Monday, December 19, 2011

New California After School Division Chief

By Sam Piha

Michael Funk
On December 15, 2011, Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Schools, announced that Michael Funk will head the new After School Division within the California Department of Education (which until the recent CDE realignment had been a unit of another division).

Michael Funk served as the founder and Executive Director for the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center since 1996 and has served on the California Advisory Committee on Before and After School since its inception. He has also been the co-director for the Learning in Afterschool Project (LIA).

Michael has been a strong advocate for quality afterschool programs that reflect the learning principles of the LIA Project – learning that is active, collaborative, meaningful to the participants, promotes mastery, and expands horizons. We congratulate Michael on this appointment and look forward to his leadership of the California Afterschool movement. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Expanding Horizons and Global Learning

By Sam Piha

On January 27, 2012, the Learning in Afterschool Project will sponsor a one-day conference entitled How Kids Learn.  One of our featured speakers will be Alexis Menten from the Asia Society.

Alexis Menten, Asia Society

Learning that expands young people's horizons is one of the five key learning principles of the Learning in Afterschool Project. This includes the promotion of global learning and understanding. You can read Alexis’ views on expanding horizons, lengthening the school day, and global competencies by viewing her post on the Global Learning blog. The Asia Society also offers a resource website to guide afterschool programs in promoting global learning entitled Expanding Horizons

To learn more about an award-winning youth program that is focused on developing young people’s global competencies and view some of their resources, check out Global Kids

A new publication entitled Virtual Vacation: A Leader's Guide offers an integrated approach to promoting global awareness. It will be available from Temescal Associates very shortly. This approach was developed by the NHP Foundation and implemented in afterschool programs near New Orleans.  

Alexis Menten is a Director in Asia Society’s Education division, where she leads afterschool and youth leadership initiatives for the Partnership for Global Learning. The Partnership connects educators, business leaders, and policymakers to share best practices, build partnerships, and advance policies to ensure that all students are prepared for work and citizenship in the global 21st century. In support of this mission, Alexis directs Asia Society’s Expanding Horizons initiative, which provides technical assistance, professional development trainings, and resource publications that advance global learning as an essential approach for all high-quality afterschool and summer programs, and as a means to build collaboration between schools and community partners. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Collaborative Learning?

 By Sam Piha

The Learning in Afterschool Project promotes collaborative learning as one of its five learning principles of quality afterschool programs.

Why do we emphasize collaboration? YouthLearn offers some important reasons why collaborative learning is important:

“The New Economy is distinguished by interlocking partnerships and networks of people and organizations. In the past a loner may have been at a disadvantage, but today, he or she may not be able to survive. Businesses work in teams; they outsource, form alliances and hire without ever running an advertisement. Put simply, the opportunities available to your kids will be as much dependent on their mastery of communication and collaboration skills as on writing or math skills.

People care about things they feel a part of and about which they feel at least some degree of ownership. If your kids are involved in planning and decision making, they'll show a level of enthusiasm and curiosity that schools can only dream of.

More knowledge, creativity and ideas can be found in two minds than in one, and even more can be found in four or in 10. When kids see what their friends have done with a project, they add to it and create something even more original. In out-of-school programs, you have the freedom to let kids work in groups almost all the time and to shift the groups around so that kids learn from lots of different people.

Face it, there's no way you can know about everything, especially once new technologies like the Internet, computers, software, scanners, cameras and all the other devices are added into the mix. Then again, why should you have to? Don't be afraid to let kids teach each other when one of them becomes an expert in PhotoShop and another an online audio wizard—that's the real power of collaboration. Rather than being mired in the details of ever-changing software programs, you can focus on the important jobs of coach, guide and educator.”

The Global Development Research Center offers a number of useful tools for those interested in exploring collaborative learning, with specific techniques and methods. We recommend that you visit this site and other sites that will appear when you do an internet search for "collaborative learning".

Monday, October 24, 2011

CBASS Helps Influence 21st CCLC Legislative Changes

Jessica Donner
By Guest Bloggers, Jessica Donner, Director, Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, and Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth.

With the draft ESEA bill introduced last week by the Senate HELP committee, federal activity has been heating up. On October 20th, thanks to a critical push by Senator Whitehouse (RI), The Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS) helped influence a few big wins in the legislation.

Jennifer Peck
Thanks to Hillary Salmons of Providence After School Alliance (PASA), CBASS worked closely with Senator Whitehouse’s office to introduce an amendment that reflects his priorities and builds off the bipartisan base bill to ensure the program supports high quality programs that include community partners and local choice. Policies we support in 21st Century ESEA reauthorization are included in our letter to Chairman Tom Harkin and Ranking Member Mike Enzi, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The legislative changes instituted today are an important first step forward to maintaining support for after-school and summer learning as anchor approaches in the program and ensuring community partners play a lead role in delivering programs, in collaboration with schools.

Here are the wins:
1. No federal preference or priority on which approach (after-school, summer, expanded learning for some kids, expanded learning for all kids) will be used.

