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Understanding "evidence-based" programs to make the case for ARP funds

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Understanding "evidence-based" programs to make the case for ARP funds

In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law, providing $122 billion in federal education funds to support students impacted by the pandemic. Since then, state education agencies have submitted their proposed plans for the use of the funds to the Department of Education, including how they plan to use their portion set aside for afterschool and summer learning programs. We’ve seen many states offer diverse solutions—for example, Kansas will provide funding to youth serving organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, and 4-H for hands-on, project-based enrichment, and math and reading recovery. Georgia combined the afterschool and summer funds to create the “Building Opportunities in Out of School Time (BOOST)” grant competition for community based providers. New Hampshire has established funding to train camp counselors in how to identify and respond to mental and behavioral health issues.

However, part of the ARP funding requirements specify that the afterschool and summer learning and enrichment programs are “evidence-based.” To better understand what this means, how to talk about the value of programs, and how to effectively make the case for ARP funding, the American Institutes for Research released four evidence guides. Below is a summary of the content in each of the four guides.

Guide 1: Understanding what “research” and “evidence” mean in the context of ARP funding

The first guide, “The Overview,” defines key terms—research and evidence—that are in the federal relief plans and discusses how they are different from one another. Research refers to the process of testing a program or practice to answer a question (i.e. to determine effectiveness), while evidence refers to the information learned from the research that allows us to draw conclusions about intended outcomes. Evidence-based practices, therefore, come from studies with documented evidence of effectiveness.

Guide 2: Outlining best practices and providing examples of what that looks like in programs

The second guide, “What does the research say about afterschool and summer programming?” dives into the evidence base on afterschool and summer learning programs to help programs understand current research and includes corresponding examples of ways to design and implement these quality practices within programs. Six key takeaways were highlighted:

  1. Context matters—Afterschool programs should consider family and community voices to best reflect the culture and resources of the community and meet student needs
  2. Adults matter—Caring adults are important in the lives young people, and afterschool programs need to hire quality staff and provide them with continued professional development
  3. Relationships matter—Relationship-building is the basis for creating safe and supportive environments, and afterschool programs should foster these relationships
  4. Safe and supportive environments matter—The structure of the program needs to promote safety and create a welcoming space for all youth
  5. Attendance and engagement matter—The benefits of afterschool program participation are tied to attendance levels, so programs should find ways to encourage program participation and retain students
  6. Learning and development matter—Afterschool programs have a host of benefits for children who participate, including higher school-day attendance, lower disciplinary referrals, and improved social skills. Programs need to be intentional about the outcomes they hope to achieve and ensure their programming is designed to support these outcomes.

Overall, one of the key important features of afterschool and summer programs is that they are comprehensive and foster whole child development, focusing on both academics and social and emotional learning.

Guide 3: Explaining how to demonstrate a program is evidence-based

The third guide, “What does “evidence-based” mean for afterschool and summer learning programs?” explores what evidence-based actually means for afterschool and summer learning programs. One way to categorize and determine what evidence-based means is using the four tiers of evidence under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Programs need to be both well-designed and well-implemented, and using research and evidence from these four tiers can be beneficial. While some funding streams from the Department of Education require a certain level of evidence, others allow any of the four tiers. However, regardless of the evidence requirements, programs need to know how they will improve outcomes.

Guide 4: Recommendations for programs to ensure that they are well designed and well implemented, and a logic model template to help

The final guide, “What can afterschool and summer programs do to leverage this historic opportunity?” offers strategies for afterschool and summer programs to leverage the opportunity that ARP funding has presented to the field. The main strategy highlighted in this guide is creating a logic model to ensure that programs are well designed, well implemented, and align with research and evidence. A logic model is a visual representation of a program’s resources, activities, and expected outcomes, and can be a useful tool to drive program planning, implementation, evaluation, and continuous improvement.

Together, these four guides can help programs make the case for ARP funding by ensuring that programming is grounded in research and evidence-based practices. The guides can be read in order, or as separate documents, depending on one’s needs and interests.

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      09/13/22

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A recent Associated Press story highlighted the staffing challenges afterschool programs are grappling with. A Youth Today article last fall described the how the demand for summer programs was outpacing programs’ resources. Thanks to afterschool and summer program providers’ responses...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/23/22

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BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

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New survey shows that afterschool programs are still in high demand

Back-to-school season is in full swing and intermixed with the uplifting news stories on students’ return to the classroom are stories of the challenges taking place after the school day ends, from families waitlisted for afterschool programs to program providers struggling to find staff to...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      08/30/22

Staffing and student well-being remain top concerns for afterschool program providers in new survey

“Community awareness of the need for out-of-school time (OST) care and support has increased dramatically.  However, without more directed funding efforts, hiring and retaining staff at a livable salary remains difficult, and is veering toward impossible,” one provider shared in a...

BY: Sophie Kidd      08/01/22

How COVID Relief Funding is a Lifeline for Afterschool and Summer Programs During the Pandemic

A blog post earlier this year outlining the opportunities for afterschool and summer learning programs through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds asked the $500 billion dollar question, “…have funds been invested in such programs? What are they accomplishing?” The new brief,...

