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Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success

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Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student 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.

Next up was the event’s moderator, Jim Kohlmoos, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.  Jim keyed in on the compendium’s use of the word “leveraging,” discussing the need to leverage opportunities, resources and knowledge.  In order to work to close the opportunity gap in America, we need to promote student success by creating enrichment activities during the hours out of school that complement and supplement the school day, but that “don’t do more of the same.” 

The panel was a stellar representation of policy, research, school and community groups:

  • Mayor Christopher Colemen, City of St. Paul, MN
  • Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
  • Ayeola Fortune, Director, Education Team, Untied Way Worldwide
  • Deborah Lowe Vandell, Founding Dean, School of Education, University of California, Irvine

Each panelist spoke to a different facet of the power of afterschool and summer learning programs, but each person highlighted the significant benefits these programs have on children and the need to work together to make certain the youth of our country are given the opportunity to succeed.  Afterschool programs offer an environment that is flexible and doesn’t mirror the school day, allowing students to explore their interests and become more engaged in learning.  Kids from low-income households are often the ones who benefit most from these programs, and if we want to see a narrowing of the achievement gap, investment in high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs is a necessity.

Mayor Coleman discussed his work as a public defender in the area of juvenile justice.  Through his work, he saw it was a child’s environment that led them into trouble.  It was then he saw that all roads in economic development lead back to education, and now he views afterschool and summer learning programs as his city’s crime fighting strategy, housing strategy and economic growth strategy.  

Deborah from UC Irvine spoke next about the importance of research (one of her more recent studies, a 2007 analysis of 45 afterschool programs, is a key piece of research linking regular participation in afterschool programs to significant gains in test scores and reductions in behavior problems) and the sizable body of research currently available on afterschool field.  The three takeaways from her talking points were:

  1. Afterschool program quality—specifically supportive relations with adults and staff, positive relationships between students and sustained engagement in activities kids care about­—matters.
  2. Dosage, or the amount of time a child participates in an afterschool program, matters.
  3. 21st century skills, such as persistence and team work, are linked to participation in high-quality out-of-school time programs.   

Gail, from NAESP, and Ayeola, from United Way Worldwide, each spoke about the importance of partnerships and the need to work together, implement together and share responsibility.  Gail shared that principals are the gateway into the schools and by working together, afterschool programs and schools can be a cohesive and coherent approach to leveraging student potential and creating more opportunities.  Ayeola offered the metaphor of the United Way Worldwide pushing to be the glue in communities.  She shared that their organization is working to increase the graduation rate and make certain that a diploma means something to graduates.  They take a holistic view of what a child needs to succeed—starting from birth and going through to age 21. 

The Afterschool Alliance’s own Executive Director Jodi Grant was one of the compendium’s 14 contributing authors who gave a “shout out” during the event, speaking about the importance of building partnerships with the business community.

There were a number of great questions during the Q&A period, but perhaps the most relevant was the last question of the day asked by Jean Walker, vice president of education at the United Way of Greater Atlanta.  Dr. Walker asked how we make sure that this compendium, filled with excellent research and makes a convincing case for afterschool and summer learning programs, doesn’t end up on our shelf with the other books that we meant to read or are planning to read at some point in the future?  I think she summed it up best when she said, “So what, now what?”

The answer to her question is to leverage networks and share the compendium as a resource, reach out and involve more groups in the afterschool and summer learning cause and mobilize efforts supporting afterschool in an organized and cohesive way.  Lastly, one concrete and immediate way to put the compendium’s base of knowledge to use is to join the Afterschool Alliance and participate in the Afterschool for All Challenge this Thursday, Feb. 7.

Data on child well-being: How does the nation measure up?

Understanding how our youth are faring is an important aspect of not only reinforcing, but also strengthening the supports that afterschool provides. Two separate reports released this summer delved into the state of child well-being across the country, measuring our nation’s progress over...

