Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Does After-School Support the School Day?

It is incredibly important that your program supports the good work that the school day is doing. Teachers work each day to provide the “first, best teaching” for students and anything that we can do in after-school to support that work is a value-add to the student’s’ educational experience. So anything you can do to be sure that your after-school program is in support, is complementary of the school day.

Tip #1: Meet with the school day administration consistently and routinely. You don’t need to have a problem or a challenge to meet with the administration. Meet with them when everything is going well and educate and inform them about your program. Ask them to walk your program with you and let them see what’s really going on. Ask for feedback, and hear it without defending and explaining your position. Remember that feedback is information that informs you about how others think about what they are observing. You don’t have to change your mind, you simply need to be open to hearing what they have to say. When you are open to listening with your heart and mind, you will be able to see your own program through a different lens.

Tip #2: Learn all that you can about the school day and all of the people that you are working with in this setting. Learn the names of the people and a little about them so you will know what to share with them. Take time each day to greet these important people. Check in regularly. Visit classrooms during the day so you can see how the children in your program behave during the school day. It can be very insightful. Review the school day scope and sequence for the four cores—English Language Arts, mathematics, science and history/social studies. Attend grade level meetings if at all possible and if your school has data reflection meetings ask if you can attend. Take the time to learn and listen, and when appropriate add your own point of view.

Tip #3: Acknowledge the support that you get from the school day staff. Celebrate this support with simple notes of thanks, inviting school day staff to visit your program and then honor their presence, and do this consistently and continuously. Create a “touch cycle” so you are certain that you thank everyone throughout the year.

Becoming a complementary program takes time and energy, but when done well, the best interests of the children and youth are served.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Advocacy Continued

The California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance, CA3 has been formed to keep the field in California up-to-date on issues that directly affect California’s publicly funded after-school programs. It is taking on some of the responsibilities of the League of California Afterschool Providers and is currently transitioning that work to the CA3 website at They will regularly publish a newsletter with the intention of keeping all of us informed about what is going on in California. Things that are covered in this first update include information on Governor Brown’s plan for closing the $25 billion budget gap over the next 18 months, including $12.5 billion in spending cuts that are contingent upon a $12.5 billion increase is revenue. Currently there are no cuts proposed for after-school funding and also no plan to put Prop 49 back on the ballot.

There is a plan to cut the State funded child care programs by $750 million by eliminating subsidized care for 11 and 12 year old children. Should this go through, some after-school programs might experience an increase in this age group of students.

The newsletter also updates you on what is going on federally and highlights information on newly passed legislation that can affect after-school programming such as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and after-school meals. Lists of Freshman Legislators are included along with ways to access those folks and a list of which district the person is serving in. Information about key committees is also available.

So, if you are not hooked up with this organization, you might want to be, as you can get the information you need in a one-stop shop. To be an advocate, you too need to know what is going on legislatively as well as what you are doing in your program. Join the cause and advocate for after-school and summer learning across California.

If you are not in California then I would encourage you to tap into the Afterschool Alliance at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urgent News on Budget for 21st Century Community Learning Centers

We received an email from The National Summer Learning Association about the proposed budgets for the remainder of this fiscal year and for the 2012 fiscal year. Here is what it said...

There's good news and bad news for summer learning coming out of Washington, D.C. Current and projected federal deficits are putting tremendous pressure on discretionary spending, so many education and social programs are at risk of significant cuts. Yet despite the dire circumstances, President Obama has made education a key priority, including a proposed increase for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The outcome for summer learning and other education programs will depend in part on the efforts of engaged members of the public. In fact, you can weigh in NOW! See the next section for details.

The Continuing Fight on the FY2011 Budget: You Can Weigh In!

There are currently two related but distinct budget fights in Congress. The first is over the balance of the current fiscal year (FY11), which ends September 30. Congress has never approved a budget for the current year. Through a series of short-term Continuing Resolutions (CRs), Congress has approved funding federal operations through March 4 at the same level as last year. If they don't approve a new budget or another CR for the remaining seven months, the federal government will shut down and stop funding programs. The new majority in the House of Representatives wants to make significant cuts, including a major reduction in 21st Century Community Learning Centers and elimination of all funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service programs, including AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America.

