Congress: Reject Trump Administration’s FY ’18 Education Budget



Image: Students at Highbridge Green School in the Bronx, part of the ExpandED Schools network, participate in an expanded learning program operated by WHEDco., a community partner

The people who put together the president’s budget know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. —William A. Galston, who helped start AmeriCorps
as the policy advisor to President Clinton

President Trump submitted his FY ’18 budget to Congress, proposing massive funding cuts that included the elimination of 22 programs within the Department of Education. Once again, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is among those targeted for elimination along with several other programs that provide critical support to after-school programs and personnel. These cuts would be absolutely devastating to students and families throughout the country who rely on 21st CCLC for high-quality before- and after-school programs and other community supports.

Every Hour Counts urges Congress to reject the President’s FY ’18 budget proposal and support critical investments in our kids and families.

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts the Department of Education’s budget by $9.2 billion or 13 percent, claiming that many of the eliminated programs, including 21st CCLC, lack evidence of impact or duplicate of other federal programs such as Title I. At the same time, the budget also cuts Title I by $578 million to support a $1 billion school choice program which would strip the highest-need schools of valuable resources and make it harder for the students furthest behind to get the critical support they need. Additionally, the budget eliminates the AmeriCorps Program and the Title II, Part-A programs which help place volunteers in after-school programs throughout the country and provide professional development for in- and after-school personnel.

Unfortunately, this budget simply asks high-need schools to do more with less, an unacceptable trade-off that will hurt the neediest students.

Every Hour Counts rejects these claims and these cuts.

The 21st CCLC program is the only federal funding stream exclusively dedicated to supporting high-quality and evidence-based after-school programming for 1.6 million children and families in high-need communities across the country. These programs are supported by 20 years of evidence and have shown a positive impact on social and emotional skills, student achievement, school attendance and graduation rates of participating students.

After-school and summer learning programs made possible by 21st CCLC funding provide kids with so much more than a safe place to go while their parents are at work.

These programs expose students to new learning and enrichment opportunities and provide the academic and social support kids need to thrive in school and in life.

Senate Afterschool Caucus

Hill Briefing Panel, from left to right: Jackie Green, Cache Primary Principal, Cache Public Schools, Oklahoma; Jenny Wright Collins, M.Ed., Executive Director, University YMCA/Beacons Network, Minnesota; Stoney E. Hays, Chief Executive Officer, Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks, Missouri; Sean Prospect, Executive Director, After-School All-Stars South Florida; Ashley, student with After-School All-Stars, Jennifer Peck, President and CEO, Partnership for Children and Youth.

In fact, providers from across the country travelled to Capitol Hill in April for a briefing organized by the Senate Afterschool Caucus, Afterschool Alliance, Every Hour Counts, and other national organizations to share the positive impact that 21st CCLC has had on their lives and communities. We heard from Stoney Hays, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Ozarks, Missouri, who  spoke not just from the heart about how the Boys and Girls Club changed his life by helping him graduate from high school and go on to be the first in his family to graduate from college, but also about how their impact is widespread. Members who participate in the Boys and Girls Club of the Ozarks have a 94% graduation rate. And for every $1 the Boys and Girls Club receives from 21 CCLC, the Club leverages $9 in local resources.

Ashley, a high school student who grew up in the After-School All Stars program in Orlando, brought the room to a resounding standing ovation when she spoke of how the program impacted her life:

They fed me every day during a time that I wasn’t sure there would be food at home. I now get to mentor students that are going through the same things that I went through as a kid. I want to thank Ms. Amy and all the other Ms. Amy’s of after-school programs throughout the country.

I’m just a regular American kid, a kid that easily could have been lost in the shuffle. These programs helped me find my purpose. I’m the proof that these programs work, I’m the proof that they matter and I’m the proof we need them now more than ever.

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget claims to reflect a new vision for education, and yet the cuts show a conspicuous blind spot for the critical role that after-school and expanded learning programs play when it comes to improving educational outcomes for communities everywhere.

Congress is about to begin to craft and deliberate their own funding priorities and proposals.

The time to act and make your voice heard is now!

Call or write to your Senators and Representatives directly to tell them how important expanded learning opportunities are to you and your community and share the impact of the proposed cuts on families, including jobs and opportunities for children, in your community.

Take this opportunity to invite your Senators and Representatives to visit your local after-school programs and share evidence on the positive impact these programs are making in your (and their) community. These visits can bring the local eye view directly to your elected representatives and help them understand just how critical these national programs are to the people that keep them in office.

Kernels of Practice: Growing Bite-Sized Elements into Effective Programming

By Brittany Smith,
Every Hour Counts Program Intern and Graduate Student pursuing a Masters of Public Health at Columbia University

Take a deep breath and feel your belly grow bigger. Slowly exhale and feel your belly get smaller. Try this again. Do you feel any better?