BY: Rina Moss      09/03/19

To elevate equity, diversity, and inclusion, go deeper into your quality standards

By Femi Vance, researcher at American Institutes for Research, Board President for the California School-Age Consortium, Field Consultant for the National Summer Learning Association, and editor of Changemakers! Equity and Access in Out-of-School Time Programs. Implementing high-quality...

BY: Guest Blogger      08/23/19

Evaluating afterschool: The evaluation basics, part III

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the tenth 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 earlier posts of the...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/19/19

Evaluating afterschool: The evaluation basics, part I

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the eighth 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 earlier posts of...

BY: Guest Blogger      07/01/19

New report on building data-driven afterschool systems within cities

A data-centric approach has potential to generate actionable information at the systematic and programmatic levels and ultimately to improve the quality and access to afterschool. The Wallace Foundation commissioned a study in partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the Gamse...

BY: Theresa Carr      06/03/19

Data sharing with afterschool leads to student success

With more than 10 million children participating in afterschool programming, the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. hold crucial potential for academic, social, and emotional development that extends well beyond the school day. So how can we ensure that more students have access to high quality afterschool...

BY: Rina Moss      11/13/18

New issue brief: Afterschool and the juvenile justice system

COVID-19 has created a number of challenges for millions of families and exacerbated existing inequities, leaving certain groups more vulnerable than others to the harmful effects of the pandemic. This week, we are turning our attention toward celebrating the ways that afterschool programs across...

BY: Erin Hegarty      05/26/20

Recommendations from BellXcell to combat negative effects of prolonged school closures

BellXcell and the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) recently released a brief that discusses the impact of COVID-19 on learning gaps for students. Due to these unprecedented school closures, millions of students could be left without schooling for upwards of five to six months,...

BY: Bella DiMarco      05/20/20

What resources do staff need to support youth mental health and wellness?

By Selena Levy, director of Training at California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC).  May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we’re highlighting the ways afterschool programs support children and young people as they face challenges including trauma, ACEs, substance use, and beyond....

BY: Guest Blogger      05/23/19

5 steps to effectively implement SEL initiatives in your community

Awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning is beginning to be reflected in policy measures. Practitioners and policymakers alike are continually recognizing that a whole-child approach is necessary for children to be well-positioned to succeed in their academic, personal, and...

BY: Erin Hegarty      02/08/19

Afterschool, community partners featured in Aspen Institute’s "Nation At Hope" report

Today’s youth must navigate a complex, economically competitive, and globally connected world. In efforts to help young people thrive, educators, parents, and leaders have historically focused on academic improvement as the key target for future success. But that’s not the whole...

BY: Dan Gilbert      01/15/19

New issue brief: A big-picture approach to wellness

From empowering students to take charge of their health to training staff to model healthy behaviors, afterschool and summer learning programs across the country are offering safe and supportive environments that promote young people’s healthy eating and physical activity, as well as build...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/07/18

Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System: New report outlines opportunities for engagement

Arts education programs can play a significant role in preventing youth from getting involved with the juvenile justice system and supporting the mental wellbeing and successful transition out of the system for those already involved, according to a new report released by the Education Commission...

BY: Erin Hegarty      05/22/20

Afterschool turns the peak time for crime into a time of opportunity for young people

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BY: Jodi Grant      10/16/19

New issue brief: Afterschool fostering protective factors

In Colorado, the Montrose Recreation District’s Summer Enrichment Program creates a welcoming environment to help students feel safe to share their feelings. At Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Inc. (JPRR), also known as Puerto Rico Youth at Risk (PRYR), one-on-one...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/24/19

Afterschool after 30 years: Q&A with Dr. Milbrey McLaughlin, part II

By Sam Piha, founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people.  Milbrey McLaughlin has been a leading...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/26/18

Afterschool's lasting impact: Q&A with Dr. Milbrey McLaughlin

By Sam Piha, founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people. Milbrey McLaughlin has been a leading...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/25/18

New issue brief: Afterschool and the juvenile justice system

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BY: Erin Hegarty      05/26/20

Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System: New report outlines opportunities for engagement

Arts education programs can play a significant role in preventing youth from getting involved with the juvenile justice system and supporting the mental wellbeing and successful transition out of the system for those already involved, according to a new report released by the Education Commission...

