(Note: Much of this commentary first appeared on EdSource on April 29, 2015. To view the entire article, along with others, please click here.)
Further good news is that schools don’t have to do this work on their own. In California, a strong network of expanded learning programs – operating after school and in the summer – are already experienced at helping young people build social-emotional skills. Their practices are specifically designed to help children:
• learn about themselves,
• relate to other people, and
• develop confidence about learning.
This work by California’s expanded learning community is guided by new Quality Standards for Expanded Learning. The state is using these standards to inform its decisions about program funding, and schools, program providers and parents can use them to identify high quality programs and practices.
A robust after-school and summer strategy helps ensure that all children are developing the social-emotional skills they need to function well in the classroom. It also adds at least 740 hours to the 1,080 hours of school year learning. That extra learning time is not a luxury. The research on summer learning loss, for example, documents that the failure to use this time well has significant negative impacts on children, particularly those whose families cannot afford to pay for camps, trips, and other enriching activities.
California has more than 4,500 publicly funded expanded learning programs, most of which are located in schools in our state’s lowest-income communities. These programs add great value to the work of schools, but too often work in isolation. As a recent Partnership for Children and Youth report documents, when schools think outside the classroom and develop partnerships that expand the day and the year and offer opportunities to learn in different ways, kids benefit.
Let’s use this additional learning time to make sure all children have the social-emotional skills they need to thrive in school, work and life.
Jennifer Peck was a founding staff member of the Partnership in 2001 and became its executive director in 2003. Through her leadership, the Partnership has developed and implemented initiatives to finance and build after-school and summer-learning programs, and increase access to school meals and nutrition education programs in the Bay Area’s lowest-income communities. Jennifer leads a coalition of California organizations advocating for new federal policies to improve the effectiveness of after-school and summer-learning programs. To learn more about the Partnership and sign up for their e-newsletter, visit their website.