Belly breathing, a technique designed to help kids develop their emotion regulation skills, is easily taught in a short period of time. It’s also effective for children encompassing a wide range of ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Kids can use belly breathing to calm themselves down when frustrated with a tricky math problem, a complex sculpture project, or difficult social interaction. In this instance, belly breathing is an example of a kernel, a bite-sized version of “active ingredients” found in larger, more complex programs already shown to be effective.

Kernels center on one specific behavior that kids can utilize in a variety of settings. A report from Stephanie Jones and her team at the EASEL Lab at Harvard Graduate School of Education, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, focuses on kernels and their useful applications in developing social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. Entitled Kernels of Practice for SEL: Low-Cost, Low-Burden Strategies, it serves as part of a larger initiative by the Harvard Graduate School of Education to understand how schools can use SEL building blocks to develop curriculum. In this particular report, data are driven from 25 SEL programs and analyzed using content analysis. Programs were qualitatively coded, vetted to eliminate non-kernel strategies, and then organized by focus.

SEL programming is key for helping kids develop their empathy, self-regulation, motivation, and more. It can even buffer the effects of exposure to stress and trauma, resulting in stronger social-emotional skills. But, all too often, barriers such as few resources, limited integration, and challenges with sustainability can impede providers’ attempts to incorporate SEL into programs.

Kernels serve as solutions to such obstacles. Because they are low-cost, easily taught, and focus on one specific behavior at a time, they can be used in a variety of settings and within diverse populations. In addition, unlike more traditional programs that situate activities in a discrete time block, the report notes that kernels are “easy-to-use and applicable across school contexts (e.g., hallways, recess, etc.) as well as in home, afterschool, and early learning settings.” What’s more, they are “easy to adapt based on individual, cultural, and other contextual needs, making them well suited for use in a broad range of contexts and populations.”

Wallace Foundation

The authors offer this image of a seed to better illustrate how kernels work. The germ part of the seed, or core of the kernel, is the specific technique used for one particular behavior. It can be tailored to each program’s particular needs and planted in different kinds of soil. Providers can utilize a variety of kernels to form a garden of specific tools that kids can easily access to calm themselves down, motivate themselves to be more engaged, or express admiration for their peers.

For educators looking to use kernels for their programs, the EASEL Lab is working on developing guides detailing different kernels and how to implement them. The authors plan to provide guides based on setting (school, home, and out-of-school time programs), ages of the students, and related SEL focus.

Instructors will also have information on how to scaffold this learning over time, providing new, developmentally appropriate insight on kernels that kids have already mastered.

Concerned about the difficulties of incorporating SEL into your programs? Don’t be. Take a deep breath in, feel your belly expand, and remember that you can always use kernels to help your students develop the same critical skills that they would find in more complex programs.

Cicilline, Whitehouse Lead Charge to Expand Access to High-Quality Education

Every Hour Counts is delighted to announce that House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) Co-Chair David N. Cicilline (RI-01) and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) introduced the Community Partnerships in Education Act to bring non-profit organizations and education programs together to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century economy. Original co-sponsors include: Eliot Engel (NY), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Ro Khanna (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), Betty McCollum (MN), John Conyers (MI), Charlie Crist (FL), Dwight Evans (PA), Jimmy Gomez (CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX).

“As our economy continues to change at an unprecedented pace, we need to ensure that young people get the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in the workforce,” said Representative Cicilline, who led the effort to strengthen afterschool initiatives in the 2015 federal education bill. “It’s critical that we bring together leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to ensure we are providing students with the best opportunity to obtain critical life and career skills. I’m proud to be introducing the Community Partnerships in Education Act, and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Whitehouse to advance this important bill.”

Every Hour Counts worked closely with Representative Cicilline and Senator Whitehouse on the proposal, which would amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Higher Education Act to elevate the critical role of intermediaries and other non-profit community partners in serving students throughout the K-12 and higher education settings.

Intermediary organizations play a critical role in expanding access to high quality education programs. By driving improved student outcomes, increasing efficiency and promoting continuous improvement, intermediaries help to maximize resources and ensure that students are served.

​“Afterschool programs in cities like Providence show that community groups do great work providing students with skills and knowledge they’ll need throughout their lives,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This bill will build on the afterschool legislation we passed into law with the K-12 education overhaul, and help young people to thrive in college and their careers.  I’m proud to partner with Congressman Cicilline, who laid the groundwork for Providence’s afterschool success, to help bring this kind of collaboration to more communities around the country.”

We are excited to see that the Community Partnerships in Education Act of 2017 updates the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to:

  • Ensure states and districts work with community partners and intermediary organizations in planning and carrying out career and technical education programming and encourage the use of data sharing agreements to better measure success.
  • Require evaluations of CTE programs to assess the level of involvement of community partners and intermediary organizations and the implementation of data sharing agreements to better measure success.
  • Emphasize the importance of 21st Century Skills within career and technical education programs.
  • Include definitions of “community partner” and “intermediary organization” to reflect the many types of organizations working in these fields.

