Monday, March 16, 2015

Afterschool in California and "Expanded Learning": An Interview with Jodi Grant, Part 2

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
At the end of last year, the Afterschool Alliance released an important study entitled America After 3PM. This study included a report on the state of afterschool for every state including California. There were also reports on afterschool with African-American and Hispanic communities and a special report on summer learning.

California was declared the number one state in providing afterschool learning opportunities. Below, we cite some key findings from the California study, which can serve as a pocket guide for every afterschool program leader and advocate. We also share part 2 of an interview with Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance.

Key Findings from Afterschool in California

Participation and Costs

  • 1 out of 4 children in California participate in afterschool programs, up 5% in 2009
  • 31% of children in grades K-5, 29% grades 6-8 and 15% in grades 9-12 participate in afterschool programs
  • Most families piece together a variety of afterschool solutions such as 66% of California’s K-12 children spend some hours in the care of a parent or guardian, 33% with non-parental adult care, 19% sibling care, and 12% in traditional child care centers
  • The average weekly cost of after school programs was $126, up from the national average of $113
  • The top 5 factors in a parents’ selection of an afterschool program is their child’s enjoyment, safety, knowledgeable and trained staff, convenient location, and quality of care 
  • 47% of California children in an afterschool program qualify for Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program

Benefits

  • 73% of parents agree that afterschool programs help children gain workforce skills
  • 4 out of 5 parents agree that afterschool programs reduce the likelihood of youth engaging in risky behavior
  • 72% of parents agree that afterschool programs excite children and learning
  • 80% of California parents agree that afterschool programs help give working parents peace of mind about their children when they are at work; 82% agree it helps parents keep their job

Program Characteristics and Quality

  • Top 5 activities/services offered include: homework assistance (81%), physical activity (80%), reading or writing (75%), STEM learning opportunities (74%), and academic programs (74%)
  • 90% of parents are satisfied with their child’s afterschool program, down 9% in 2009
  • 92% of parents are satisfied with the quality of care; 90% are satisfied with the safe environment

Demand and Barriers

  • If an afterschool program was available, 49% of children would participate
  • 19% of California’s children are alone and unsupervised between 3 and 6PM; 3% of children in grades K-5, 9% grades 6-8, and 44% of students in grades 9 – 12 
  • The average time children spend alone and unsupervised is 6 hours a week
  • Parents noted preference for alternative activities and high costs as reasons their child does not participate in California’s afterschool programs
  • 86% of California parents support public funding for afterschool programs


Part 2 of an Interview with Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance

Q: California received a number one ranking in afterschool. What was this ranking based on?
Jodi Grant
Executive Director
Afterschool Alliance
A: California’s top ranking is driven primarily by the state’s strong afterschool program participation rate and the high percentage of parents satisfied with their child’s afterschool program. The state has one of the highest percentages of children in an afterschool program in the country—25 percent. That’s 7 percentage points higher than the national average of 18 percent, and 6 percentage points higher than its afterschool program participation rate in 2009.  America After 3PM also found that more than 9 in 10 California parents are satisfied with their afterschool program’s quality of care, 86 percent are satisfied with the variety of activities and 4 in 5 are satisfied with the cost of their afterschool program.  
California has made significant investments in afterschool programs over the years—funding both the After School Education and Safety (ASES) program and reserving half of the state’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers federal funding for the High School After School Education and Safety for Teens (ASSETs) program—as well as placing an emphasis on the quality of afterschool programs, creating the California Department of Education After School Division.  

We have seen California make great progress creating afterschool opportunities for its children, but, as in the case across the country, there are still a significant number of children in the state whose parents would enroll them in an afterschool program if one were available to them.  

Q: The term “expanded learning” is used differently by different people in different parts of the country. Can you give your definition of “expanded learning time and programs”?
A: Nearly three years ago, the Afterschool Alliance published “Principles of Effective Expanded Learning Programs”, a document that is incredibly relevant to the field and policy makers. In this document, we offer a vision of expanded learning opportunities that encompasses afterschool, summer, and expanded learning time programs. Afterschool and summer programs are well known and highly in demand across the country – half of all school age children are either in an afterschool program or would be if more programs were available.  

Expanded learning time —adding time to the school day, week or year—is a relatively new approach to expanding learning opportunities. Yet, across all the approaches to expanding learning there are essential principles of that increase the likelihood of success. At a minimum, all types of expanded learning programs should go beyond simply providing more time and incorporate successful afterschool practices: engaging students in their own education by providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities through community partnerships that build on—but do not replicate—learning that happens during the school day. 

In our “Principles” document, we define and outline the eight principles of afterschool best practices that are key to developing successful expanded learning programs.  These principles build off more than a decade of research telling us what works in afterschool and include school-community partnerships, engaged learning, family engagement, intentional programming, diverse prepared staff, participation and access, safety, health and wellness and ongoing assessment and improvement.

Likewise, the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, a 50-state initiative designed to harness the power of networks and leaders to help schools and communities leverage the time beyond school to accelerate student achievement also has a set of principles that closely mirror ours.  They include: school-community partnerships, engaged learning, affordability and scalability, learning time after school and during the summer, family engagement, and health and wellness. 

Q: In your mind, what is the difference between the terms “expanded learning” and “extended learning”?
A: When I hear extended learning, my attention is immediately focused on the notion of merely extending the learning that happens during the regular school day by providing more time. Advocates for expanded learning opportunities are unanimous in their agreement that more time is not enough. For example, The Ford Foundation has organized its grant making in this area around the two pillars of more and better learning time. In our “Principles” document, we reinforce how important it is not to just provide more learning time, but to significantly expand on the learning that happens during the regular school day by providing learning opportunities that too often are not available to students during the regular day. We know from our recent America After 3PM report that the idea of providing opportunities that go beyond the regular school day has appeal with parents.  Six in ten parents with children in an afterschool program report that “providing learning opportunities that are not available during the regular school day” is an important reason for selecting their afterschool program.


Q: Are you hoping that the field begins using “expanded learning programs” to replace “afterschool and summer programs”?
A: We know from years of public polling that afterschool is a term that resonates with American parents and voters.  The term expanded learning opportunities provides an organizing umbrella term to allow us to talk about the components of any effective approach to expanding learning. So, whether you call your program afterschool, summer learning, expanded time, expanded learning or any other term used in our field is a matter of preference, but how you design that program should be based on research and what works. That’s why we and others talk about principles of effective expanded learning opportunities – it’s a way to embrace all approaches and help ensure that no matter what you call your program, you are working to provide the best possible program to children, youth and families. 

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