Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The LIAS Principles Impact Both Students and Staff Alike

By Guest Blogger, Frank Escobar


Frank Escobar,
Manager of After School Programs
Visalia USD
Running after school programs is no easy task.  Ask anyone in the field and they’ll show you there battle wounds. However, insert 11-14 year olds and the difficult meter goes through the roof.  Sometimes its just better to not know what you don’t know. Perhaps that’s why I’m still here.  Leaning a bit but still standing.  

In the early years it was the kids, the parents, the politics. I was new to the field and trying to identify the secret sauce for recruiting and retaining enough students to keep the grant. At the same time, keeping the ratio low enough to prevent our college-age staff from getting completely run over by the middle school mack truck. Not sure we ever completely figured it out but we’ve certainly made improvements.  

Great advice from experienced veterans, thoughtful tools from the field, some amazing trainings from some amazing trainers and even a few out-of-town tours.  And as we got better on attendance we began to focus on impact.  One of the tools that helped us in that area was, at the time, the newly released Learning in After School and Summer Principles.  

The principles gave us tangible targets to shoot towards. They were clear, relatable, and reasonably identifiable in everyday program. As we improved in our understanding of these principles, we naturally improved in the facilitating of these principles.  We saw active learning in our programs, increased student collaboration, learning that was thoughtful and meaningful, mastery-building and horizons being expanded. It was enlightening, exciting and honestly, still is.  

As we became better versed in offering these types of experiences and outcomes in our program, I began to notice something interesting.  I noticed that not only were our students benefitting from the affect of these important principles but so were our college-age workers. You see, unintentionally, while we were building the capacities of our staff members to implement the principles in their programming with students, we were also implementing them with our staff. 

Our training and professional development was becoming more active, our instruction (and play) in the training room more meaningful. Our learning environments were becoming more collaborative and our training focuses narrowed in on building mastery skill-sets, particularly around behavior management (if you know what I mean). And at the end of the day, we began to see our staff expanding their own horizons. They were learning about things they never had interest in. Seeing things they never bothered looking for. Doing things they never believed important. The LIAS Principles were becoming an integral part of our program cultural for both students and staff. 

PULSE Staff Holiday Dinner
Today, with the significant workforce challenges we face in after school and expanded learning, we attempt to do our best in sustaining the best and brightest. Unfortunately, that’s rarely possible. The best and brightest normally move on (and up) and take their talents to better paying playgrounds. However, it is in most cases that what contributed to their best and bright was what they learned and practiced right here in the expanded learning field. With so many tangible, transferrable skill-sets acquired in this work many of our best and brightest are shining even brighter right now in their warm and cozy classrooms. Particularly those who were fortunate enough to work in programs that asked them to integrate those 5 LIAS Principles. It’s called the bi-product affect. A secondary or incidental result, often unforeseen or unintended.  

Although, I find it pretty hard to believe that the engineer behind these principles would do anything unintended. All to say, I sincerely believe that the introduction, acceptance, and application of the LIAS Principles have meant more to our field than what might have been expected. These principles, while aimed at our young ones, have also impacted our other young ones teaching our young ones. That they say, is a double-whammy. Or, maybe in this case, a double-Sammy!

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Frank is currently the Manager of After School Programs at Visalia Unified School District in Visalia, CA as well as speaker, trainer and consultant for the after school and youth development fields. A popular speaker and trainer at school assemblies, youth and after school conferences, Frank has spoken to thousands of middle and high school youth and trained hundreds of educators and youth program workers across the country.  

A former collegiate and professional football player, Frank realized his passion for working with youth during his high school years mentoring younger athletes. Knowing one day he'd be hanging up his football cleats for a more practical profession, Frank obtained his degree in education from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Afterschool Leaders Look to 2016

By Sam Piha
Sam Piha

We asked a number of afterschool leaders two questions:
  • In looking ahead to 2016, what do you see as the important emerging trends in expanded learning programs?
  • Looking ahead to 2016, what do you see as the most significant challenge facing the field of expanded learning?  

Below are their responses to our questions. 

EMERGING TRENDS IN EXPANDED LEARNING PROGRAMS

Lucy Friedman,
President of ExpandED Schools
Lucy Friedman: We see two important trends emerging in expanded learning time programs. One is striving for increased collaboration between teachers and after-school educators so that expanded learning time builds on lessons learned in core subjects and students can approach subjects from multiple learning modalities. The other trend is an increased focus on social-emotional learning. Community organizations and after-school educators have long been focused on these youth development principles. We are pleased that school leaders and education change-makers are also now giving greater attention to it. 