The Community Partnerships in Education Act also updates the Higher Education Act to:

  • Require projects supported by higher education student support programs, including TRIO, GEAR UP, High School Equivalency and College Assistance Migrant Program (HEP CAMP) to be developed and implemented, to the extent feasible, with community partners and intermediaries in order to expand access to high quality programming.
  • Require grantees under GEAR UP and HEP CAMP grantees, to the extent feasible, to enter into data sharing agreements with community partners to better measure programming and student success.
  • Elevate the importance of 21st Century skills within Federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs.
  • Include definitions of “community partner” and “intermediary organization” to reflect the many types of organizations working to provide critical student support services within higher education.

Every Hour Counts was inspired by the on-the-ground efforts of our national coalition members to suggest these improvements to the Perkins CTE Act and Higher Education Act. The work of the Providence After School Alliance provides an exemplar of how to successfully link more than 100 career-related courses in middle and high school to career pathway strategies that are supported by Perkins funds.

“We know that when young people are engaged in STEM programming after-school, they become more interested in exploring STEM career pathways in their school-based STEM CTE programs, as well as STEM summer jobs. Intermediaries are terrific at making the kinds of cross-sector connections that are necessary for career pathways to be effective.” – Hillary Salmons, Executive Director, Providence After-School Alliance.

Every Hour Counts applauds Congressman Cicilline and Senator Whitehouse for their leadership on these issues and for elevating the role of intermediaries and community-based educators in providing services to students pursuing a college education or career training.

Insights from the new Wallace publication: “Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside and Across 25 Leading SEL Programs.”

By Katie Brohawn, Senior Director of Research, ExpandED Schools

Educators (both formal and informal) have long touted the importance of fostering social and emotional competencies of the youth they serve for their long-term success. A large body of research supports the notion that programs that promote the development of SEL skills impact not only students’ behavior and attitudes but academic performance as well. However, only recently have SEL skills joined the ranks of skills to be measured for the purposes of education accountability (via the Every Student Succeeds Act), garnering these skills the true attention they deserve.

To date, the bulk of research in the SEL space (and thus subsequent tools for practitioners) has focused on in-school settings. However, over the past decade, the expanded learning field has received more prominent recognition for its role in partnering with schools to support the social, emotional, and academic achievement of youth. With the addition of SEL metrics to education accountability systems, the need for evidence-based programs to support these skills across both formal and informal education settings is becoming ever more apparent.

This past March, the Wallace Foundation released a resource guide, Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside and Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers, that can be used by both schools and OST providers alike. The guide is unique in that it pays special attention to the intricacies the OST space provides, both in facilitating and hindering implementation of SEL-focused programming. Further, the evidence base from more traditional school day programs is also highlighted, acknowledging that expanded learning time programs vary greatly in the degree to which the OST space is aligned with and connected to the school today.

As is the case with previous tools in the field (i.e. the CASEL Guide), Navigating SEL from the Inside Out, sets forth a Framework to narrow down content, dividing SEL skills into three core domains that research has found related to positive short- and long-term outcomes for youth: cognitive regulation, emotional processed and social/interpersonal skills.

Across these three domains are 12 SEL skills with a strong evidence base linking them to youth outcomes. Further, the resource provides insights for practitioners as to 17 evidence-based practices for developing these skills, from more traditionally academic in focus (i.e. discussion, stories, vocabulary) to more dynamic/interactive (i.e. videos, songs, role-playing and games) that OST providers may prefer.

For the list-lover in all of us, the guide succinctly breaks down six features common to evidence-based effective SEL programming, followed by seven commonly faced implementation challenges such that programs realize they aren’t alone in their struggles and, subsequently, ten program components that address these key features and common challenges. However, most relevant to our readers is the distinct call-out of four common principles specific to providing quality SEL programming in the OST space. Notably that programs:

  1. provide a safe and positive environment for children and adults;
  2. support the development of high quality relationships between children and adults;
  3. are developmentally appropriate, relevant and engaging for children; and
  4. provide opportunities for direct skill building.

These principles are followed by five areas OST providers should consider specific to the OST space before embarking on the decision to be intentional in their SEL focus.

  1. Expansion is difficult when forcing standardization
  2. The benefits of consistency must be balanced with the need for programming to be additive.
  3. SEL programs must authentically support the mission of the OST organization.
  4. In addition to mission, the pedagogical approach of SEL and OST programs should be both aligned and additive.
  5. Organizations must consider the specific SEL needs and learning styles of their students.

Every Hour Counts has long recognized the value of incorporating SEL in both practice and measurement in expanded-learning systems, illustrated by the development of our Measurement Framework. The Measurement Framework provides a blueprint for communities to better understand the impact of programs, with a focus on youth outcomes and a defined set of social and emotional skills. We realize this is an ever-evolving field and appreciate the efforts of The Wallace Foundation to commission this type of research that drives the field forward.