2. Support for community partners. Amendment strengthens community partner requirement, with only a narrow exception for particular rural communities for whom the requirement would be a significant hardship.

3. Clarity on who can be fiscal agent. Whitehouse amendment ensures that either the district or nonprofit partner can be the lead fiscal agent.

4. Support for quality programs as well as innovation. New language ensures that effective and innovative approaches to programs can be utilized by grantees.

There are other big pieces we would like to see moving forward, including clarifying the definition of ELT to make sure it’s inclusive of enrichment activities, community partners and is focused on ELT design, not whole school redesign. We look forward to working with you to help improve the legislation even further.

Please join us in thanking Senator Whitehouse for his leadership and commitment to an improved 21st CCLC program!

To follow future developments effecting education and afterschool at the federal and state level, go to:

Jennifer Peck was a founding staff member of the Partnership For Children and Youth in 2001 and became its Executive Director in 2003. Jennifer leads a coalition of California organizations advocating for new federal policies to improve the effectiveness of after-school and summer-learning programs. She will also be one of our speakers at the upcoming How Kids Learn Conference in January 2012.

Jessica Donner serves as the Director of the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS), a partnership of after-school intermediary organizations in eight cities dedicated to increasing the availability of quality afterschool programming.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Honest Conversations about Youth Development and Education

Eric Gurna
By Sam Piha

Eric Gurna and his organization, Development Without Limits, is now offering Please Speak Freely, podcasts of interviews with afterschool and educational thought leaders. To date, podcast interviews have included Karen Pittman, Pedro Noguera, Alexis Menten, and Earl Martin Phalen. To learn more about Please Speak Freely podcast, click here.

Pedro Noguera

Just a note, Pedro Noguera and Alexis Menten are just two of an all-star group of speakers who will present at the Learning in Afterschool’s one-day conference entitled How Kids Learn. For more details, click here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race to Nowhere

By Sam Piha

How best to educate our kids continues to be a topic of discussion, which has recently been spurred on by the release of feature length documentaries. Race to Nowhere is the latest release on the subject.

From the film's website: “Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.

In a grassroots sensation already feeding a groundswell for change, hundreds of theaters, schools and organizations nationwide are hosting community screenings during a six month campaign to screen the film nationwide. Tens of thousands of people are coming together, using the film as the centerpiece for raising awareness, radically changing the national dialogue on education and galvanizing change.”

We do not have an opinion on this film as we have not had a chance to view it. But that chance is coming soon. To learn more about this film and learn where it is being screened, click here. To view the trailer, click here. For those who have a chance to view this documentary, we welcome your comments.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Save the Date for How Kids Learn: A One-Day Conference in the Bay Area on January 27, 2012

The Learning in Afterschool Project is proud to join with others in sponsoring How Kids Learn on January 27, 2012. The purpose of this TED-like, one-day conference is to inform and energize OST program leaders, educators and afterschool stakeholders regarding our current knowledge on how kids learn and to share innovative approaches to promote learning outside of the classroom. In addition to hearing from cutting edge thinkers on how kids learn, participants will have the opportunity to meet innovative practitioners and California colleagues.


Much is discussed and written on what children need to learn. Less attention is paid to how they learn. What have we learned in recent brain research that contributes to this question? How can we apply this knowledge to improve our work with young people to increase their motivation and interest in learning? What are effective learning approaches that are currently being used successfully by practitioners, especially those working in out-of-school programs and in informal learning settings, and what makes them successful?

SPACE IS LIMITED!  For more details and how to register, visit the conference website:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Will 21st CCLC Programs Be Eliminated?

By Sam Piha

Jennifer Peck
Lucy Friedman
Federal 21st CCLC funding provides the only support for the high school ASSETs afterschool program in California and also funds many K-8 programs in our state. In many other states, this federal funding stream provides the major support for afterschool programs.

Those interested in following discussions in Washington, D.C. that will have a bearing on the future of federally funded afterschool should read a recent Huffington Post article co-authored by Jennifer Peck, Executive Director of the Partnership for Children and Youth (based in the Bay Area) and Lucy Friedman, President of The After-School Corporation (TASC – based in New York). To read this article, click here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More Time in School, or Quality Learning Experiences?

By Sam Piha

In our previous blogs, we’ve followed the dialogue regarding extended learning opportunities and a longer school day. A debate on this issue, featuring Geoffrey Canada and others, was featured in the New York Times series, Room For Debate.

We believe that introducing the Learning in Afterschool Principles should be the focus of any efforts to expand the school day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Preserving Arts Education

By Guest Blogger Jessica Mele, Executive Director at Performing Arts Workshop

 It's election season and two issues impacting arts education in the Bay Area need your attention. Please read on, and take action today!

Tell the Governor to Support SB 547 - A Better Way to Evaluate Our Schools

What is SB 547? This bill would replace the current statewide accountability system that relies completely on standardized test scores to assess school success, with a new index called the Education Quality Index. The EQI would take into account broader measurements, including a Graduation Rate Index, a College Preparedness Index, and a Career Readiness Index. In addition the bill lists a Creativity and Innovation Index as one of its future priorities.