Alison Overseth,
Executive Director,
Partnership for After School
Education
Alison Overseth: 
Quality, quality, quality.  We cannot take our eye off the investment it takes to do this work well...and if we are not doing the work at a high quality level we will not achieve desired outcomes and will not be providing the opportunities all children deserve.
Increasingly sophisticated content areas (STEM, Global Learning, e.g.) require inquiry-based learning...more focus on how to prepare the adults in children's lives to do this well.

It's past time to break down the unnatural silos of cognitive and noncognitive learning.  Schools need to learn from youth developers and youth developers from schools -- optimally we will see increasing investment in joint professional development and professional exchanges.

Jodi Grant,
Executive Director
Afterschool Alliance


Jodi Grant: I think STEM and Physical Activity will continue to be important. I am also hopeful that there will be a growing focus on social and emotional learning/skills and professional development. I think giving the valuable youth and child development principles more importance in valuing and evaluating programs.



Jane Quinn,
Vice President,
Children's Aid Society



Jane Quinn: Important emerging trends:  More receptivity on the part of schools to social and emotional learning as a valid (and desired) goal of Expanded Learning Program; continued emphasis on, and funding for, STEM programs; increased emphasis on college prep and retention.



Bill Fennessy,
Director of Community
Engagement,
THINK Together



Bill Fennessy:  Career and Work Based Learning programs. It is important that we have different versions for Elementary School, Middle School, and High School.










MOST SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE FACING THE FIELD OF EXPANDED LEARNING 

Lucy Friedman: One challenge facing the field of expanded learning is ensuring that people outside the field understand what is meant by the term. ‘After school’ was easily defined (though, often misperceived as simply child care.) But ‘expanded learning’ is not as ubiquitously understood. Practitioners of expanded learning time may have variations in their definition based on differences in models.

The challenge facing both the after-school and expanded learning movement is that too many educators, funders and policy makers seek a quick fix and judge the quality of a model by standardized test scores alone. But the reality is that success can come in many forms. In the desire to close the achievement gap, there's too much emphasis on test prep and not enough focus on the life-enriching activities that foster curiosity, instill confidence, and ultimately lead to a passion for learning. Research, and anyone who’s ever watched a kid grow up, tells us that these characteristics are critically important for a successful adulthood.

Alison Overseth: There is currently often a disconnect between broad policy initiatives and implementation into good practice. Practice needs to better inform policy, and policy must include the investment required to change, strengthen and sustain new or expanded programs. The best ideas in the world will work or fail based on an adult's (or community's) interaction with a child.

Jodi Grant: Funding is a constant issue. At best it is stagnant in most places, but budget cuts are rampant and costs continue to rise for programs – especially labor costs. We also need to keep educating.

Jane Quinn: Serious funding concerns, especially at the Federal level— how will the ESEA reauthorization impact the intent of the afterschool movement and the 21st Century CLC funding? 

Bill Fennessy: The rising cost of everything with 10 year old funding levels. More specifically, how will we address the rising cost of labor, given the changes in the minimum wage? 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Holidays!


All of us at Temescal Associates and the Learning in Afterschool & Summer Project wish you a peaceful and restful holiday!


Friday, December 4, 2015

A New Framework for Youth Development

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The Wallace Foundation asked the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UCCSR) to conduct a study on the factors that influence young adult success. Foundations for Young Adult Success is not the first youth development framework, but it does offer an improved guide to factors influencing positive development. We believe that this study is well aligned with the California Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs and the LIAS principles

Jenny Nagaoka, lead author of this study, will share the report findings at the HKL V conference in Berkeley on December 10, 2015 at the David Brower Center. She will also be the featured speaker at the HKL Speaker’s Forum on December 11, 2015. 
Jenny Nagaoka

Her colleague, Camille Farrington, will share the study at the HKL V conference in Los Angeles on January 21, 2016 at the California Endowment. Below are some of our questions that Camille responded to. 

Q: There have been previous frameworks for youth development. What inspired you to develop this updated version? 

