Friday, September 25, 2015

The "HOW" Versus the "WHAT"

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
I want to comment on the distinction between "HOW KIDS LEARN" and "WHAT KIDS LEARN". The Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) learning principles are focused on how kids learn. They are based on recent research, combining brain research, the new science of learning, and what we know from practice.

The "how" is separate from "what": the "how" is absent of any content. Different programs and adults think that young people should acquire certain skills - this is "what". The "what" could be STEM, social emotional learning, character building, workforce readiness, or academic proficiency. The "how" is about how best to shape the strategies and activities to promote learning - regardless of what content or skills we are seeking to teach. The difference may be subtle and confusing to some, but it is fundamental to teaching and learning. 

Below are some quotes that may be helpful: 

  • "I think that the learning principles in after school and summer really get at the core of learning for students really starting in early childhood, going through to university." - Deborah Vandell, Department of Education, UCI
  • “The LIAS principles are all critical. These principles reflect what our own field experience and research suggest about the characteristics of effective learning environments." - Karen Pittman, Forum For Youth Investment 
  • “When you think about what it means to create an environment where a child is excited, supported, and ultimately takes ownership of their learning, LIAS hits the nail on the head. The principles resonate across communities of practice and in our fragmented policy context." - Samantha Tran, Children NOW

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dependable Funding? It's Up To Us!

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The afterschool movement first went to scale in the 1990s with allocation of public tax dollars: federal funding of 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) by the federal government and the release of tax dollars for California afterschool programs, mandated by Proposition 49. People assume that these funds are stable, but in fact they are threatened by legislators seeking to reduce these funds. 

We strongly believe that every program provider and program leader should understand the history of public funding for afterschool programs and be involved in advocacy efforts to preserve these funds (for a background on the funding of afterschool programs in California, see Examining California’s Afterschool Movement Post Proposition 49). 

Bruno Marchesi,
Project Manager,
Center for Collaborative
We asked an important leader in afterschool, Bruno Marchesi, Project Manager for the Center for Collaborative Solutions, to share his perspectives on this issue. 

Q: Afterschool and summer programs became widely accessible to families with the investment of public dollars. Can we assume that this funding is now safe and dependable?

A: Even though funding authorized for afterschool and summer learning programs have remained constant for the past 6 years through 21st Century Community Learning Centers at the national level, and constant since its initial implementation through the After School Education and Safety (ASES) legislation in California since 2006, the afterschool and summer learning field (or Expanded Learning as it is also known in California) should not assume that funding is currently safe and dependable.

I have served as the Co-Chief Reader for 21st CCLC grants for the past 3 cohorts and the reality is that the current need far exceeds the amount of funding available for these programs. In the last few 21st CCLC cohorts, it was stated that most likely 1 out of every 10 programs that applied for funding were approved. This does not even take into account the many organizations and school districts that chose to not apply for funding based on the previous year's shortage of funding. 

Although federal funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers has remained relatively constant over the past few years, every year there have been proposals to reduce the total amount, repurpose the dollars for other uses or consolidate the funding with other federal education dollars into block grants.

In California, we are probably in a better funding position, since ASES was voter approved and therefore it would need to be brought back to the voters to cut or take away the $550 million dollars per year allocated for these programs under Prop 49. Even though this is the case in California, the funding levels to sustain high quality programs have not gone up to reflect the rising operating costs of running these programs since the amount was first established in 2002 at $7.50 per child per day.

Q: Do program leaders have a responsibility at the local level to ensure that these funds are safe and dependable? Can program leaders support the work of advocates at the federal and state levels? 

A: Each and every person at all levels in the Expanded Learning field has a responsibility to address the funding for these afterschool and summer programs. Line staff have the responsibility to provide high quality programs. It is important that these programs operate at capacity each and every day so that students are engaged and continue to attend. This ensures that they maximize the funding allocations. 

Site Coordinators and program leadership have the responsibility to build champions in their local communities. From building partnerships with school principals and districts to create joint use agreements to work together. By working together, they can ensure that the afterschool program complements the regular school day goals and objectives through the Learning in Afterschool & Summer activities that are active, collaborative, meaningful, supports mastery, and expands horizons.

Site Coordinators and program leadership should stay informed at what is happening, not just at the local level, but also statewide and nationally when it comes to best practices, policy and funding. They are a critical component to support the work of advocates at the state and national level because the folks operating programs have access to the key stakeholders in their communities. These include the students, the families, school leadership, local businesses, etc. Because of these interactions they understand their community need, challenges and opportunities that could play a crucial role in helping to shape the agenda and key talking points for advocating organizations. 

Q: What organizations are advocating for the preservation of these funds at the federal level? 

A: Organizations like the Afterschool Alliance are doing a great job in advocating for the preservation of these funds by providing information about the impact of high quality programs around the country, creating awareness with legislators and key stakeholders to build champions not just in Washington, DC, but also at the local level through their Lights On Afterschool efforts and their America After 3 p.m. report. Organizations like the Afterschool Alliance are crucial to the preservation of these funds.

Q: What organizations are advocating for the preservation of these funds at the state level? 

A: Organizations like the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3), the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY), the California School Age Consortium (CalSAC), among others are leading the way in advocating for the preservation of after school and summer learning program funding and sustainability.

In California, we have a large network of technical assistance providers like the California AfterSchool Network (CAN) who keep the field informed. CAN serves as a vehicle to get information from the California Department of Education (CDE) down to the program level for implementation, and highlight the voice of the field back to CDE through its statewide initiatives and committees. 

Q: What can program providers and leaders do? 

A: There are many things that program stakeholders can do to continue to help to ensure that these funds continue to stay safe and dependable.

1. High quality programs: Make sure that you continue to operate high quality programs that support maximum attendance and complement the regular school day goals and objectives. 