Why Support SB 547? Cultivating creativity and innovation is a vital component of a complete education and it is imperative to our state's economic recovery and future growth. According to a coalition of researchers, 81% of American corporate leaders say that "creativity is an essential skill for the 21st century work force." Yet schools have narrowed their expectations in recent years, "teaching to the test" because standardized tests are the only public measures of school success.

Take Action Today! The Governor may take action on this bill as soon as this week.

San Francisco Mayoral Candidates On the Arts

On August 23rd, Performing Arts Workshop co-sponsored the SF Mayoral Arts Forum. Over 500 San Francisco voters and arts supporters gathered to hear KQED Forum host Michael Krasny lead an informative discussion on arts issues in San Francisco with top candidates for Mayor. Reporter Jesse Hamlin described the evening in his piece for San Francisco Classical Voice.

Candidates participating on the panel were: Public Defender Jeff Adachi; Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier; Supervisor John Avalos; Board of Supervisors President David Chiu; former Supervisor Bevan Dufty; former Supervisor Tony Hall; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; Mayor Ed Lee; Green Party candidate Terry Baum; and venture capitalist Joanna Rees.

All of the candidates were invited to respond to the Mayoral Arts Forum questionnaire regarding their positions on arts-related issues and their responses have been posted at In preparation for election day on November 8, 2011, we invite all San Francisco voters to familiarize themselves with the candidate responses. Thank you!

Jessica Mele is the Executive Director of Performing Arts Workshop, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts. Jessica serves as the Advocacy Co-Chair for the Arts Provider’s Alliance of San Francisco and as a member of the steering committees of Teaching Artists Organized and the Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and French Studies from Smith College and an Ed. Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recreation as a Developmental Experience

By Sam Piha

 The increased emphasis on academic achievement has eclipsed our appreciation of the value of recreation, even in afterschool programs. To change this, we need research and language to promote the value of recreation and experiential education.

Afterschool leaders have an excellent opportunity to participate in a Webinar action dialogue, on October 5, 2011, that explores:

• Scope, boundaries and definitions of recreation and experiential education;
• Evidence for the usefulness of recreation programs for prevention and asset building;
• Differences between traditional recreation and the intentional youth development approach to these activities;
• Best practices in staff and professional development;
• Leverage points for changes in policy and funding, including possible alignment with obesity prevention programs.

This Webinar is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development and PEAR – the Program in Education, Afterschool, and Resiliency at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

According to the organizers, “this webinar assembles leading experts — practitioners, researchers, and policy influencers—to discuss meaningful recreation and leisure experiences in the lives of young people… and builds upon the newest issue of New Directions for Youth Development, entitled ‘Recreation as a Developmental Experience’.”

You can sign up for this important webinar by clicking here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Afterschool Stakeholders Can Learn From Steve Jobs

By Sam Piha

After Steve Jobs announced his resignation from Apple, a number of people sent around the text of his 2005 Commencement Speech to graduates of Stanford University. We found his words inspiring. You can read a copy of the text of his speech and view a video of his presentation.

Jobs explained that after dropping out of college, what inspired him was a calligraphy class. “It [calligraphy] was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.”

In response to Jobs’ speech, Patrick Ledesma posted these questions on his “Leading from the Classroom” blog. We believe that these questions are valuable to anyone promoting young people’s learning.

“So when you plan for what your students will learn this year, ask:

1. What opportunities will my students have to be exposed to the arts and music?
2. What opportunities will my students have to explore areas of interests that may someday inspire and give them purpose?
3. What opportunities will my students have to apply their skills and interests to create something that demonstrates ‘what they love to do?’

If your students will have these opportunities this year, your students are on the track to finding what may someday be their ‘great work.’ If your students do not have these opportunities, it's time to start analyzing when these opportunities can be made available, if not during class, then perhaps through other venues such as clubs or after school programs.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Comments from Carla Sanger on Expanded Learning Opportunities

By Sam Piha

The idea of extending the school day, which is known as expanded learning opportunities, is making its way into federal education and afterschool policy. Last Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed on this topic. Our prior LIA blog posts also featured a two-part interview with Jennifer Davis, President and CEO of the National Center on Time & Learning, on the same topic.

California already has a significant commitment to learning in the afterschool hours through the passage of Proposition 49. So, what does the idea of extending the school day mean to afterschool leaders in California? Below is a response from Carla Sanger, CEO of LA’s BEST, one of California’s largest and most effective afterschool program providers.

“We know budget cuts and shortened school years hurt students, especially those students whose families don't have the resources to invest in tutoring and enrichment classes. But those who advocate solely for more time on task in a classroom setting are as shortsighted as the kids are shortchanged: Students need time to learn differently, through engaging activities that reinforce rather than repeat lessons learned in school, and inspire them to discover individual talents and interests. 

When community-based organizations such as LA's BEST partner with schools to provide these opportunities, the result is not only high-quality programs that improve student performance, but a delivery system at a fraction of the cost of an extended day model. 