Another Life Lost, Another Shattering Verdict


by Wokie Weah, President of Youthprise
This post originally appeared on

Another not-guilty verdict

The air in Minnesota is as heavy as my heart. As we say in Liberia “my heart is not satisfied”. My heart definitely is not satisfied with the verdict in the Philando Castile case. As a Minnesotan, a mother, a grandmother and the president of a youth-centered organization, I am grieving with communities across Minnesota.

This is no accident

My thoughts go out to the family of Philando Castile, and the families of every person who experiences violence at the hands of our justice system. I was in my hotel room in Little Rock Arkansas where I was taking my 18-year-old daughter to enroll in a summer college program. Frankly I was stunned when I heard not guilty on all counts. Then I remembered the system had worked as it was intentionally designed to work. This is no accident. The tragedy of what happened is a problem created by a fundamentally flawed justice system that views people of color as threats that are worthy of the harshest forms of government force and punishment. I have written about my own fears as the mother of an African American son before. Minnesota’s future prosperity is tied to the success of young people of color and they are losing faith in our institutions and systems.


2014 data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety regarding statewide racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system indicate that youth of color continue to make up a disproportionate number of youth involved in the justice system compared to white youth.  In fact, youth of color are arrested at nearly three times the rate of white youth and alarmingly African American youth are arrested at five and half times the rate of white youth.  These disparities occur at nearly every stage of the juvenile justice system and impact all minority racial groups.  The system as it currently operates provides easy on ramps for youth of color to enter while making an exit difficult and less speedy than for white youth.  Probation data illustrates the difficulties youth of color experience exiting the system as it indicates that African American youth are offered probation at half the rate of white youth and Native American youth are offered probation at three quarters of the rate of white youth.  The data from Ramsey County where Philando Castile was stopped by the St. Anthony Police Department is even more stark.  Youth of color are arrested at nearly four times the rate of white youth which is primarily driven by the fact that African American youth are arrested at nine times the rate of white youth.  Both the current juvenile and adult justice systems operate in ways that make it easy for people of color to enter, treats them harsher than their white neighbors once in, makes it difficult for them to exit, and leaves them with an array of collateral consequences that impact them long after their involvement with the system ends.  We need to ask ourselves is this what justice should look like in Minnesota?  If you don’t believe that this is justice, the next question to ask is what can I or my organization or my community do to change the current system?

Time to follow young people’s lead

At Youthprise, we believe that young people who are the most impacted by the issues are the ones who hold the most impactful solutions. When I heard the heartbreaking verdict announced last Friday, it was young people who came to my mind. I thought of the young people who actively engage in systems to disrupt and change them, the young people who fight for their communities and whose ingenuity uplifts all of Minnesota. I thought of the young people who take their voices to the streets and march against injustice with signs in their hands and hope in their hearts. It is time to follow young people’s leads.


As a hero of mine, Nelson Mandela, once said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” Now is not the time to rest. Now is the time for action. In this spirit, here are five calls to action for all of stakeholders. Please join Youthprise in taking action.

To the philanthropic community:

The true role of philanthropy is to take calculated risks in support of the community vision. Invest. Now is the time to be bold and to invest in communities that are already doing the work to dismantle systems of oppression. In light of the recent events, Youthprise isinvesting $10,000 in the Philando Castile Scholarship Fund and $15,000 to an organization involved in the critical work of dismantling racism and disrupting systems.Join us in supporting the scholarship fund and supporting a non-profit involved in dismantling racism.

To communities involved in challenging systems:

We hear you, we see you, and we’ve got your back. The role of community is to challenge the status quo and support the next generation in bringing about much needed change. Thank you for showing up again and again. Continue to hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire. Urge your friends and family to show up and vote, not just in Presidential elections. Insist that schools and the educational system include their histories and perspectives. We all must take action.

To elected officials:

The role of elected officials is to represent the communities you serve. Be more courageous in implementing a racial equity agenda. Listen to the needs of your diverse constituents. You are working for the young people of Minnesota. Invest in them. Listen to them. Minnesota is losing ground as a state in terms of investments in our young people. Now more than ever we have to support the next generation of Minnesotans.

To the media:

One of the fundamental responsibilities of the media is to ensure the general welfare of the public through timely and accurate information. Do not produce superficial reporting that reproduces stereotypes; instead publish positive stories that reflect Minnesota’s diverse communities. In the past we relied on the media to keep us informed. Social media has changed all of that. Young people and community members use social media to tell stories that reflect their experiences. There is power in digital storytelling that shifts the narrative. This fall, we will be building the capacity of young people to use digital media at our annual summit hosted in partnership with Intermedia Arts and GLITCH.

