Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What's the Evidence?

By Sam Piha

We are partnering with LA's BEST, UCLA, and the LA84 Foundation to sponsor a Speaker's Forum on September 28, 2017 entitled, What’s the Evidence: Do After School Programs Make a Difference for Kids? Click here to register.

The How Kids Learn (HKL) Speaker’s Forums are dedicated to providing those who are interested in improving youth outcomes with thought-provoking, educational opportunities. The HKL educational events offer access to national thinkers and researchers, innovative practitioners, and networking opportunities.

This Forum is being organized by Eric Gurna, President and CEO of LA's BEST and features an esteemed panel of speakers. Below, we asked Eric some questions regarding this event.

Q: Why is the topic of this Forum particularly important at this time? 

A: When the president's budget director announced drastic proposed cuts to the 21st Century Community Learning Center program as well as other critical supports for families living in economic distress, he said, "There's no demonstrable evidence they're actually helping results." While there has been a great bipartisan outpouring of support for after school since that moment, I think that we as a field need to do better at demonstrating how our programs really do make a difference, for both kids and families. We can't rest on our laurels and rely on years old studies, we need to keep fresh and timely and provide current evidence of the difference we know we are making. Given that the pendulum has (finally) swung back in the arena of high stakes testing, I think now is a great time to measure our progress towards the goals we hold most dear - holistic youth development, community and civic engagement, social skills, emotional growth and intellectual strength and courage.

Q: The Forum will feature a number of presenters. Can you say why you chose these individuals? 

A: This panel is like the all-star game of authentic accountability for youth development. Renata Simril is leading the LA84 Foundation into a new era of community leadership. Going far beyond simply funding youth sport, she is playing a leadership role in a region-wide movement to view critical opportunities for youth as social justice. When Renata talks about focusing on accountability in programs, she recognizes that everyone has a role to play in that conversation - service providers, funders, families, policymakers and the young people themselves. 

Dr. Pedro Noguera is a nationally recognized expert in youth development and equity. He bridges the gap between the university and the community, and has a critical eye and understanding of quality in youth programs and schools. With his national experience, Pedro helps to broaden this conversation so that in Los Angeles and across California, we can build on the successes of our comrades across the nation. 

Moderator Dr. Julia Phelan is a Senior Research Scientist at UCLA CRESST, which has been LA's BEST's evaluation partner for more than two decades. Julia brings deep expertise in evaluation,  and will guide the conversation to keep us focused on the question of the day.

Q: Who is the intended audience that you recommend attend this Forum?

A: We are especially eager to invite foundations and others who are involved with funding and supporting youth development programs. There are high expectations for program providers to show evidence of success, but there is little investment in the research and evaluation to develop that evidence, so it's important for funders to engage in this critical dialogue. We are also hoping that program and organizational leaders attend, to learn and contribute.  

Q: Will there be an opportunity for attendees to join the discussion? 

A: Yes, the idea of this event is that the panel launches the conversation, and the audience then joins in. It wouldn't be after school if we didn't facilitate collective participation!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Now is the Time for Advocacy

By Sam Piha 

I remember the words of a mentor who warned, “Social movements, like the afterschool movement, have a shelf life. Things are going well now, but be prepared to advocate for afterschool resources in the future”.

Now is the time as afterschool providers are under new economic pressures and resources for afterschool programs are being threatened. The California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC) is holding two Advocacy Retreats - one in the Bay Area (September 15-16) and one in Los Angeles (November 4). We think this is very timely and recommend that afterschool stakeholders check it out. Click here for more info. 

We asked representatives at CalSAC to say more about this retreat. Below we offer the responses of Aleah Rosario, Director of Capacity Building Programs at CalSAC.

Q: Why is CalSAC sponsoring this retreat?

A: Every child deserves to experience the enrichment and transformation that out-of-school time programs can offer — no matter their background or zip code.  It’s critical to ensure decision makers understand the importance of these programs and adequately fund them. 

Expanded learning program (ELP) staff, families and youth are the best people to engage as active advocates for policies that value out-of-school time. This retreat is aimed at identifying ways to enhance and grow local, ongoing, grassroots advocacy by empowering those closest to the work.

Q: Is there something in the air that makes advocacy particularly important at this time? 

A: Many people in the field did something new for the first time over the last year – they called or emailed their legislators, collected stories from youth and family members, and they shared actions that their colleagues and communities can take to join the efforts. And this led to results. 

For example, in June, California took a leap forward for students, families, and communities and provided critically needed funding for the After School Education and Safety (ASES) programs that benefit over 600,000 low-income students across California. Governor Jerry Brown signed the California State Budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18, which included an additional $50 million in ongoing funding for the ASES program. This is an essential first step that will allow programs to stay open, and the culmination of a 3-year campaign driven by providers and advocates.

However, the $50 million only goes halfway in meeting the field's current fiscal needs in response to the increased state minimum wage. Furthermore, cuts to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides federal afterschool funding for 200,000 young people across the country, continues to be threatened. 

So, it is clear that continued advocacy is needed to protect this investment. Together, we can take advantage of the momentum built to further amplify and empower the voices of our field.

Photo Credit:
Q: Who should attend this retreat? 

A: The ideal participants are people who can drive and/or contribute to actions on-the-ground at the site or local level, i.e. site coordinator, director, community engagement specialist, family engagement liaison, etc. (not EDs, CEOs, policy experts, etc.). 

There will be people attending from across the state, from a variety of organizations (districts, CBO’s, large, small, with geographic diversity) and participants will have the opportunity to interact with others in their area to identify potential collaborative partners and coordinate efforts. 

It is ideal for folks that are outside of the out-of-school time realm to be positioned to and willing to collaborate with their local ELPs in their efforts. We know we have a ways to go to build a strong base, and that includes engaging with other stakeholders like parents/families, teachers/school admin, early learning, etc. We hope that through capacity building efforts like this retreat, we can build bridges with others that also care about the wellbeing of children, youth and families.

Q: Will you be helping attendees distinguish between advocacy, education, and lobbying?

A: In our experience, and for the intended audience of this retreat, advocacy/lobbying rules aren’t necessarily the biggest deterrent to engaging in advocacy. Rather, giving folks resources, tools and experience helps people feel equipped and inspired to act. Our guest speakers have lots of experience with do’s and don’ts of advocacy, and can help field questions about lobbying rules throughout the retreat as they come up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We Stand with Charlottesville

By Sam Piha

Like many of you, we were horrified and dismayed by the violent events in Charlottesville, VA. Many young people were also a witness to these events through the television and social media, and many will be participating in your youth programs.

We thought it important to address these events and offer resources that can help youth workers respond accordingly. We invited Jessica Donner, Executive Director, Every Hour Counts, to share her comments and some resources. Every Hour Counts is a national coalition of citywide organizations that increases access to learning opportunities, particularly for underserved students. Below are her comments. We also offer links to additional responses and resources. 

Lastly, we want to call your attention to an upcoming Speaker's Forum entitled "Growth Heartset": Establishing a Culture of Caring by Stu Semigran. This is very relevant and will be conducted in both Oakland and Los Angeles.

By Guest Blogger, Jessica Donner

Jessica Donner
Our hearts are heavy with the demonstration of violence, bigotry, hate, and racism in Charlottesville last weekend, and yet we are emboldened to deepen our commitment to fighting hatred and inequality as educators, systems builders, and youth workers. Our network of 23 communities reaching more than 500,000 young people works tirelessly to bring communities and different cultures and ethnicities together. We hold diversity—in cultures, gender, spoken languages, religion, race and ethnic backgrounds—as a treasure to be honored and celebrated in our communities.

Together, we will make sure that young people across the country feel safe and supported during this frightening time. We believe it is critical for all of us—youth leaders, expanded-learning front-line staff, and intermediary and city leaders—to understand the role these events play in the lives of so many young people with whom we work. We will work systemically and more explicitly to create safe and equitable spaces for young people to express their anger, fears, and hopes and dreams.