We know that summer learning programs are critically important, but they are a small part of the federal budget picture. Our interests will rise or fall along with those of many education, health, and other programs that often fund summer programs. The House may vote as early as today, so we urge you to contact your Representatives and Senators (they'll be voting on this, too, in the next week or so) immediately. Please tell them to oppose cuts to vital education programs, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers and any others that you know affect your work. You can get their contact information by visiting and

The President's Budget for Next Year
Also critically important, but slightly less urgent, is the pending fight over next year's budget. President Obama this week released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012 (October 1, 2011-September 30, 2012). While proposing not to increase funding for federal discretionary programs for at least five years, the President has made education a priority that could be an exception to the rule.

The implications for summer learning remain to be seen. Both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have expressed strong support for summer learning in the past, but so far that has not translated into new federal investments. As a result, summer learning advocates across the country will need to bring the issue into the mainstream of the national education policy discussion.

Despite the lack of an explicit focus on the importance of summer learning, the President's budget proposal does contain some good news for summer programs. The budget proposes an increase of $100 million dollars to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (21st Century), raising its allocation from $1.17 billion to $1.27 billion. 21st Century funds both after-school and summer programs, and the official budget summary specifically mentions summer programs, stating:

"The Administration's reauthorization proposal for 21st Century Community Learning Centers would support before- and after-school programs, summer enrichment programs, summer school programs, expanded-learning-time programs, and full-service
community schools. All local projects would provide additional time for students, including students with the greatest academic needs and those who are meeting State academic achievement standards, to participate in (1) academic activities
that are aligned with the instruction those students receive during the regular school day and are targeted to their academic needs; and (2) enrichment and other activities that complement the academic program. Projects could also provide teachers the time they need to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development within and across grades and subjects. This enhanced flexibility would allow communities to determine the best strategies for enabling their students and teachers to get the time and support they need. The $100 million increase proposed for 2012 would support the broader range of programs and strategies proposed under reauthorization and enable grantees to provide higher-quality programming to students and their families."

The National Summer Learning Association supports this proposal and is pleased that it recognizes the ability of summer programs to provide high quality academic AND enrichment programming for students. We also believe it provides an opportunity to make summer programs a more essential component of education reform by connecting summer learning to school year reforms, such as extension of the school year. Read more about the Association's position on this issue.

The President's budget also proposes funding other education programs that could have positive implications for summer learning, including:

· $150 million for the Promise Neighborhoods initiative;
· $900 million for the Race To The Top program (This time school districts would be able to apply for the grants directly.);
· $300 million for the Investing in Innovation Fund;
· $600 million for School Turnaround Grants (formerly called School Improvement Grants), an increase of $54 million over last year; and
· $365 million for the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Initiative, which consolidates several existing programs.

Again, this proposal represents the first step in a long budget process that Congress will soon consider. We will do our best to keep you informed and to engage you in the policy process. If you have any questions or ideas, please contact the Association's policy director, Bob Seidel, at

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Being An Advocate for After-School Programs

I think people get advocacy confused with lobbying. To my mind, there is a huge difference. Advocacy is about educating people so they can make an informed choice between options. Certainly you are passionate about what you are advocating for, certainly you will share the information in the best possible light, surely your will encourage those you are educating to come and see your program in action for themselves, but the intent of your efforts is to educate and inform. On the other hand, lobbying, to me, is about trying to influence a person’s decision on a particular topic. Now one could say that when you are lobbying you will do the very same things that you would do when advocating for something, and I think that this is true. However, I think the intent is different when you are lobbying. When lobbying, you expect to influence the person’s thinking.

In the movie, An American President, the Annette Benning character is a lobbyist who is working to change the way members of Congress are voting on a particular issue. Her entire office staff is focused on getting the number of votes needed to pass the initiative. I think this is a fair portrayal of a lobbyist. I certainly have no quarrel with lobbyists as long as they identify the intent of the work they are doing, which they do.