Of the long-term evaluation results of the LA's BEST program, Eva Baker, President of the World Educational Research Association, asked, "Can we name any other reform with this empirical track record and low cost?" We can run seven afterschool sites for the price of extending the school day on one campus. That's not chump change, to us or the kids.”

Carla Sanger has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of LA's BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow) After School Enrichment Program for 17 years. She is a long-time specialist in children's education policy and advocacy, working in both the public and private sectors in many different capacities. She serves on numerous afterschool quality and evaluation advisory committees and task forces and has been honored with a number of local, state, and national awards. Ms. Sanger has also been a featured speaker and conference presenter for numerous school districts throughout California.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview with Jennifer Davis Part 2: Expanded Learning Time

By Sam Piha

It is important that afterschool professionals understand and participate in the discussions surrounding recent ideas and concepts in improving young people’s learning. A number of recent developments support expanded learning time, both in school and out-of-school. For example, the Chicago school system recently announced its plans to extend the school day by 90 minutes and the school year by two weeks, beginning the 2012-13 school year. Education Week's reporter Christina Samuels has more on Chicago's new plans in her August 23rd article.

Additionally, four states each received $50,000 grants to develop a plan that integrates expanded learning opportunities (including afterschool, summer, and extended day and year programs) in their education systems. The grants are awarded through the Supporting Student Success: The Promise of Expanded Learning Opportunities initiative, which is sponsored by the C.S. Mott Foundation. For more information, please click here.

In light of these recent developments advocating expanded learning time, we offer a two-part interview with Jennifer Davis, President and CEO of the National Center on Time & Learning, on Expanded Learning Time.

Q: Do we have any research that speaks to the benefits of incorporating Expanded Learning Time into the school day?

A: Perhaps the strongest body of evidence on the relationship of time to higher outcomes comes from the field of charter schools, 60 percent of which operate with a day and/or year longer than the national average. In a study to understand why middle school students in four Boston charter schoolsAmerican Institute of Research significantly outperformed students in district middle schools, the reported that one of the major structural differences between the two types of schools was their hours of operation. Boston charter students attend school for more hours per day and more days per year on average that together add an extra 62 traditional-schedule days per year. 

An even more compelling piece of evidence that expanded-time schools have more success in promoting high achievement springs from a study by Stanford University researcher, Caroline Hoxby, of the charter schools in New York City. She performed a multivariate analysis of the association of school policies to student outcomes revealed that, among charter school students, those who attended schools with a significantly longer school year performed better than their peers in charter schools with years of more conventional length. Indeed, the length of year was one of the strongest predictors of student outcomes among a number of school policies identified. Most charters in the New York City study with a longer year also feature a longer day so those two features should be considered as a unit. 

Also, the schools in Massachusetts have, as a group, outperformed a matched cohort of similar schools without more time. Our state affiliate in Massachusetts, Mass 2020, produced a report with more details.

Q: The Learning in Afterschool (LIA) project is promoting approaches that ensure learning experiences that are active, collaborative, meaningful, support mastery and expands young peoples’ horizons. Can you describe how these principles are aligned with how you view Expanded Learning Time?

A: In one way, ELT is not as much about promoting a particular vision of learning experiences, but, instead, about affording educators the opportunity to realize their own vision more fully. Time is a precious resource for educators, but it is not the finished product or the destination.

That said, those who believe in the power of time to change education also believe that the kind of learning imagined by LIA is simply not possible within the confines of a traditional school day and year. Teachers and students are typically expected to cover a wide range of topics and, thus, are too pressed for time to build in educational elements that rely on collaboration or move beyond the “talk and chalk” pedagogical approach. A whole-school re-design, built upon a platform of expanded time, enables educators the opportunity to introduce fresh methods of teaching and learning. We are seeing many examples of hands on learning, deeper science experimentation, mastery around music and the arts across a number of expanded-time schools which align very well with the LIA vision.

Q: There are those who say that kids who are most at risk for academic failure should be spending their extra learning time in remediation activities, and can do without activities that incorporate the LIA principles. How would you respond to these comments?

A: There is no doubt that many children simply need more time on task. There is just no way around the fact that some children need more repetition and exposure to certain content before they can become proficient. And, yet, one of the key benefits of having more time is actually building in a more methodical approach to addressing individual student learning needs. Known as Response to Intervention, this approach calls for first assessing student learning deficits and then building in regular supports to help students overcome those deficits. With more time, schools are able to schedule those sessions, not as pull-outs that mean students will miss core class time, but as separate and targeted lessons that all students participate in.

Additionally, as noted above, ELT is as much about providing students a well-rounded education as it is about helping every student to achieve proficiency. More time enables this goal to be met. The most successful schools we have studied often provide extra academic support with teachers and on top of that engaging enrichment programming in the same subject often provided by a community partner.

Q: You’ve been a longtime advocate for expanding quality learning opportunities for all children. What do you view as the major threats and opportunities in the decade ahead?

A: We just released a report called Learning Time in America which details these threats and opportunities, but, briefly, I would say there are two fundamental threats and at least three key opportunities.