To young people:

The role of young people is to step into leadership roles that disrupt existing systems. You have the power to change systems. You are already leading the charge to dismantle systems of oppression and you are already taking leadership in your communities. Continue to acquire the tools and the skillsets to work within systems that impact your lives. Unless young people engage in the systems that impact their lives, those systems will not work for young people.

To everyone:

Invest in young people and begin by investing in the Philando Castile Scholarship Fund. This fund is about honoring Philando’s legacy by supporting our state’s commitment to educating youth and giving them the tools to thrive in this world. You can read about the first scholarship recipient here. Youthprise will continue to prioritize young people. Preparing youth to lead in philanthropy, research and policy is key to real systems change.

Our work doesn’t stop at the end of a march, we will continue to call for justice and dismantle systems of oppression as long as they exist. As local artist and organizer Ricardo Levins Morales often quotes Aboriginal rights activists in Queensland, Australia:

“If you have come to help me you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

The Power of Digital Storytelling


Shanell McCoy training Youthprise staff on the importance of social media as a storytelling tool

by Shanell McCoy, Youthprise Youth Fellow, Communications Coordinator

Storytelling can be defined in many different ways. For some, storytelling evokes childhood memories, sitting in circles as teachers read fairy tales and stories starring talking animals. For others, storytelling is simply the retelling of events through word of mouth. At Youthprise, we see storytelling as a powerful tool that can uplift the voices of the communities we serve.

In our view, storytelling isn’t just an action. Whether through word of mouth, written text, or presented on a digital platform, storytelling is a significant part of building a healthy community. Why? Because it holds the power to inform and educate others using stories that come from outside of each of our particular individual perspectives. At Youthprise, we therefore see creating socially healthy online environments for our communities as a core responsibility of our organization. And we’re proud to say that our youth staff owns this responsibility by leading our digital storytelling efforts.

Using a youth-adult, partnership model, youth on staff act  as content curators, brand managers, and communication coordinators—all while building their to tell stories.

Take Nancy Musinguzi, a recently hired youth artist. As part of her work, she wrote the story of our Community Ambassadors Initiative that operates in partnership with the city of St. Paul. Musinguzi interviewed and photographed the participants of the program including Police Chief, Thomas Smith and the young people involved. Youth fellow and Brand Manager, Adeeb Missaghi worked with  Musinguzi to design an interactive digital publication. This collaboration between youth and adults resulted in a unique storytelling opportunity unlike any other at Youthprise. And it evolved the way we communicate about our work to include the many perspectives of the communities we serve.

Ensuring young people have the opportunity to tell stories on their own terms, and following their own vision, also builds on five social-emotional learning behaviors like self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, self-management, and responsible decision-making. Youth are able to develop their unique voice, interact with different communities, both online and in person, work toward social media goals (like audience engagement, brand marketing, etc.), and make responsible decisions about the content they create and post.

All of this contributes to a socially healthy online environment—one that’s not only inclusive, but also authentic and engaging.

When youth-serving organizations and intermediaries in the out-of-school-time field engage young people using digital storytelling platforms, they’re not only giving those young people the opportunity to build their capacity as writers, they’re also pushing their own organization to be more reflective of the communities they serve. At Youthprise, we know that youth engagement isn’t a product, but a process. While messy at times, the process of engaging youth always yields results that can impact our field and our work in profound ways.

To further the impact of storytelling, Youthprise will be hosting our 2017 annual Summit in partnership with Intermedia Arts and GLITCH, a non-profit that works to educate, inspire, and equip emerging makers with the tools for success in the digital game and simulation fields. The goal of the Summit is to build the capacity of youth and youth-serving organizations in Minnesota to think differently about technology as a creative tool for advocacy, education, and collaboration. During the Summit, we’ll educate participants on the importance of digital storytelling through interactive activities, and address ways to incorporate young people in the process.

When we empower young people to control the narratives they’re most impacted by, we get authentic perspectives on our work. When we give youth the space and resources to use their voices to address issues and topics that matter most to them, we shift their role from story subjects to story authors. This process builds trust between the organization and the community,  and contributes to a socially healthy environment that invites youth to share stories and build their capacity as storytellers.

In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.”





New Skills Framework Unveiled for All Boston Educators at the ACT Skills Summit


by Aja Watkins
This post originally appeared on

Hundreds of educators, policymakers, advocates, and funders gathered at Boston University on Monday, June 5 around Boston After School & Beyond’s new Achieve, Connect, Thrive (ACT) Skills framework. The ACT Skills Summit was an exciting day full of engaging activities, including hearing from education leaders, researchers, and program practitioners concerning best practices for cultivating the ACT Skills.

The newly unveiled ACT Skills Framework consists of nine skills, three in each of the Achieve, Connect, and Thrive categories.


Attendees to the Summit first heard about the importance of these skills in relation to college, career, and life success from local education leaders.