An advocate, on the other hand, is more like a maven—defined as an “expert or knowledgeable enthusiast” whose intent it is to educate and inform. Think about it, if you want to fix a particular dish you either contact a friend who makes it or the internet and look to an expert to share with you the information you need to inform you so you can create the dish you want to serve. Mavens, or advocates, seek to bring folks up to speed by providing them with the information they need to have full understanding so they can make an informed decision.

I would encourage all of you who are passionate about after-school programming to become a maven, an advocate whose mission it is to educate those in your community—parents, business people, government officials and others, who do not understand the value-add of your work. The value-add for the students, certainly, but also the value-add to the business owner who needs a strong work force, parents who are their child’s first teacher and also need a safe place for youth to be in the hours after-school, and the government officials who can ensure that after-school programs can continue.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Summer Learning

More and more information and data are being published to encourage those of us in after-school to find a way to support summer learning. A report by the Afterschool Alliance entitled “Special Report on Summer: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand”, found that “only 25 percent of school-aged children participate in summer learning programs, but the demand for such programs among parents was significantly higher. Research has shown that when young people are not engaged in ongoing learning activities, they lose ground academically. Quality summer programming is key to preventing “summer learning loss," the decline in skills and knowledge that can take place during the summer months. The article, supported by the Wallace Foundation, went on to say, “High quality summer learning programs help young people catch up, keep up, and work ahead, while exploring new talents and skills they will need to be competitive in the global economy.”

The National Summer Learning Association is a national organization that can provide you with up-to-date information about summer learning, including best practices, available training (including an annual conference), and a repository of summer learning research. The Association provides practical support for programs across the country which can be easily accessed by going to their website. Here is a screen shot of their website:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Legislation—After-School Meals

New legislation has been passed that calls for After-School Meals. This new program is and expansion of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and is going to provide a new funding stream for after-school programs. This program will help programs to provide a more substantial snack during the after-school program which can, if it must, replace the evening meal.

This legislation may help all of us address the challenge of snacks that kids will eat. When I was running program several years ago, I was visiting an elementary site. I was talking with one of the second grade students about what they liked about the program and what he didn’t like about the program. One of the things he mentioned that he did not like was the snack. I asked why this was. He explained that the snacks often were too small, not very tasty, and it seemed to him that the same snack was served over and over. He then gave this classic example when he said, “Today we had donut holes. Now I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the whole donut if that’s what we are going to have.” Although I am certainly not advocating donuts as the snack, I think the boy hit on one of the challenges we face in after-school: snack that does not reflect any input from students.

We took advantage of this opportunity to create a committee of youth to work with our Food Services Team to provide feedback and input on the menus. Food Services taught this committee about the challenge they face in selecting snacks that meet federal guide lines. Both developed a keen appreciation for the other’s point of view.

Perhaps this new legislation can open the door for another conversation and stronger partnership between after-school and food services or other snack providers. There are new nutrition guidelines for 2011 that will hopefully expand that flexibility we have in selecting nutritious as well as delicious snacks.

For additional information you can contact the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) or the Child Division, Food and Nutrition Service, of the U.S. department of Agriculture.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New York’s Support of Today’s Youth

Without a doubt we are moving into the information age and our young people need to develop 21st century workplace skills. These skills include communication, ability to work together with a team of people, and the ability to work across a variety of cultures and communities. So how do we support our young people so they can contribute in this new work place? New York after-school is addressing this by working closely with partners.

The New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) and the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) are working together to connect Peace Corps Volunteers who have returned from international service to local afterschool programs. An article written by Erin Madsen and published on December 16, 2010, states that the purpose of this program will be to provide “global learning opportunities for children and youth from pre-kindergarten through high school”. NYSAN and NPCA recognize the challenge that faces today’s youth as we move into a global economy with amazingly diverse communities and culture that youth will communicate with through the Internet, which allows us to communicate with anyone, anywhere, nearly instantly. This project will give youth the opportunity to learn about the world from people who have experienced the world.

The volunteers will choose to participate in ongoing after-school interactions, or to come in for a specific amount of time and share perhaps a “unit” of study about the country in which they served. Of course, volunteers will be encouraged to make a commitment for a semester, school year, summer program, or school quarter or trimester. It will be important for the after-school programs to provide training and support for these volunteers to best ensure that the volunteer can be focused on sharing the content and information.

Building global competence should be one of the goals of all of our after-school programs. We pride ourselves on preparing students for the real world, and the reality is, today’s youth will live and operate in a global environment.

If you would like more information about the New York Project you can email Jennifer Siaca, NYSAN Project Manager at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Building Leaders

With the results of the November election being sworn in during the last week or so, I’ve had some time to reflect on the rhetoric during the election. I’ve probably spent more time thinking about this as I realize that Obama’s re-election campaign is beginning. I think about the folks I heard saying that they just didn’t know who to vote for in this last election because there just didn’t seem to be any leaders emerging. When these same people talk about the 2012 election their concern is the same—who are the leaders that will step up to the plate. When asked who they believe would be a “good candidate” they say they want someone who understands business and the economics of capitalism, has experience being a strategic thinker and problem solver, and most importantly, someone who has accomplished positive results, in some sort of enterprise that required them to lead people to accomplish these outcomes.

Interesting! As an educator I have to ask, “What, if anything, should we be doing to ensure that we have a number of leaders to choose from?”

Unlike the past, as we move headlong into a knowledge worker age, where everyone has access to the same information, the ability to see outside of the traditional box for new ways to combine and organize this information, or add new layers of understanding to the information we have, is going to be essential. Unlike the economic engines of the past which could be defined in finite terms—only a few people could own the land, a few more could own manufacturing businesses, and shareholders and individuals can own oil, all of us can own information. It seems that educating everyone to accept a leadership role is even more important now than in the past. When things are finite, you can rationalize only educating a few, but when the possibilities are infinite, it is imperative that each and every young person is in a position to contribute his/her unique gifts and talents for the “good of the world”.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


When I was a child I visited the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. There was a Fun House that had some amazing things for you to do. There was a wave machine—not like the ones you might see today, but a “walk” that you could go on that had pieces moving up and down while you were moving forward. There was also a circle that spun around (kind of like a merry-go-round without any bars to hang onto) that you would crawl onto and then the spinning would begin and you would go flying off and crash into the padded sides. There was also a giant barrel that was spinning around (rather slowly) and you were challenged to walk through to the other side without falling down. But the big attraction in the Fun House was the giant slide. After walking up countless stairs, you would sit on a piece of cloth—maybe a cotton bag, and then slide down to the bottom. I could spend hours in this Fun House, and would trudge up the stairs to the slide as often as I could. When I was five, we stopped going to Santa Cruz and started going to Disneyland—also a totally amazing place although certainly not what it is today.

As an adult I had the opportunity to visit Santa Cruz with my children. I was so excited to take them back to the Fun House with the giant slide and the many challenges that were contained within its four walls. We paid our money and went inside. I was amazed! Nothing I remembered was what I saw as I looked around. The circle was still there, the waves and barrel were there, but they somehow looked “tired” and not very appealing. But the biggest shock was the slide. It was not “miles high” it was maybe (if I really push it) two stories high but probably closer to a story and a half. How could this be? My memories were so clear and the reality so out of sync with my memory.

It was probably my first experience with the phrase, “you can’t go home again”. I now realize that the “good old days” are as you remember them—gilded and shiny—but in reality they are often no longer relevant. The “good old days” also had 8-track tapes, dial phones, 1 television channel that broadcast only a few hours each day, and cell phones nearly as “big as a house”. Yet I remember the best parts of those days and have lost sight of the down side.

So what does this trip down memory lane have to do with anything? I am wondering if California is trying to recapture a day gone by as we see more and more political appointments representing the “good old days” rather than the world as it is today. I think this may be especially true when it comes to appointments to education-related positions. Education—the purveyor of the status quo—is outdated in many cases. We need to be looking at new ways to support learning and engage young people whose “brains” are wired differently than yours and mine because of the experiences they have had. Let’s take a hard look at what we are doing. Are we relevant? Are we rigorous? Are we building strong relationships so we can have strong teams?