To help you navigate complex and difficult conversations and grow as advocates and educators, we’ve compiled a starting list of resources for program providers, parents, and educators:

  1. Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide
  2. Crucial, Courageous Conversations: How to Talk to Kids About Racial Violence
  3. Resources for Educators to Use in the Wake of Charlottesville
  4. Diversity Toolkit: Cultural Competence for Educators
  5. An Equity Action Agenda for Youth Development Professionals
  6. Why the Myth of Meritocracy Hurts Kids of Color 
  7. How to talk to your kids about the violence in Charlottesville

Photo credit: Every Hour Counts

We’d love to know what resources you’re using to build a more equitable world for young people in the face of entrenched inequality. Let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum.

Additional Resources: 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Speaker's Forums: Learning Opportunities for Afterschool Professionals

By Sam Piha

We know that due to budget restrictions, afterschool workers have less access to professional development. 

The How Kids Learn Speaker’s Forums are designed to offer expanded learning professionals easy and affordable access to training opportunities led by innovative practitioners. 

Below are some exciting Speaker’s Forums scheduled for this fall. We hope to see you and your staff there. 

"Growth Heartsets": Establishing a Culture of Caring with Stu Semigran

Come and learn skills for developing a new "growth heartset" in our teaching and learning. This interactive session focuses on shaping successful learning environments that thrive upon a foundation infused with caring, connectivity, and proven SEL practices.

Stu Semigran is the co-founder and president of EduCare Foundation and the executive director of EduCare's ACE (Achievement and Commitment to Excellence) Student Success Program, which currently serves more than 35 high schools and middle schools in Southern California.

When: Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 9:00am - 12:30pm - OAKLAND
Thursday, October 5, 2017, 9:00am - 12:00pm - LOS ANGELES
Cost: $11.54 (includes continental breakfast and ticketing fees)

Wrapping Our Heads Around “Fake News” with Elyse Eidman-Aadahl

How do we, as adults, make sense of this rapidly developing media and communications ecology? What does it imply for our work with youth? How can we help young people become more savvy and responsible consumers and producers of media now and into the future? These are the questions we will consider in this forum.

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl is Executive Director of the National Writing Project (NWP), where she draws upon 15 years of experience designing and leading national programs, partnerships, and action-learning efforts for the NWP and other educational organizations.

For more information and to register, click here.

When: Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 9:00am - 12:30pm - OAKLAND
Cost: $11.54 (includes continental breakfast and ticketing fees)

"Taking Off the Mask": Working with School-Age Boys with Ashanti Branch

Through presentation, hands on activities, and film, this workshop will introduce participants to the world of gender-specific support groups, with a focus on school-age boys and our societal notions of "masculinity". 

Ashanti Branch is Founder and Executive Director of The Ever Forward Club. Ashanti was raised in Oakland by a single mother on welfare. In 2004, during Ashanti's first year teaching high school math, he started The Ever Forward Club to provide support for African American and Latino males who were not achieving to their potential. In April 2017, Ashanti was awarded a fellowship from the national organization, CBMA - Campaign for Black Male Achievement. 

For more information and to register, click here.

When: Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 9:00am - 12:30pm - OAKLAND
Cost: $11.54 (includes continental breakfast and ticketing fees)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Afterschool Change Maker: An Interview with Terry Peterson

By Sam Piha

Terry Peterson, Board Chair of the Afterschool Alliance, has been a leader in the afterschool movement for many years. We conducted a video interview with Terry after the 2016 elections. Below we have provided an edited version of this video interview. 

We also selected some responses from the longer video interview, which you can read below. 

Q: Can you offer any positive advice with the election of President Trump?

A: Obviously, everybody's tuned into the Presidential results from the 2016 election, and they're very important, but we need to keep in mind that much of the programming, and even funding for afterschool comes locally, from municipalities, school districts, United Way's, and other local foundations. 