As for the threats, the first – and most obvious – is money. It is difficult to add more time without spending at least some additional resources. These resources are definitely not proportional to the time added – meaning that increasing time by 30 percent, for example, costs nowhere near 30 percent more – but in a time of tightening public budgets, getting policymakers to commit more money to expanded time is a tougher sell. 

A second threat is more subtle, but, in some ways, more difficult to overcome. This is the misperception that more time means just “more of the same.” At NCTL, we know that more time, done right, acts to stimulate much more “out of the box” thinking about education. But, for those who hold a dim view of schools now, overcoming that bias that giving “poor quality schools” will only mean more money wasted, is a challenge.

Initiatives are underway in district schools, including
Houston, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. Indeed, it has become nearly the default position of school reform in urban districts that more time is a necessary condition that must be built in to the model. In Pittsburgh, for example, the district added a summer program a few years ago that really focuses on engaged, fun learning, rather than just “drill and kill.”

This is what gives us the most hope: for those who believe that public education has the potential to prepare all students for college and career, more time has become a key lever of improvement. It is impossible to predict how many more schools will break from the confines of the conventional—and outdated—American school calendar in the coming decade. What we do know, however, is that those who are able to add time and to use it well will find their efforts rewarded with rising proficiency and a richer, fuller education for students. It will be important, however, for those who believe in the LIA principles to be at the table as these new school designs and policies unfold to help traditional educators think “outside the box” and redefine the boundaries of what constitutes a quality education. 

Jennifer Davis is the President and CEO of the National Center on Time & Learning, an organization created in 2007 to advance the issue of time and learning nationally. For the past 20 years, she has held numerous positions at the federal, state and local levels that are focused on improving educational opportunities for children across the U.S. Below is the second part of our interview with her.  

Interview with Jennifer Davis Part 1: Expanded Learning Time

By Sam Piha

It is important that afterschool professionals understand and participate in the discussions surrounding recent ideas and concepts in improving young people’s learning. Below we offer a two-part interview with Jennifer Davis, President and CEO of the National Center on Time & Learning, on Expanded Learning Time.

Q: We have been tracking the growing interest in Expanded Learning Time through a longer school day. To begin, can you briefly describe the National Center on Time & Learning? What do you mean by this term, Expanded Learning Time?

A: The National Center on Time & Learning was founded in October 2007, and grew out of our work in Massachusetts-- in partnership with state leaders --to develop a statewide competitive grant program called the Expanded Learning Time (ELT) initiative. ELT allots grants to districts with schools that add at least 300 annual hours to their schedules for all students to stimulate a whole-school redesign of the educational program that will include (a) more time for academics, (b) more time for enrichment (often provided by community partners) and (c) more time for teacher collaboration and professional development.

This is what we mean by Expanded Learning Time. We seek more time for schools not just so they can provide more academic support – though this is essential – but really to afford schools the opportunity to re-think and re-configure how they use time throughout the day and year. More time can open up schools’ capacity to better address the learning needs of every student and to engage students in a wide array of enriching activities. NCTL is committed to spreading this vision of ELT to schools and districts across the country.

Q: It appears that the notion of Expanded Learning Time has taken hold around the country and captured the interest of federal policymakers who are interested in improving academic outcomes. Can you say why you think this idea is growing in popularity?

A: There are four basic reasons why expanded time has become so appealing. First, if you look at the high-performing schools serving high poverty students in this country, expanded time – that is, substantially more than the American norm of 180 six-and-a-half hour days – is one of the key design elements. These educators know that the conventional calendar is simply insufficient to educate today’s children, especially children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. More time used well can close the persistent academic achievement gap for individual students.

Second, almost all high-performing nations across the globe have more time standard in their school calendars. As America struggles to close achievement gaps and to remain economically competitive with other countries, like mainland China, Korea, Japan and Germany, a longer day and year will help us to better educate our young citizens and prepare them for economic success.

In the era of high standards and, especially the high-stakes accountability ushered in by No Child Left Behind, schools have become focused primarily on enabling children to achieve proficiency in the tested subjects, namely math and reading. In response, time use has shifted to accommodate this focus. One study showed that elementary schools spend more time now in math and reading classes, at the expense of science, social studies, art and physical education.

Having more time in the school day, however, will enable schools to maintain enrichment and non-core subject classes, and provide more time to the subjects where students must demonstrate proficiency. In many expanded-time schools deep partnerships have been developed to broaden opportunities for students to engage in activities like music, arts, apprenticeships and more. 

Pressure to achieve proficiency will only grow over the coming years, as states move to implement the college- and career-ready standards known as the Common Core and as more states implement requirements around science education in addition to English and math.

Finally, teachers need more time to meet with grade level and subject specific colleagues, plan, review data and participate in professional development. We know from surveys of teachers that many do not feel as though they have time to meet the needs of individual students or to collaborate with colleagues.

These four compelling reasons have, together, led to significant momentum across the U.S. to modernize the American school schedule.

Q: There are a number of afterschool leaders that are concerned that Expanded Learning Time and the longer school day will lead to the takeover of afterschool by school leaders who’re pressured to offer more remediation leading to “more school after school.” What would you say to those who hold these concerns? Are there any guiding principles that ensure that these fears will not be realized? 

A: Because our vision of ELT includes more time for enrichment programming, we not only believe there are opportunities for expanded collaboration between schools and afterschool providers, we have seen such collaboration thrive. Two schools in Massachusetts that have been most successful in implementing expanded time have depended on partnerships to bring their vision of a well-rounded education to life. (See the case study on the Kuss Middle School here and Edwards Middle School here.)

In fact, the Massachusetts grant program specifically give a preference to applicants who have partnered with afterschool providers and other community-based organizations to provide robust enrichment programming. Likewise, the centerpiece legislation promoting expanded time at the federal level – called the Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) Act – includes a provision giving priority to schools that partner with community organizations.

We know of too many schools that when they have the option to add just one hour do focus just on remediation. This is why our policy proposals call for at least 300 additional hours to the school calendar which usually adds up to about 90 minutes a day—giving time for a broad array of enrichment and youth development options (e.g. arts, music, videoing, robotics, apprenticeships, etc.) as well as academic support.

Jennifer Davis is the President and CEO of the National Center on Time & Learning, an organization created in 2007 to advance the issue of time and learning nationally. For the past 20 years, she has held numerous positions at the federal, state and local levels that are focused on improving educational opportunities for children across the U.S.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Debate Teams Help Urban Students Find Their Voices

A recent front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled, "Return of debate teams is helping urban students find their voices" reminds us that debate is an excellent way to promote learning that is aligned with the Learning in Afterschool principles. Eric Wilcox, a teacher at Balboa High in SF says, "It's one of the great tools to hook kids who aren't being served by the current institutional models."

When we launched the Learning in Afterschool Project, we placed two videos on our website featuring debate as an excellent learning opportunity. One is a "60 Minutes" feature highlighting a champion urban team in Baltimore, and the other is from Fire in the Mind.

We're happy to see debate gaining acclaim as a way to engage and inspire kids.

For more information about sponsoring an Urban Debate team, you can look at the National Association for Urban Debate League.

You can also check out the Bay Area's own chapter, Bay Area Urban Debate League.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Website Supports 21st CCLC Programs

The Department of Education has launched a new website to support the many 21st Century CLC programs across the country. You for Youth is a new website launched with the Afterschool Professional in mind. The site will help you, ".. connect and share resources with your colleagues, provide professional development and technical assistance opportunities, and offer tools for improving your program practices."

You can find curriculum information and videos, STEM activities, project-based learning, as well as information about aligning with the school day and strengthening partnerships. There are sample lessons--including those from Journey North, where students from across America participate in the online tracking of the monarch butterfly migration.

Students from across North America participate in an Internet activity on butterfly migrations through the Journey North Web site.
The site is filled with useful tools for afterschool professionals. There's a searchable map of the United States that enables you to click on your state and find contact information and lists of afterschool providers in your area.

Check it out!

Monday, July 18, 2011

More Learning Time Is Good If It's Truly Quality Learning Time

By Sam Piha

Even though it seems like it took forever, there is a growing consensus that out-of-school learning is a vital component in improving young people’s academic outcomes. This is in part due to the growing body of research on out-of-school learning, which includes summer learning and STEM learning in informal settings, as well as the findings of school reform efforts that show schools can’t do it alone.

This is reflected in the growing interest in community schools (see OUSD’s strategic plan to incorporate the community schools model) expanded learning (led by TASC, Citizen Schools and The National Center on Time & Learning,) and year-round learning (see HRFP's brief on year-round learning.) It is important that afterschool professionals understand and participate in the discussions of these concepts.

While the issues of increased access and structural supports are important, we believe that the discussion of the approaches that promote quality learning is still absent. The Learning in Afterschool Project is working to focus the field on how children learn and what the most effective approaches are.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Learning in Afterschool Youth Ambassadors Meet With State Legislators

By Learning in Afterschool Youth Ambassadors Naylia Sanchez and Sianna Smith, Manual Arts High School/Woodcraft Rangers

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunrise approaches us and we prepare ourselves for the next 48 impacting hours, as the students and staff of Woodcraft Rangers at Manual Arts High School made our way to Sacramento to join our fellow Learning in Afterschool (LIA) Youth Ambassadors at California School- Age Consortium’s 7th Annual California Afterschool Challenge (CalSAC).

After lunch, we learned about the budget cuts made in afterschool and education. The speaker that had everyone moved was Director of CDE’s Learning Support & Partnerships, Gordon Jackson. Mr. Jackson made a speech that referred to his childhood, a time when he would pretend to be a super hero, wearing a cape and “fighting evil villains”. He then reminded the audience that that is what we all are, super heroes, super heroes working together for a cause and for a brighter future for generations to come. His moving speech was encouraging.

We then participated in a youth-led role-play exercise where we acted out what a successful meeting with the legislators looked like, compared to one that would be “out of control and chaotic”. To conclude our lunch plenary everyone was separated into their teams for an ice breaker activity, which shortly spread to a game that included everyone in the room to help familiarize ourselves with the processes of a bill becoming a law and a budget being passed.