2. Host program visits: You can host community partners or legislative visits. Many in your community may not be aware of your afterschool or summer program and the wonderful opportunities there may be to partner or build champions at the local or state level.

3. Participate in current advocacy efforts: There are multiple opportunities to provide voice and leadership at the statewide level through the CalSAC Challenge event, through any of the multiple California AfterSchool Network committees or share your knowledge and expertise at one of the many regional or statewide conferences and events.

4. Lights On Afterschool: Participate in the Lights On Afterschool Event by hosting an event at your site. You can also participate in the national movement by signing up your event through the Afterschool Alliance’s website and staying active in promoting the event through your social media channels. 

5. Create Partnerships: Find ways to create partnerships to leverage your funding and opportunities. Connect with your local food bank to bring in extra resources for your students and families, reach out to local businesses to match donations or serve as volunteers in your program. There are many local and statewide organizations that have multiple resources to offer for the exact population that you serve in your programs each day. 

For information on federal policy follow the Afterschool Snack blog posts at: and also follow the Afterschool Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

To register your Lights On Afterschool site and to get event tools and kits go to:

To learn more about supply, demand and parent satisfaction with afterschool across America and in your state go to:
Bruno Marchesi serves as Project Manager for the Center for Collaborative Solutions. He has more than 18 years of after school and summer programs experience at all levels including frontline staff, Site Coordinator, Program Manager, and most recently as Program Director of the California AfterSchool Network at the UC Davis School of Education. Bruno's passion and drive come from his own core values of humility, integrity, and service.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Checking In with Dr. Pedro Noguera

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Pedro Noguera has been an important voice in the areas of school reform, race, and poverty. He has been a dedicated warrior to address the inequity that young people face, especially low-income youth of color, in learning opportunities. Pedro worked with others to found the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education initiative. 

Today, Pedro is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. Prior to his moving to UCLA, Pedro served as a tenured professor and holder of endowed chairs at New York University (2003 – 2015), Harvard University (2000 – 2003), and the University of California, Berkeley (1990 – 2000). He was a member of the Berkeley School Board from 1990-1994.

Dr. Pedro Noguera
Pedro has been a strong advocate for the afterschool movement and a friend to the LIAS project. He was a speaker at our HKL II conference and provided a video interview on the LIAS principles. Below we asked Dr. Noguera a few questions for our LIAS blog. We were excited about his return to the west coast. Pedro will also be a speaker for our upcoming HKL V conference

Q: You are returning to the west coast and will be an education professor at UCLA. Why did you make this move? 

A: I’m making the move back to the west coast and to UCLA for personal and professional reasons.  All four of my older children live on the west coast and I want to be closer to them.  Additionally, I have many close colleagues at UCLA and I'm looking forward to working within a community of scholars rather than in isolation as I have at NYU.  

Q: You will be presenting again at the upcoming How Kids Learn conference. Was there a particular reason why you agreed to return to address the attendees at HKL V? 

A: I am a big fan of the How Kids Learn conference because I think it's focused on the right questions. Too often, we expect kids to adjust to the way schools teach, rather than adapting the instruction to their learning needs. By focusing more intently on the needs and interests of the learner, we could be far more successful at engaging them in powerful educational experiences. This is what I believe the conference supports and encourages.

Q: Can you speak to one or more of the LIAS principles that most resonate for you when you think about creating learning environments and activities for kids? 

Dr. Pedro Noguera at our
How Kids Learn II conference
A: Meaningfulness, I think is really important, especially for kids who come from low-income communities, and kids who come from families where no one has gone to college. If they don't see the relevance and understand why what they're learning is meaningful and important, they're more likely to become disengaged. 

Many times middle-class kids will learn something simply because they're told by adults, this will get you into college. But for someone who is not necessarily on a path to college, just saying you need this to go to college is not enough. You actually have to show them why learning something like algebra or biology or reading Shakespeare, why is that important?  What does that have to do with their lives? And teachers who can't make those kinds of connections for their students, often fail in being able to address their learning needs. 

I would say similarly that education always has to expand horizons for young people, to expand their sense of what’s possible. One of the things we're constantly working against, again particularly with young men of color, is the negative and pernicious effect of stereotypes. Stereotypes which lead them to believe they have a better chance of being a ball player, or a rap star, than of being a scientist or a writer, or being an elected official or lawyer. 

Part of expanding horizons means giving concrete experiences, which allow them to see and learn about how knowledge is applied in the real world, in professional settings, and why in fact that is a course of action and a career path that they may want to choose, and most importantly, what does it take to get there? So that kind of work, of expanding the sense of what's possible, of exploiting the stereotypes, and of tapping into that deeply seeded sense of identity is essential to the work of really capturing the imagination of young people.

How Kids Learn V: For more information and to register, go to

Monday, August 24, 2015

HKL V: Preparing Youth for Work and Career Success

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

In the winter of 2015/2016, we will sponsor our fifth How Kids Learn conference. If we are to achieve economic equity, young people must have access to activities that prepare them for work and career success. This means starting with young children through high school. 

Hear from leading thinkers and afterschool practitioners on research and strategies for Preparing Youth for Work and Career Success

Speakers will include: 

  • Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA
  • Jenny Nagaoka, Deputy Director, University of Chicago and lead author of the recently released Wallace Report entitled, Foundations for Young Adult Success
  • Alvaro Cortes, Executive Director, Beyond the Bell/LAUSD
  • Alex Taghavian, Vice President, Linked Learning Alliance
  • Michael Funk, Director, After School Division at the California Department of Education
  • Beth Kay, Linked Learning Manager, Foundation for California Community Colleges
In addition to the above speakers, we will host a bevy of workshops led by innovative practitioners who work with young people, K-12. 

For more information, go to

To register: