Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Dr. Willard Daggett

Dr. Willard Daggett
By Sam Piha and Michael Funk

Before founding the International Center for Leadership in Education in 1991, Willard R. Daggett, Ed.D., was a teacher, administrator, and director with the New York State Education Department, where he spearheaded restructuring initiatives to focus the state's education system on the skills and knowledge students need in a technological, information-based society. We caught up with Dr. Daggett at the Step Up high school afterschool conference in San Diego, where he served as keynote speaker. He agreed to answer some questions regarding the learning principles promoted by the Learning in Afterschool project. 

Q: Can you talk about the role of afterschool in education? 
A: Learning in afterschool provides a valuable resource to extend the educational experience of students. We at the International Center for Leadership in Education have identified through our extensive research that for students to maximize their potential, their educational experience must be both rigorous and relevant. The afterschool program provides valuable relevant experiences that help students become engaged in a meaningful way, ultimately leading to success in both school and life.

What do you see as the unique contributions that afterschool can offer those who are seeking to improve youth academic and developmental outcomes? 
A: During the school day, students are exposed to academics that are important that they master to be successful in school and in life. The reality, however, is that unless students can see relevance to what they are learning and become personally engaged in the learning process, they will seldom achieve success in their academic programs. Afterschool programs provide both this relevance and personal involvement so critical to learning.

Q: Which of the five Learning in Afterschool learning principles do you think are important in efforts to reengage young people in their education?
All five principles are critical. They collectively provide the relevance so desperately needed for students to become engaged and for learning to become alive for them. They also provide the deeper understanding and the discovery of learning that is critical for success in school and life.

Q: Are there important trends in school reform that afterschool program leaders should keep their eye on? 
A: Thirty-eight of our 50 states have agreed to adopt a new set of Common Core State Standards over the next three years. Accompanying these standards will be a series of new assessments that are both more rigorous and, equally as important, application based. The afterschool programs will provide the application of those academic skills that will be essential for students to be able to be successful on the new assessments. 

Dr. Daggett is CEO of the International Center for Leadership in Education and is recognized worldwide for his proven ability to move education systems towards more rigorous and relevant skills and knowledge for all students. He has assisted a number of states and hundreds of school districts with their school improvement initiatives. Dr. Daggett has also collaborated with education ministries in several countries and with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governors Association, and many other national organizations.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Importance of Recess

By Sam Piha

Nicholas Thacher is the head of school at Dedham Country Day School in Dedham, Mass. and has been a school principal or headmaster for more than 30 years. He writes a compelling defense of the place of recess in young people's learning, entitled "Eliminating Recess Hurts Kids".

"The latest research on learning and cognition, summarized in a recent New York Times Magazine article online, gives increasingly persuasive evidence that exercise and fitness have positive effects on the immature human brain," Mr. Thacher writes.

As schools back away from recognizing the importance of fitness and play, and inner city kids have less access to safe spaces for play, how should we respond in our afterschool programs?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Importance of Movement and Dance

By Sam Piha

The front page of Education Week (November 17, 2010) featured an article entitled "Schools Integrate Dance Into Lessons," citing that "the infusion of the arts appears to be gaining a stronger foothold at a time when advocates are struggling to ensure time and support for their disciplines."

We know through Howard Gardner's work and new brain research that movement is an important reinforcement for learning. We also know that young people do not get the opportunity to be as physically active as they should be. It is important that afterschool programs are not shy or apologetic about integrating movement and physical activity into learning in the afterschool hours. How does your program use physical activity to contribute to the learning experience?

Learning in Afterschool Ambassadors
demonstrating that learning is active

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 2010 Election Results and Afterschool

By Sam Piha

The November 2010 election results will definitely impact conversations in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento regarding education and afterschool programming. Followers of the Learning in Afterschool project can go to the "New Developments in Education and Afterschool" link on the Learning in Afterschool website. This page offers links to afterschool advocacy groups that are following these developments closely. We invite any comments from our readers regarding the changing political landscape at the state or national level.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview with Lucy Friedman (TASC) on ELT and Future Trends in Afterschool

By Sam Piha
Redefining afterschool programs as “expanded learning time” (ELT) has made its way into discussions regarding the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind and the 21st CCLCs. Below is a brief interview with Lucy Friedman, President of The After-School Corporation (TASC) in which she offers her views on the growing ELT conversation and on important new trends in the field of afterschool programming. Lucy is a member of the National Advisory Group for the Learning in Afterschool project. A more complete bio follows this interview.

Q: How do we maximize the opportunities and minimize the threats that ELT presents to afterschool program providers?
Lucy Friedman
A: Those of us who have been working in the after-school hours know that schools can’t provide all kids with opportunities for active learning, exposure to new horizons, and support for their healthy development in a 6-hour school day, 180 days a year.We maximize this opportunity and minimize risks by unleashing the power of community partners to help schools expand not just the hours, but the quality of kids’ learning experiences. If we want to find ways to deepen student engagement, to give kids a greater sense of ownership over their learning and to tap into their dreams and aspirations, we need to re-engineer the school day so that it’s not just more of the same. We need to engage parents and community partners, which is the foundation for TASC’s Expanded Learning Time / New York City model.

Thus, federal policy on 21CCLC should clearly state that:
  • Schools that expand learning time should partner with community organizations.
  • Community organizations have a right to apply for 21CCLC funds.
  • States and localities will have flexible choice in how they deploy 21CCLC.
As you know, the evidence is compelling that the social, emotional and other supports community organizations offer students contribute significantly to their cognitive growth and academic success. The best expanded learning time approaches will embrace and build on effective after-school programs through genuine, fully integrated school and community partnerships.

Q: How might the Learning in Afterschool principles be useful in framing the ELT conversation?
A: The LIA principles make concrete the kind of learning that can and should happen beyond traditional school hours: active, collaborative learning that prepares kids for careers we can’t even imagine.

Q: There is always a lot going on in the growing and changing afterschool movement. What is most on your mind right now outside of ELT?
A: I’m excited by the growing enthusiasm I see among policymakers, educators and community leaders for greater informal science opportunities in the hours beyond the traditional school day. We know now that with the right training, community educators can be terrific informal science leaders and role models for kids who have been under-represented on science and technology career tracks.

Q: What do you see as the approaching trends in the field that we should keep an eye on?
A: The optimist in me believes that the pressure on state and local budgets will cause more leaders to want to work at rationalizing funding streams and building partnerships. We’ve got to do that if we want to reach more kids and get better results from every dollar we invest in out-of-school time opportunities.
In New York City, we see more principals developing an appreciation for what community partners can do to support kids’ development and higher achievement. That trend will continue to grow.

Lucy Friedman is the founder and President of The After-School Corporation (TASC). TASC is dedicated to giving all kids opportunities to grow through after-school and summer programs that support, educate and inspire them. She has served on a variety of advisory commissions and boards, including the National Academy of Science, the Afterschool Alliance and Bryn Mawr College. Lucy has been a member of The Coalition for Science After School Steering Committee since 2004 and served as its chair from 2006 to 2008. 

Reed Larson’s Research on Youth Development

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