BY: Erin Hegarty      05/22/20

The Power of Mentorship: Adult Friends for Youth makes a difference in redirecting youths’ lives

This blog post was adapted from a program highlight featured in Fight Crime, Invest in Kids’ report, “From Risk to Opportunity: Afterschool Programs Keep Kids Safe.” Read the full report here. This is the first in a series of blog posts that will highlight the different ways that...

BY: Erin Hegarty      12/19/19

Afterschool turns the peak time for crime into a time of opportunity for young people

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BY: Jodi Grant      10/16/19

New issue brief: Afterschool fostering protective factors

In Colorado, the Montrose Recreation District’s Summer Enrichment Program creates a welcoming environment to help students feel safe to share their feelings. At Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Inc. (JPRR), also known as Puerto Rico Youth at Risk (PRYR), one-on-one...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/24/19

More children are getting afterschool meals that boost their health and learning

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BY: Guest Blogger      11/01/19

New issue brief: Afterschool fostering protective factors

In Colorado, the Montrose Recreation District’s Summer Enrichment Program creates a welcoming environment to help students feel safe to share their feelings. At Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Inc. (JPRR), also known as Puerto Rico Youth at Risk (PRYR), one-on-one...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/24/19

New report: Community programs important in preventing childhood obesity

A recent article, published in the current issue of Pediatric Obesity, “The prevalence of community programmes and policies to prevent childhood obesity in a diverse sample of US communities: the Healthy Communities Study,” examines the influence of community programs and policies...

BY: Marisa Paipongna      11/26/18

Afterschool suppers and afterschool programs key to student success

By Clarissa Hayes, child nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Research shows that afterschool programs provide measurable benefits to students academically, socially, and behaviorally, and serve as an important resource for families and communities. In addition...

BY: Guest Blogger      10/12/18

New issue brief: A big-picture approach to wellness

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/07/18

Recognizing the role of afterschool and summer programs and systems in reopening and rebuilding

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BY: Guest Blogger      05/26/20

Recommendations from BellXcell to combat negative effects of prolonged school closures

BellXcell and the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) recently released a brief that discusses the impact of COVID-19 on learning gaps for students. Due to these unprecedented school closures, millions of students could be left without schooling for upwards of five to six months,...

BY: Bella DiMarco      05/20/20

Program spotlight: ourBRIDGE for KIDS working with immigrant and refugee families amidst COVID-19

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      05/15/20

While collaboration between youth-serving organizations continues, gaps in service still exist

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BY: Charlotte Steinecke      04/20/20

Afterschool turns the peak time for crime into a time of opportunity for young people

For close to 20 years, we at the Afterschool Alliance have been dedicated to the cause of expanding afterschool opportunities because we know the life changing impact programs can have on children, on families, and on communities.  Today, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a new report that...

BY: Jodi Grant      10/16/19

Afterschool Spotlight: YWCA New Britain - House of Teens

Adapted from our November 2018 issue brief Promoting Civic Engagement Through Afterschool, developed in partnership with the Asia Society Center for Global Education. Civic engagement starts with our nation’s young people. The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/16/19

New issue brief showcasing afterschool promoting civic engagement

Earlier this week on my way into work, a father and his daughter, who couldn’t have been older than an elementary schooler, were at the bottom of the metro escalator greeting metro riders with a huge sign that read “VOTE!” That sight brought a huge smile to my face; it was...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/01/18

Reaching 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020

A recent briefing from Grad Nation marked the release of the 2018 Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates. The report provides an update on the Grad Nation mission of a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate for the class of 2020. Examining the...

BY: Leah Silverberg      07/10/18

Afterschool's lasting impact: Q&A with Dr. Milbrey McLaughlin

By Sam Piha, founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people. Milbrey McLaughlin has been a leading...

BY: Guest Blogger      06/25/18