After being dismissed, the Learning in Afterschool Ambassadors met upstairs where everyone was catching up. Shortly after, Michael Funk reminded us that as Youth Ambassadors we were going to be able to lead some of the policy and advocacy training. Suddenly everyone else began entering the Tofanelli Room to get started with the advocacy training. After a PowerPoint presentation reminding us of how bills and budgets are passed, the LIA Youth Ambassadors set-up for the training.

They introduced themselves and began the second portion with an ice-breaker. We laid on the floor and traced our hands. On each finger we wrote four things we were proud to have accomplished in our lives. Next we had to look at all the other surrounding hands and we had to find something that was similar and link them together. Afterwards we moved on to preparing our stories for the legislators making them friendly and most important making sure they were OUR stories.

As we brain-stormed and thought deeply about what our story was going to be, the LIA Youth Ambassadors leading the advocacy training gave us different ideas. Brain-storming along with us, they mentioned aloud some of the issues that they believed impacted all of us being in an afterschool program. Then the youth from the Champions Program led us in a quick role-play with our stories.

After the training, it was time to relax. The LIA Youth Ambassadors Core Group from Long Beach YMCA led this portion of our trip. Everyone felt the serene vibe and felt unperturbed. We ate a few snacks then we all played games together, some that required us to refrain ourselves from bursting into laughter while all the others made humorous gestures. Following the youth social we were dismissed, and we ended our day by going to dinner and resting for our big day the following morning.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Six in the morning and the alarms ring for us to wake up, but as most people, the snooze button became our friend. It wasn’t until seven that we awoke from our deep sleep to get ready for our day. By 9 a.m. we had reached the North Steps of the Capitol Building just in time for some group photos and a small breakfast. For approximately half an hour our team, met together and started discussing which legislator, assemblymen, and staff members we would be meeting with.

Our team leader, Eliza, helped us with the basics. We were going to be meeting only with the friendly staff of Assembly Member Linda Halderman, Assembly Member Tim Donnelly, Senate Member Rod Wright, and Assembly Member Anthony Portantino. The last visit that we had was just a drop-in visit with Assembly Member Betsy Butler. After being briefed, we followed our team leader inside the State Capitol to get a brief tour inside the building so that we would know where to go when it was time for our visits.

After completing our tour, we went back outside just in time for the rally that was being held. Joining us for the rally was the marching band from John Reith Middle School and a few of the state representatives that supported what we were doing. Immediately after the rally our legislative visits began and we were off. Once we completed our visits, we ended our day with another rally where we received certificates for participating and took group pictures.

From this experience we have acquired knowledge on how our state is being run. This has opened our eyes to many more innovative ideas and it has helped us boost our confidence and self-esteem. We thank the Learning in Afterschool Project and CalSAC for allowing us to be a part of this magnificent experience.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Policy Recommendations for ESEA Reauthorization

By Guest Bloggers, Jessica Donner, Director, Collaborative for Building After-School Systems , and Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth.

As you know, the federal reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will influence the funding of the 21st Century Learning Centers (21st CCLC). The Partnership for Children and Youth and the Collaborative for Building After School Systems (CBASS) recently finalized ESEA policy recommendations and shared ideas to strengthen the 21st CCLC program with lead staffers from HELP (U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions) and appropriations committees in late March. Some of the key themes in our recommendations include:
  • Ensuring that local communities can choose from a variety of quality options that meet their needs for expanding learning opportunities
  • Ensuring all 21st CCLC funded programs are joint endeavors between schools and community partners 
  • Providing distinct and appropriate guidance for high-school level programs, recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities for this age group 
  • Structuring an accountability system that is clear and appropriate, based on research about what expanded learning opportunities can effectively impact, and include multiple measures
  • Recognizing and promoting the critical role of intermediaries in the success of programs and systems
In partnership with the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), CBASS and The After-School Corporation (TASC) co-sponsored a Congressional study tour of TASC expanded learning time schools in May, thanks to generous support from the Mott Foundation. During the two-day visit, two dozen Washington-based Congressional staff members and U.S. Department of Education policy leaders focused on the school-community model for expanding the time and ways students learn. We continued the discussion on June 27th, at an AYPF forum on effective school-community partnerships in Washington DC with more than 50 congressional staffers.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated as more activity unfolds. Likewise, we’d love to hear from you, and very much would like to hear your reaction to our policy recommendations. In addition, if your organization has developed your own recommendations, please send them along to so we can help promote shared priorities.

Jessica Donner serves as the Director of the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS), a partnership of after-school intermediary organizations in eight cities dedicated to increasing the availability of quality afterschool programming.

