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 jdonner@tascorp.org so we can help promote shared priorities.
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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.