“What we need – across settings – is a skills agenda” -Rahn Dorsey, the City of Boston’s Chief of Education

“We’re in a critical time to close the achievement gap and improve the self sufficiency of individuals” -Hardin Coleman, Dean of the Boston University School of Education

“We’ve found a very strong mismatch between what we need in a community and the jobs that we’re able to fill.” -Kelli Wells, Executive Director of Education and Skills at the GE Foundation

“We all need a common understanding of how we define college and career readiness. The ACT Framework does a good job defining these skills.” -Dr. Tommy Chang, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools

“It is key to give young people opportunities in a complex environment, and provide them with real world experience.” -Wanda McClain, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

“You are doing the work that we need as a city, a Commonwealth, and a nation” -Senator Chang-Díaz, Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education

The group also heard from Dr. Gil Noam, Founder and Director of the PEAR Institute at Harvard Medical School, about the research base for the ACT skills. “Let’s make these skills live, let’s not just talk about them. Let youth see that adults have ups and downs and they can persevere,” Dr. Noam said. “If we pursue the goal of the engaged learner we have a chance to make the future into the golden age of education.”

Attendees then transitioned into a series of workshops delivered by program staff. Over the coming weeks, Boston After School & Beyond will be releasing a series of blog posts detailing the contents of each of these sessions:

Achieve Workshops: HMS MEDScience: Think Like a Scientist!

Phillips Brooks House Association: Training for Critical Thinking – Aligning Staff Development with Creative Curricula

Sociedad Latina: Teaching Achieve Skills through Design Thinking

The PEAR Institute: Metacognition Activities for Afterschool and Summer Programs

Connect Workshops:Scholar Athletes: ACT Skills Mapping for Program Development

Courageous Sailing: Connecting to Succeed

The PEAR Institute: Using Art and Literature to Build Empathy

Thrive Workshops:Berklee City Music: Understanding the Social-Emotional Needs of Youth

Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center: Being Your Best Self – Supporting Student Success

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs: Striving to Thrive – Feeling Safe, Feeling Big, Feeling Connected

The PEAR Institute: Neuroplasticity, the Brain, and Student Self-Concept and Growth

The materials from each of these workshops can be found here. An academic paper about the development of the ACT Skills Framework is forthcoming.

From Wandering to Wonders with the STEM Ecosystem

COP Photo

By Sabrina Gomez, Director of ExpandED STEM Opportunities
Sabrina manages Every Hour Counts’ FUSE 3.0 initiative and ExpandED Schools’ Design2Learn.

I have always believed that one should wander with people who make you wonder.

I sat down for breakfast at my fourth STEM Learning Ecosystems National Community of Practice (COP) in Tampa, Florida last month, eager to discuss and learn from colleagues who have become familiar faces and friends. At 8:00AM, representatives from the Indiana STEM Ecosystems Initiative, New York City STEM Funders Network and Orange County STEM Initiative were already engaged in a discussion on college and career readiness. Unbeknownst to me, we were also joined by our distinguished keynote speaker, Dr. Greg Washington, Dean of Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California Irvine. For personal reasons, I was instantly hooked (my younger sister had just declared her intent to attend his school to study Mechanical Engineering this fall!). We discussed the need to provide students’ choice and exposure to a variety of STEM pathways and the need for flexible mentoring models that incorporate social media and technology to capitalize on the interest of 21st century learners. It made me wonder about our ecosystem and the challenges NYC city students experience connecting the dots between their classrooms STEM experiences to their community and the world at large.

This spirit of camaraderie – like-minded individuals coming together to tackle grand challenges in STEM – is what the Community of Practice has come to represent for me. Over 200 dedicated professionals from 39 ecosystems representing different sectors of society shared their thinking on how to connect pre-K-12 STEM learning to real world experience and careers. I was part of the New York STEM Education Network Ecosystem team which included Brian Cohen, Beam Center; Janet Kelley, Kelly Collaborative; Lynda Kennedy, Vice President Education Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum; Candace Reyes-Dandrea, Deputy Director Capacity Building Unit Department of Youth and Community Development; and Chris Whipple, Director of Programs, ExpandED Schools.

The COP has also become a space to reframe failure as success. Dr. Cary Sneider, leader of the engineering group on the Next Generation Science and Engineering writing team, and an advisor for Every Hour Counts FUSE 3.0 initiative, led a session on the Engineering Design Process, challenging participants to build the tallest tower possible in 15 minutes, using only 50 index cards and 15 inches of tape that could hold the weight of a cell phone. COP teams planned, designed, built, tested and redesigned their structures. Our team first planned to create circles with the index cards and build from there. After two attempts and no tower, I suggested folding the index cards into triangles. We tried and noticed that we did not need tape. The competition was fierce! We continued to build and encouraged one another until our tower eclipsed 24 inches, one of the highest of the entire convening.