A: In 2013, the Wallace Foundation asked us to take a broader look at the range of factors that support college and career readiness. We proposed to broaden that even further to look at Young Adult Success across a variety of domains, including education, work, relationships, and civic engagement. The project gave us the opportunity to bring together our colleagues with expertise in early childhood (Stacy Ehrlich), adolescence and the transition to high school (Camille Farrington), young adulthood/transition to college (Jenny Nagaoka), and after-school/youth development (Ryan Heath). 
Dr. Camille Farrington

It also allowed us to expand on our 2012 report, Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners, which focused much more narrowly on course performance for students aged 10-20. In both projects, our goal was to translate some very complex research from across a wide range of disciplines to make it accessible, relevant, useful, and actionable for educators and youth practitioners (and parents) who work with children, adolescence, or young adults.


Q: What do you believe the chief takeaways are from the report? 

A: For me, the three big takeaways are: 
  • Development is multifaceted, and even if you're only interested in one domain (for example, cognitive domain and knowledge development), you will be much more successful in that domain if you recognize the interrelationship with all the other domains (social, emotional, behavioral, ethical, as well as the psychological tasks young people are engaged in) and intentionally address and leverage those other domains in your work. If you don't engage those other domains intentionally, they can end up working against you and undermining your efforts at knowledge development. I think this is a particularly salient message for teachers! 
  • No matter what age of children/youth you are working with, it is powerful to keep in mind a "north star" destination of a young adult with agency, integrated identity, and a set of competencies (our 3 "key factors"). How is the work you are doing today helping to move this young person toward that goal? 
  • Developmental experiences are powerful levels for moving toward this young adult goal. Over the past couple decades, we have swung from a focus on inputs to a focus on outcomes. Inputs are important, outcomes are important, but we also have to pay a lot more attention to the process whereby inputs become outcomes -- and that is the role of the young person's EXPERIENCE in a learning setting. What kinds of active and reflective experiences are young people having, and how does this shape their opportunities for development? In schools, this means expanding our focus beyond curriculum and instruction and looking at what kids are actually DOING in their classes.

Q: Unlike previous frameworks, your report offers a developmental picture for different age youth. What inspired this? 

A: The Wallace Foundation was particularly interested in understanding how important factors develop over time. We took the project as an opportunity to really dig into that question. It seemed important to acknowledge that each of the key factors and foundational components can look quite different at different stages of early development, and understanding those differences is crucial to better knowing how to interact with and support youth in varying developmental stages.


Q: This is an excellent educational tool. Do you have any plans on a follow up toolbox that will help programs translate the report into practice? 

A: We loved this project and the opportunity it provided for us to really go deeply and broadly into the empirical research and practice knowledge about youth development and learning. After 25 years of working in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools, one of our strengths as an organization is our ability to do effective "translational research" and create coherent frameworks that provide new insights and knowledge for practitioners. That said, we also recognize our limitations. While we would be very interested in acting in an advisory capacity on a toolbox project, we think that is work that is best carried out by practitioners. One of our Steering Committee members, a gentleman who was a principal and is now a district administrator in CPS, said that Consortium research tells practitioners "What" and "So what", but that the answer to the question "Now what?" is the responsibility of those working directly with young people. I think that same edict applies here!

Q: What are the implications of this work for those who work in community-based youth programs?

A: A fundamental role for adults is to create rich developmental experiences for young people and to pay attention to what kids "take away" from those experiences. Adults can create a variety of "action" experiences that provide opportunities for kids to encounter, tinker, practice, choose, and contribute. Adults can also provide critical "reflection" experiences, where kids have opportunities to describe, evaluate, connect, envision, and integrate their experiences. 

We shouldn't leave it to chance that kids make the most beneficial meaning out of the experiences they have, but neither should we tell them what meaning they ought to make. The research suggests that asking questions and letting young people talk about their thoughts and experiences may be one of the most important roles adults can play in fostering development. 

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Dr. Camille A. Farrington is Senior Research Associate at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. She is one of the authors of the recently released Wallace Report entitled, Foundations for Young Adult Success. Her work focuses on policy and practice in urban high school reform, particularly classroom instruction and assessment, academic rigor, academic failure, and the role of noncognitive factors in academic performance. Dr. Farrington is lead author of Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance (2012, CCSR), author of Failing at School: Lessons for Redesigning Urban High Schools (2014, Teachers College Press), and Principal Investigator for the UChicago Becoming Effective Learners Survey Development Project.