Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Programs Hungry for Recognition; Youth Ready to Weigh In

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Kim Boyer, Executive Director
Central Valley
Afterschool Foundation
Over the last few months, I've been honored to work with a dedicated group of afterschool advocates in Fresno, CA. This group included Kim Boyer (Central Valley Afterschool Foundation), Lori Carr (Fresno County Office of Education), Adam Valencia and Diane Wilcock (Tulare County Office of Education), Johannes Troost (California Department of Education - After School Division), Mike Snell (California Teaching Fellows Foundation), and Corey Newhouse (Public Profit). This group came together to donate their time to launch a program to acknowledge older youth afterschool programs that were well aligned with the  Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) learning principles with the awards coming in the form of digital badges.
Lori Carr, Fresno County
Office of Education

Now that the project is nearly complete, we asked them what stood out in conducting this effort. There were three themes: 1) programs are more than willing to put in some extra work if it will result in their being recognized for the good work they do;  2) young people are more than willing to take their time to observe and give feedback on the practices of afterschool programs; and 3) young people have plenty to say about what they consider as quality programs. 

Sharon Arce (Afterschool Program Site Coordinator)
 and Margo Perkins (Principal), Coalinga High

Brad Lupien, Co-President
Thanks to Brad Lupien and ARC for providing a one-day leadership retreat for those youth who observed and scored afterschool programs on their alignment to the LIAS learning principles. This may have been the first time in California that older youth have been involved in assessing the quality of older youth programs alongside local afterschool leaders. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Afterschool Program Participation and the Achievement Gap

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
In October of last year, University of California at Irvine researcher, Deborah Vandell, released an important study on the positive effects of afterschool programs.  Her study revealed that "more consistent time spent in afterschool activities during the elementary school years is linked to narrowing the gap in math achievement, reduced school absences and improved behavioral outcomes for students."(1) 

More specifically, the math achievement gap was measured
Deborah Vandell
at grade 5. The more consistent the afterschool attendance, the narrower the gap between high-income and low-income students. Conversely, the greater the inconsistency of attendance, the wider the achievement gap. But also, those children that spent more time in afterschool programs showed:

- Better work habits
- Improved academic performance
- Gains in self-efficacy
- Improved GPA
- Increased attendance, fewer school absences

This is important information to share with program and in-school stakeholders. Click here for a colorful summary of the research.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Central Valley Afterschool Programs Earn Digital Awards for Quality

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The LIAS project/Temescal Associates joined with Public Profit in forming a Fresno Work Group to develop a digital badge project with local OST leaders. They included Fresno County Office of Education, the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, California Teaching Fellows Foundation, and Johannes Troost from the After School Division at CDE. In this pilot project, we decided to invite a group of middle school and high school afterschool programs to apply for program badges signifying exemplar practice in one or more of the LIAS learning principles.

Six programs applied after attending an orientation to the LIAS learning principles and a workshop which provided an overview of the digital badging project. After completing the application, which included a listing of the learning goals and evidence of learning for each of their clubs, they hosted a site observation by a committee that included at least one youth from their program. Youth who participated as observers received special leadership training from ARC and the Fresno County Office of Education. Awards were based on points earned from a review of their applications and program observations. Congratulations to the programs below which were deemed exemplar in one or more LIAS learning principles. 

  • Roosevelt High School Afterschool Program - earned the Active, Collaborative, Meaningful, and Supports Mastery digital badges
  • Tioga Middle School Afterschool Program - earned the Active, Meaningful, and Expands Horizons digital badges
  • Merced High School C.L.A.W.S. Program - earned the Collaborative and Supports Mastery digital badges
  • Madera High School Coyote V.O.I.C.E. After School Program - earned the Active, Collaborative, and Supports Mastery digital badges
  • Coalinga High School After School Program - earned the Active, Meaningful, and Supports Mastery digital badges
  • Martin Luther King Middle School After School Program - earned the Active and Supports Mastery digital badges

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Digital Badges - Taking Learning Seriously

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The use and awarding of digital badges in afterschool and summer youth programs is a burgeoning trend that is rapidly moving across the country. This is important to the afterschool and summer program movement for the following reasons:
  • The development of digital badges requires that program leaders think through and explicitly state what learning will go on related to specific badges. This includes the required attendance, the skills and knowledge that will be acquired, and how this will be demonstrated in order to earn a badge. This specificity raises the bar for learning accountability. Also, with digital badges, this information of the learning that took place or  “meta information” is easily communicated to others. 
  • The awarding of digital badges defines the learning that goes on in programs, which is vital if afterschool and summer programs are to be recognized as important places of learning. These badges are important, visible evidence that afterschool and summer programs take learning seriously. 
  • The adult program staff members often acquire important knowledge and skills through professional development and years of experience. Youth acquire valuable skills and knowledge through their participation in specific afterschool and summer activities. Both deserve an artifact that documents their learning and—importantly—can be shared with peers, future employers, and those allowing admittance to higher education. 
To advance the use of digital badges, the LIAS project formed a partnership with Public Profit. We enlisted the participation of provider organizations in piloting digital badge systems. Organizations included CalSAC, California Teaching Fellows Foundation, Fresno County Office of Education, the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, and the Youth Institute (Long Beach and replication sites). Badges will be awarded acknowledging exemplar programs, program staff that have completed certain trainings, and afterschool program youth who have completed “courses” and acquired new knowledge and skills.

We believe that digital badges, when used properly, offer great benefits to program providers and adult/youth recipients. We just finished a digital badge project to recognize older youth programs that demonstrate the LIAS principles. We will announce the digital badge earners in an upcoming blog post.