This activity served as segue to Dr. Dean Washington’s keynote address. He stated that if any of the grand challenges in STEM could be solved, it would be us, the ecosystems and COP members together, that would solve them. He challenged our communities to serve as a testing ground where solutions could be designed, tested, reiterated and shared amongst each other. I instantly thought of ExpandED Schools work with Design2Learn, an Investing in Innovation Development Grant, and FUSE 3.0 Initiative. Both of these initiatives are testing formal and informal models that bring educators together to facilitate design based learning with the goal of increasing student achievement, motivation and interest in science. He encouraged second (and third) attempts and if something does not work the first time that does not mean there’s no room for improvement. More importantly, he highlighted the uniqueness of a community such as ours and the opportunity to speak openly about our challenges and share ideas with fellow COP participants. As a community, we are the “STEM army” that will bring about solutions to issues around early childhood education, professional development and parent engagement in our continuing efforts to ensure that STEM is seamlessly integrated into a robust educational system from pre K to college and career.  

Many thanks to Co-Chairs Ron Ottinger, Director of STEM Next; Gerald Solomon, Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation; and the entire Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM team for planning such a memorable event. Thanks to all fellow community of practice members who always send me back to New York City wondering and brimming with new possibilities.  

An Equity Action Agenda for Youth Development Professionals


By Jennifer Siaca Curry, Ed.D.
Jennifer has worked in the afterschool and expanded learning field for over a decade, working with the statewide afterschool network in New York and ExpandED Schools. She explored afterschool programs delivered through school/community partnerships in her doctoral dissertation and is a member of the board of the NYS Network for Youth Success. This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

We are living in an important moment in time (an understatement!), and recommitting ourselves to equity and inclusion for all in the youth development field is a must. Youth programs have a long history of responding to social needs—sheltering kids from war in the early 20th century, providing child care as women entered the workforce in the 1970s, extending academic learning time in the No Child Left Behind-era.

I argue that today we are preparing for a new focus: the social and emotional needs of young people, and that this new opportunity is incomplete without an antidiscrimination framework. The youth development field is poised to protect children and youth of all races, religions, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, appearances, and abilities – to embrace their identities and lift their assets to support them in becoming productive, engaged, and successful adults.

And the good news? You don’t need a grant to make this happen. Here are six things you can do today to have a positive impact on the youth you serve.

Build a personal understanding of the history of oppression.

Experts agree that having deeper knowledge about our country’s history is central to weakening racism. While it’s certainly easier to leave the past behind us, building an understanding of the events, constructs, and people who laid the foundation for today’s discriminatory structures and beliefs will make you a stronger advocate and enable you to pass accurate historical knowledge on. One of my favorite anecdotes is from Marian Wright Edelman: A Texas student recognized his social studies textbook ignored the brutality of the slave trade, which he had learned in his Children’s Defense Fund program. Not only did he educate his classmates, but his protest led to McGraw-Hill issuing an apology and an updated version of the textbook!

Mind your words—they matter.

First, I recommend youth development professionals subscribe to a philosophy of multiculturalism rather than color blindness. Saying things like, “I don’t see color” or “I treat everyone the same” may feel innocuous, but research and experience suggest that people primed to have a color-blind perspective display more explicit and implicit biases than those primed with a multicultural perspective. When it comes to specifics, the Opportunity Agenda has curated a list of words and phrases that impede equity and inclusion, as well as replacement terms to use instead. It’s a great document to use as required reading for new staff.

Work to eliminate implicit bias.

Most of us genuinely hold no ill will toward others and find the idea of implicit bias difficult to swallow. However, it’s natural to have an “in-group bias,” a slight inherent preference for people who share your characteristics. There are several things you can do, according to psychologists Tropp and Godsil: Regularly expose yourself to counter-stereotypic group members and assume the perspective of outgroup members to gain a new worldview to guide your behavior. Lastly, be mindful of implicit bias in your everyday work. From assigning students to activities, to choosing who to hire, to having conversations with families, we have many opportunities to either act on or ignore our implicit biases.

Use culturally-responsive pedagogy (for all students).

Gloria Ladson-Billings’ vision of culturally-responsive pedagogy may be more important now than ever before. She called for teaching and learning to empower students using their own cultural context in their education. Experts at NYU explain “culturally responsive classrooms can create a space where harmful images can be deconstructed and positive self and cultural affirmations portrayed” by infusing classes and activities with reflections of children’s identities, cultures, and languages.

This is not a one-size-fits-all solution; each community has to shape an approach that works for its students. For example, Christopher Emdin’s book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and The Rest of Ya’ll Too provides examples specific to teaching Black students in urban communities, such as using engagement techniques used by Black pastors. Although customization is key, there are some universal strategies; for example, many cultures use spoken words and music to share their history. Therefore, opportunities to learn through music, theater, slam poetry, and other verbal platforms can be particularly effective for teaching diverse groups of children. There’s also youth culture to consider—you may not be on Snapchat, but if that’s where your students are most engaged… it’s time to check it out.

