Sarah Cruz is the director of expanded learning opportunities for the Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities, NJSACC. NJSACC promotes and supports the development, continuity and expansion of quality programs for children and youth during the hours after school.
We know that many afterschool programs engage youth in great hands-on experiences from arts and crafts and basketball to chess and step teams. What we need to know and promote to our colleagues and communities, policy makers and parents is how high-quality afterschool activities can support learning that takes place during the school day.
In New Jersey, we learned how this is possible from our pilot Supporting Student Success (s3). Funded by Charles S. Mott Foundation—in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices—we learned that afterschool programs can align and support school day learning when program leadership is intentional about the activities, experiences and interactions youth have while attending afterschool programs.
While New Jersey is clearly making bold moves to improve public education, significant budget cuts have forced school districts to seek ways to do more with less. Increasingly, school districts are looking at the out-of-school-time hours to meet their goals in a cost-effective way.
In came the 10 afterschool programs that volunteered to participate in a year of working on this project with us. They varied greatly: 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and community education and faith-based expanded learning opportunity (ELO) providers all participated.
Each program was asked to develop a vision and a project that would ultimately help prepare students for the challenges of the Common Core. We supported their efforts by providing resources, guidance, introductory training and ongoing communication to answer any questions that arose.
During the 2012-2013 school year, the 10 sites worked on reaching the goals of s3, which were to:
We wanted the programs to demonstrate linkages between the Common Core and their program activities. We also hoped that the work they did at their sites would lead to stronger relationships with principals and teachers.
Ten different projects arose out of the groups that signed up to participate. They varied from working on professional development for the ELO and school day staff, to developing clubs that specifically addressed a particular grade group’s English/language arts and math standards, such as STEM and chess clubs. One program used their year of work to educate the students and families about what the expectations will be when the Common Core becomes fully implemented.
NJSACC supported these goals with professional development and prescriptive technical assistance based on each site’s project. Below is a program snapshot that gives more detail about the work that took place.
South Brunswick Community Ed/Club 678, operated by the Board of Education/Community Education Office, has 80 students participating in the afterschool program and is staffed by a team of eight. The program is fee-based and receives a small number of grants to support its mission.
The afterschool program’s vision for the s3 team was to work with the administration at two local middle schools, providing afterschool support and resources in the areas where the school could use assistance meeting the CCSS for afterschool program participants.
To do this, the s3 team—made up of the afterschool director, site director and school curriculum specialist—did the following:
Major takeaways after one year of work on the s3 project are:
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