Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Our Youth Need is Much More than School Day Reform

By Guest Bloggers, David Kakishiba and Jennifer Peck (Originally posted on Inside Bay Area Opinion)

Every fall, households around the East Bay are busy with the shuffle of back-to-school activities and the shift
Jennifer Peck
 in routine that the season brings. A lot of preparation goes into getting students ready for the new school year, and working parents begin sorting through weekly schedules, including after-school arrangements.

Just as critical as being ready for the school day is being ready for the times outside of school -- having a plan to keep students safe, learning and healthy. What do children need for social, emotional and learning development all day long?

The hours after school and during the summer -- increasingly known as "expanded learning time" -- are critical to building the skills and character students need to be successful, not only in school but in life.

High-quality after-school programs are expanding students' horizons and learning capabilities through activities that are active, collaborative, meaningful and fun. These are the strategies we know best support children's learning.

David Kakishiba
Research shows that these expanded learning programs are removing barriers to success for students, with participating students showing improved achievement in math, increased school attendance and more positive attitudes toward learning.

Many factors outside the school day play a significant role in whether a student will succeed or fail academically.

The East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), a community-based organization that runs expanded learning programs and partners with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) on community-school efforts, is working with the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY) to identify all the needs children and youth have, putting into place the right solutions to meet those needs.

We've found that the hours after school and in the summer hold enormous potential to create environments that offer young people the supports and the opportunities they need most. A wide range of learning activities that are project-based, interactive and collaborative provides students the chance to directly apply what they've learned during the school day.

At EBAYC, this means young people have a safe place to be outside of school, the power to design and choose programming and access to specialized learning supports often needed by English learners.

We know that the skills of a teacher matter in the quality of education and learning opportunities a child receives, and in the same way, the skills of all staff working with children and youth matter -- including after-school and summer program staff.

Every adult supporting youth directly needs strong professional development to make sure kids are learning and benefiting to the fullest. EBAYC and PCY partner to provide staff with coaching, tools and ongoing support to make sure students are getting the most from their experiences.

East Bay Asian Youth Center 

Our commitment to ever improving our services offered to students and their families is a hallmark of EBAYC's impact on the broader community. The investment provides young people high-quality learning opportunities to increase their productivity, build healthy connections with others and safely and effectively navigate their changing environment.

The hours after school and during the summer occupy a powerful space that sets our children and youth on a course for the future.

We know through decades of research that impacting what happens during these hours is essential to every student's success. It is through collaboration, leadership and a commitment to continuous improvement that communities will be able to provide the support our children need.

Ultimately, we know that these efforts move us closer to a world where every young person has the opportunity to thrive.
David Kakishiba is executive director for the East Bay Asian Youth Center, a community-based organization partnering with Oakland Unified School District, and Jennifer Peck is executive director for Partnership for Children and Youth.

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