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As summer is very much top of mind for many of us as temperatures rise and the unofficial start of summer now in the rearview mirror, a new Afterschool Alliance survey finds that program providers are gearing up for a busy summer. Throughout the pandemic, the Afterschool Alliance has been tracking...

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10 minutes of your time can help us continue to tell the story of afterschool

A recent Associated Press story highlighted the staffing challenges afterschool programs are grappling with. A Youth Today article last fall described the how the demand for summer programs was outpacing programs’ resources. Thanks to afterschool and summer program providers’ responses...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      03/23/22

A look at the afterschool field through the pandemic

Thanks to the time and help of afterschool and summer program staff, the Afterschool Alliance has been able to track the ways in which the afterschool field’s operating status, policies, procedures, staffing, and services have been affected by the pandemic. Each wave has confirmed the...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

“COVID-19 has put stress on an already stressed programming system. I feel like this has put a spotlight on the need for our programs and the staffing issue” one survey respondent reports in Afterschool Alliance’s most recent survey of afterschool program providers. Another says,...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      01/27/22

NCES data release shows increased opportunities for summer learning and more mental health supports

In early August, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the Institute of Education Services, the research branch of the Department of Education, released findings from its June 2022 School Pulse Panel (SPP) study. The study’s goal is to collect data on the impact the...

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BY: Sophie Kidd      07/22/22

How four cities expanded summer learning

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BY: Tierra Easter      12/13/21

Making learning outside of school count

What do learning math concepts through boatbuilding, shadowing a teacher to see classroom management practices in action, and building software skills studying video game and mobile app development all have in common? Although wildly diverse, these examples showcase the broad range of...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/23/21

Out-of-school time programs helping children find their passion, purpose, and voice

The mental, emotional, and physical well-being of children has been top of mind throughout the pandemic—for parents, for educators, and for youth development professionals. In a prescient research endeavor, conducted by Edge Research and with the support of The Wallace Foundation, Learning...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      11/04/21

Afterschool and summer programs may hold the key to post-pandemic recovery for young people

By Neil Naftzger, principal researcher, and Jessica Newman, senior researcher at the American Institutes for Research. Fall is here, with it, a return for many to in-person learning after more than a year of disruption and uncertainty. Over the past six months, the current administration has...

BY: Guest Blogger      09/27/21

Latest highlights from Impacts Database point to summer learning's efficacy

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BY: Sophie Kidd      10/11/22

NCES data release shows increased opportunities for summer learning and more mental health supports

In early August, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the Institute of Education Services, the research branch of the Department of Education, released findings from its June 2022 School Pulse Panel (SPP) study. The study’s goal is to collect data on the impact the...

BY: Sophie Kidd      08/25/22

Staffing and student well-being remain top concerns for afterschool program providers in new survey

“Community awareness of the need for out-of-school time (OST) care and support has increased dramatically.  However, without more directed funding efforts, hiring and retaining staff at a livable salary remains difficult, and is veering toward impossible,” one provider shared in a...

BY: Sophie Kidd      08/01/22

New examples of COVID relief funding for afterschool from National League of Cities

In the next phase of our COVID work and to celebrate the launch of the Engage Every Student Initiative, we have collaborated with the National League of Cities (NLC) on the next iteration of our map that shows where COVID funds are supporting afterschool & summer programs across the country....

BY: Sophie Kidd      07/22/22

How COVID Relief Funding is a Lifeline for Afterschool and Summer Programs During the Pandemic

A blog post earlier this year outlining the opportunities for afterschool and summer learning programs through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds asked the $500 billion dollar question, “…have funds been invested in such programs? What are they accomplishing?” The new brief,...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      07/07/22

Meeting the moment: Cities increase investments in young people to support pandemic recovery and beyond

By Bela Shah Spooner, Program Director, Education and Expanded Learning, National League of Cities Over the last two decades, the National League of Cities (NLC) has cultivated, as well as monitored, the growing support among local elected officials for youth-serving programs and their...

BY: Guest Blogger      03/25/22

A look at the afterschool field through the pandemic

Thanks to the time and help of afterschool and summer program staff, the Afterschool Alliance has been able to track the ways in which the afterschool field’s operating status, policies, procedures, staffing, and services have been affected by the pandemic. Each wave has confirmed the...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      02/24/22

Staffing takes top spot as primary challenge for afterschool program providers in new survey

“COVID-19 has put stress on an already stressed programming system. I feel like this has put a spotlight on the need for our programs and the staffing issue” one survey respondent reports in Afterschool Alliance’s most recent survey of afterschool program providers. Another says,...

BY: Nikki Yamashiro      01/27/22

Public support for quality programs for children and youth remains a top priority for American families and businesses

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BY: Jillian Luchner      11/02/21

Understanding "evidence-based" programs to make the case for ARP funds

In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law, providing $122 billion in federal education funds to support students impacted by the pandemic. Since then, state education agencies have submitted their proposed plans for the use of the funds to the Department of...

BY: Bella DiMarco      08/19/21