Label and address identity-based bullying head-on.

Identity-based bullying includes insults, threats, or physical aggression against someone because of who they are. A 2016 survey found that more than half the middle and high school student respondents reported bullying because of their appearance, and about a third were bullied because of their race or ethnicity. The Anti-Defamation League offers resources and tips for mitigating this type of bullying, including explicitly teaching youth what identity-based bullying is and explaining that it is not caused by the victim’s identity, but instead by the perpetrator’s own biases. Establish open lines of communication with students and create a norm of telling an adult when identity-based bullying occurs. By explicitly including these practices and norms in behavior management protocols communicated to youth, a safer environment for all students will result.

Find staff who build and maintain a positive environment for all.

A program is only as good as the people who run it, and no matter what your intentions are, your staff will make or break your program environment. Hiring staff who are willing to engage in reflection, discussion, and action regarding eliminating discrimination is key. I recommend revamping your screening process to ask questions that explore one’s commitment to inclusion, ask candidates to commit to using appropriate language, teaching, and management strategies, and spending a few minutes observing candidates with youth before making a job offer.

Need more resources? Check out these planning tools from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Racial Equity Tools as a start.

*Note: this is an excerpt of a longer article with additional research and resources cited. Stay tuned for the full paper, expected to be published this fall.

Reflections on the FUSE 3.0 Institute: Cultivating Curiosity and SEL through Informal and Formal Collaboration

by Sabrina Gomez


“As you were walking, what are some things you notice about the conference room, its arrangements, its contents, what physical structure or behaviors would be necessary for insects to survive here?,” asked Olga Feingold, Program Director, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center in Boston. Olga was leading FUSE 3.0 Winter Institute participants in Nashville.

The Institute brought together forty leaders in youth development, education, and informal science from six cities who came together to share their thinking on using social-emotional learning (SEL) skill-building to strengthen STEM learning in- and out-of-school. Lead organizations included ExpandED Schools in New York City, the Providence After School Alliance, Boston After School & Beyond, the Nashville After Zone Alliance, Prime Time Palm Beach County, and Collective for Youth in Omaha. The group was joined by Ron Ottinger, Director of STEM Next, and leaders in the field of science and social emotional learning; Senior Research Scientist Dr. Sue Allen, who heads a national, Noyce-funded project that provides online professional development for afterschool providers; Dr. Cary Sneider, Associate Professor at Portland State University, leader of the engineering group on the NGSS writing team, and science consultant to STEM Next; and Dr. Nick Yoder, Senior Technical Assistance Consultant, American Institutes for Research.

Olga’s activity is routinely employed by Thompson Island informal educators, and is aimed at having students think purposefully about how structures and behaviors increase survival of the population. The activity sparked enthusiasm around the room as we explored how activities rooted in the Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices could be brought to life in an interactive, fun way led by informal educators.

The presentation also allowed us to step into the educators’ shoes to experience how they might assess the extent to which students are engaging deeply with the practices. We used observation, critical thinking, communication, and team work skills to make claims about the function of an adaptation by recording observed evidence and then presenting our individual organisms to the larger group, which fostered further idea-sharing among peers. We quickly realized that we were also relying on the same SEL to answer Ms. Feingold’s series of questions.

Olga’s presentation embodied the spirit of inquiry, assessment, and the intersection of youth development principles, STEM, and SEL that fueled January’s two-day Institute. Underlying this spirit was also a practical exploration of how teams could use formative assessments rooted in Next Generation Science Standards’ practices of scientists and engineers to create a solid foundation for this work.

Accordingly, Dr. Allen and Dr. Sneider co-led a discussion around how teams could incorporate formative assessments in out-of-school time in order to increase opportunities for youth to practice and strengthen their understanding of the science and engineering practices. To support this work, Dr. Yoder, who also leads the focal area on safe and supportive classrooms, and social and emotional learning (SEL) for the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, facilitated a discussion about strategies for creating educator professional development experiences that connect STEM and SEL skills. Together, Institute teams learned from other cities’ professional development types and series they facilitate with staff. Ann Durham and Brittany Sandbergen, from the Providence After Zone Alliance, shared their work around designing and leading professional development experiences for formal and informal educators involved in FUSE 3.0.  

Combined, Institute’s discussions and activities highlighted the key theme of FUSE 3.0: Expanded learning time can be a time for youth to engage with Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices, and for educators to assess their growth in those Practices while still holding true to youth development principles that help cultivate curiosity.

Boston, Providence, New York City and Omaha are also part of the STEM Ecosystems Initiative, supported by STEM Next and the STEM Funders Network. The ecosystems work—intentionally connecting STEM learning experiences for kids across a full range of settings in- and out-of-school, at home, in community-based settings, online and in the workforce—aligns with the FUSE 3.0 strategy.