In some states such as California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Tennessee and others, public funding comes from the city, state, and federal levels. What I would recommend to people is that they work at all those levels to expand the number of programs locally. 

Q: What have we heard from President Trump that may predict future opportunities for afterschool?

A: I would consider the following:
Tax credits: His daughter, actually put forth in the election, a proposal to increase the tax credits in refundable tax credits for families who pay for childcare, which would be a whole new interesting way to support families. They would have to put some out-of-pocket expenses in, but they might get part of it back. Many parents pay 4,000 - 5,000 dollars a year, per child, for afterschool and summer programming. If they could perhaps get some of that back, as a tax deduction, or if they're a low income family, we'd get a tax rebate, that might really help us expand the field. It's a very different way than direct funding, but we need to look at that.

Infrastructure: President Trump has proposed a big infrastructure building program. I don't know what it's going to include, but he has mentioned schools. 

What about if schools that are being remodeled, they create an afterschool community learning wing, with the latest technology for kids and families? That might be a possibility. It is a very different approach, but we need to reiterate, we need to keep working at the local level with local foundations, city, state, and federal levels, maybe in some new ways and see if we can continue to move this field forward.

Q: What are recent developments in the afterschool field that you think are important?

A: We now have what you might call an afterschool infrastructure or platform, but not everywhere. We still have a lot of places where we don't have any programs – places where we might need them the most. 

In many places in the country, we have quality afterschool programs that allow us to use afterschool partnerships and programming to get into new areas where young people need support.  A couple of areas of recent developments that I think are particularly exciting:

College and Career Readiness – There is a growing concern that middle and high school students don't have a real clear path to graduate from high school. "How do I go to college? How do I get a job? What kind of workforce skills could I get, or do I need?" We could start working on those workforce skills and college and career readiness in afterschool programs by partnering with businesses and community colleges. 

STEM and STEAM - There's real interest right now in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. When you throw arts in there, it's STEM + the arts, it's STEAM. There is a lot of interest in how you could use afterschool and summer programs to interest students in STEM or STEAM.

Some really good examples around the country have been able to take students that said, "Ooh, science, math, I can't do that". They go through the summer program, afterschool program, build robots, use dance and drama to learn technology or science, or learn coding and come out saying, "I think I can do that". 

Photo Credit:
One of the award-winning summer learning programs named by the National Summer Learning Association, was a STEAM Summer Learning Program that I'm very familiar with. They have a five-week program where they teach STEM only through the arts - through dance, drama, visual arts, and music. It's an all day program and attendance is about 90 percent. You walk in there and they're engaged fully. I think we need to find ways to bust out from just sort of our typical way of delivering programs.

Photo Credit: The Star Online
Entrepreneurial education - A lot of young people say, "I don't want to work for a company. I want to start my own business". You can run entrepreneurial learning, community service, and afterschool and summer programs that really help young people engage in their community, and in their growth in some new ways.

Credits for participation – Older youth can earn credits in afterschool and summer programs. For children who are struggling in school, if they fail a subject or two, they never get to interesting advanced content. They bubble along at the bottom of the courses, so they never see the power of taking more advanced courses. They can't get to the design course in arts or career and technical fields. 

A few places are now experimenting with offering credits in afterschool and summer programs. In addition to the credits offered during the school day, they can be involved in another program afterschool, weekends and summer, and earn another credit or two. 

Think about that. For five years, you can earn almost a semester worth of credit. For some kids, those credits are powerful door openers to get into community college or a four-year college. That's another area we need to explore, and there's starting to be interest in.

Dr. Terry K. Peterson is Board Chair of the Afterschool Alliance and Senior Fellow at the Richard Riley Institute at Furman University and College of Charleston. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley has called Terry “the king of afterschool.” During his decades-long tenure in public service, Terry held senior state- and federal-level positions in which he developed numerous education policies and funding streams, including at the U.S. Department of Education where he helped create the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative.


You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 

  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

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