Jennifer Peck was a founding staff member of the Partnership For Children and Youth in 2001 and became its Executive Director in 2003. Jennifer leads a coalition of California organizations advocating for new federal policies to improve the effectiveness of after-school and summer-learning programs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Opportunities, Not Achievement: An Interview With Richard Milner

By Sam Piha

Richard Milner is the author of "Start Where You Are But Don't Stay There" and an Associate Professor of Education at Vanderbilt University. His recent Commentary in EdWeek (May 6, 2011) "Let's Focus on Gaps in Opportunity, Not Achievement" inspired us to ask him more about overcoming the opportunity gap.

Q: In your EdWeek commentary, you differentiate between the opportunity gap and the achievement gap. Can you briefly explain what you mean by this?

A: I mean that we sometimes place so much emphasis on the outcome (mainly a test score) that we do not necessarily spend enough time thinking about why disparities exist. What opportunities do students have in different social contexts to succeed? Do they have qualified teachers? How many years of teaching experience do their teachers have? What resources are available to students and teachers? How supportive are administrators to teachers and students? In short, what is the opportunity structure that shape student performance on these examinations? I believe we need to focus more on the opportunities, the processes and structures, that shape students’ success and failures.  

Q: Do you consider out-of-school programs a viable way to close the opportunity gap? Can you explain why or why not? 
A: We know that students can lose important learning and growth over the summer months for instance. Out-of-school programs can make a huge difference in terms of helping students build knowledge in their courses and also their social and communication skills. 

I would urge programs to continue developing evidence of their usefulness, not only related to academics but other important skills necessary for students to succeed in society such as social skills, study skills, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, and perhaps most importantly social justice orientations and skills. It is critical that students feel empowered to change and challenge negative and inequitable situations that show up in their communities.  

Q: If afterschool programs want to be serious about closing the opportunity gap, what should they be thinking about or doing? 
A: The reality is that teachers and administrators are socialized (and almost forced) to think about achievement in a somewhat myopic manner: results on tests. It is important to note that I am not suggesting that teachers, administrators or afterschool personnel not focus on achievement scores. They must be concerned about achievement scores due to the bureaucracy and expectations placed upon them. However, I also believe that afterschool programs should be looking at the opportunities and resources that students have or not in order to address students’ needs. For instance, if students do not have “the same” or an equitable share of resources as their classmates with more resources, how can out-of-school organizations bridge the gap and provide those resources, such as with computers or even the internet. In other words, how can afterschool programs “level the playing field?” 

Q: In the Learning in Afterschool Project, we promote learning that is “active, collaborative, meaningful, supports mastery, and expands horizons.” (you may review our position here) In what ways do you believe these principles align with your notion of necessary learning opportunities? 
A: I believe your vision is aligned well with what we know about good teaching and meaningful learning. While there is some high quality teaching (building on some of what you have outlined above) that takes place in some classrooms, there is also some very poor instruction that takes place in other classrooms. Teacher learning does not end once he or she graduates from a teacher training program. Ongoing professional development focused explicitly on high quality instruction and coupled with some of the ideas you outline above are critical for success. In a similar way, afterschool and out-of-school instruction needs to be constructed in a way that is consistent and sustained with high quality instruction as well. In other words, how are teachers, mentors, and facilitators trained to ensure “active, collaborative, meaningful, supports mastery, and expands horizons” are actualized in afterschool programs? 

Q: In your commentary, you discuss the absence of opportunities for low-income youth of color. Can you say more about this? 
A: In a general sense, I believe those of us in U.S. society as well as in education struggle to have the tough conversations regarding issues of socio-economic status (SES), gender, geography, and race. These are the very difficult conversations that we need to engage because when we disaggregate data on standardized tests, we realize there is something happening. Students from higher SES typically outperform students from lower SES. The same point is true for race and ethnicity. African American and Latino students typically do not perform as well as White students. The question is why. No group of students is intellectually superior to another from a biological or genetic perspective. Yet, we see these disparities. One of the reasons is because of what we are and are not doing and talking about in schools and classrooms (both among adults and students). Until we engage the hard topics and the difficult conversations, we will continue to see, I believe, huge disparities between and among certain groups of students. Still, having the conversation is only part of the challenge. Doing something about what is learned is another. 

Q: Who’s getting it right? What states or cities or organizations are making headway in addressing the opportunity gap? 
A: I am reluctant to name particular schools, organizations, or states that are “getting it right” because I realize there are so many factors that go into understanding and addressing opportunity gaps. I showcase teachers in my new book who, I believe, are getting it right or at least close to it. However, I understand that the reasons are numerous, nuanced, and complex. What I will say is that we should perhaps start by looking in on what particular teachers and administrators are doing and then we need to work at changing entire systems, schools, districts, and states. We need to understand that all students can learn, should be empowered to reach their full capacity to live and learn, and have the right to be taught by teachers who care about them and refuse to let them fail.
H. Richard Milner IV

H. Richard Milner IV is an associate professor of education at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn. He is the author of Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There: Understanding Diversity, Opportunity Gaps, and Teaching in Today’s Classrooms (Harvard Education Press, 2010). He can be reached at

Testing AI’s Pluses and Minuses in Afterschool Programming

Source: By Guest Blogger Brian Rinker, Youth Today. This blog was originally published on the Youth Today website. Angel T...