. The heightened focus on evaluations and data not only helps to highlight what works in afterschool, it creates opportunities for the afterschool field to reflect, adjust, improve and grow in principle and in practice.
“Building Citywide Systems for Quality: A Guide and Case Studies for Afterschool Leaders,” written by the Forum for Youth Investment and commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, is a step-by-step how-to-guide for communities, cities, intermediaries and afterschool programs to do just this. The guide outlines steps that groups can take to work together and create a quality improvement system (QIS)—“an intentional effort to raise the quality of afterschool programming in an ongoing, organized fashion.” The approach is based on “continuous improvement,” the belief that to improve the quality of work, organizations must regularly assess themselves and compare their efforts to a model program, and design and implement a plan to make improvements based on findings from the assessment. And repeat.
The guide describes the components of an effective QIS—a shared definition of quality, a lead organization, engaged stakeholders, a model of continuous improvement to follow, information systems to inform improvement efforts, guidelines and incentives for participation and adequate resources—as well as charts the three stages necessary to develop a QIS that is both effective and sustainable.
In addition, the guide includes incredibly insightful case studies from Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Hampden County, MA; New York, NY; and Palm Beach County, FL.
Take a look at the guide to see how you can begin to develop your own QIS and ensure all kids have the ability to access high-quality afterschool programs.
We know finding funding for afterschool STEM programs is a major concern of program providers—it comes up during most conference presentations and when I am out talking to programs. We heard you and we did something about it. Today we released a resource to help you identify, sort through and take advantage of the many funding opportunities available for afterschool STEM! “Know Your Funders: A Guide to STEM Funding for Afterschool” was written in partnership with The Finance Project and developed with generous support from the Noyce Foundation.
By Shaun Gray
Lights On Afterschool is two weeks away, and we are hearing about a lot of awesome celebrations taking place around the country. From a youth air fair & open house at Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in California to a “Luminarias for Literacy” walk over the Rio Grande River hosted by Rio Grande Educational Collaborative in New Mexico, this year’s Lights On Afterschool is gearing up to be the best ever.
Another unique celebration for Lights On Afterschool are movie screenings and discussion panels surrounding the new afterschool inspired documentary, Brooklyn Castle, about an inner-city public school in Brooklyn and its afterschool chess team. The school is home to the most winning junior high school chess team in the country, but while working to excel at the chess board, the students and teachers face cutbacks that threaten the very afterschool program that is credited with their school’s “culture of success.” The team has been featured in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal; yet budget cuts still loom at IS 318’s chess program and at afterschool sites around the country.
These movie screenings and discussion panels are currently being held in California, D.C., and New York City during the week before and week of Lights On Afterschool. Watch the trailer for Brooklyn Castle below to learn why this film was honored as the Audience Award Winner at the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival as well as winning Best New Director at the Brooklyn Film Festival. Brooklyn Castle is set to release in theaters nationwide on October 19.
A program that helps kids use out-of-school time to advance both inside and outside the classroom will again be offered at more than a dozen schools across six Genesee County districts through the support of a $3.1-million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to the Genesee Area Focus Fund. The Fund is a supporting organization of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce.
YouthQuest, led by the Regional Chamber, offers afterschool activities and services that promote academic learning, physical fitness, youth leadership, volunteerism, and the exploration of new interests and skills in such areas as science and the arts.
By Jodi Grant
This post was co-authored with Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and originally published on Huffington Post's Education Blog. Read the original post and share your thoughts with the HuffPost community.
Each weekday from September to June, at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, school bells across the land ring, signaling the end of classes for the day. The sound that follows in many classrooms is familiar to anyone who's been in a classroom: books snapping shut, chair legs screeching on floors, and children moving on to their next stop. Just what that next stop is varies from community to community, family to family, and child to child. Some go off to structured activities with adult supervision; some go home to a waiting adult; some go home and are unsupervised; and some have no real option but to hang out in places where trouble is especially likely to find them.
In that first category are about 8.4 million children who are lucky enough to have afterschool programs that keep them safe and inspire them to learn, and that also help their working parents continue to work productively, secure in the knowledge that their kids are under the watchful eye of caring professionals. Unfortunately, a much larger group of children—15.1 million—are left alone—no parents, no afterschool program, no adult supervision.
The policy challenge those numbers frame for us is obvious: We need to shrink the number of children left on their own in the often-perilous afterschool hours, and we need to invest in growing the number of children who have enriching afterschool options available to them. Unfortunately, we seem to be heading in the wrong direction.
That's the inescapable conclusion from new research conducted for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education campaign by a team of George Washington University researchers. The report focuses on state funding for programs supporting students who face economic disadvantages, with a particular eye on the effect of the recession on those programs and the children they serve.
Congratulations to the Broward Children’s Center on winning a brand new iPad!
They were the lucky winner, chosen at random, from the 1,012 afterschool program providers who filled out our Uncertain Times 2012 survey. Lois Nagle, preschool program administrator for the Broward Children’s Center shared with me, “What a wonderful piece of technology for our afterschool program. Our speech therapists have already found some great apps for our nonverbal children.”
We couldn’t be happier that the Broward Children’s Center—an afterschool program located in Dania Beach, Florida, that serves children with special needs between the ages of 3-6 years old—is putting the iPad to good use. To describe her program, Lois wrote, “Our inclusive afterschool program in Dania Beach is a natural blending of children with special needs and their typically developing peers. Our afterschool programs group the children together based on their developmental levels. This ensures all children have the appropriate materials and accommodations needed to successfully engage and participate in all activities. This program would not be possible without the support of the Children’s Service Council of Broward County, who fund[s] our special needs aftercare program and summer program.”
In addition, thanks to the Broward Children’s Center, as well as the other 1,011 afterschool program providers who filled out our survey, the Afterschool Alliance was able to collect detailed information about the state of afterschool programs across the country and write an in-depth report discussing how they are faring in today’s economy. Unfortunately, we found that they are struggling with shrinking budgets and meeting the needs of their communities. What’s worse, they don’t see economic relief for their program in sight any time in the near future.
If you have a minute to spare (or maybe 10), I highly encourage you to read Uncertain Times 2012-Afterschool Programs Still Struggling in Today’s Economy. It reinforces why we need an increased investment in afterschool, before school and summer learning programs that provide a safe and supervised space for kids, engage them in learning, and give peace of mind to working families.
By Jodi Grant
Over the course of the last several years, parents, children and communities across our country have found themselves fighting an uphill battle—facing unemployment, food insecurity and a slow economic recovery. Afterschool programs—that are a safe haven for children in the hours before and after school, give working parents peace of mind, feed kids nutritious snacks and meals, and offer an enriched learning environment—also find themselves confronted with economic hardships and struggling to fully meet the needs of their communities.
Our new report, Uncertain Times 2012: Afterschool Programs Still Struggling in Today’s Economy, shows that afterschool program budgets are shrinking, program services are stretched thin and programs are not able to reach all the children in their community who would benefit from their services. What’s more, for the programs that work with communities that are most in need of afterschool programs, the situation is even more serious.