New Videos Show How Afterschool Fills Hours of Opportunity

Kids today spend 80 percent of their waking hours outside of school. In our field, we think of that time as “hours of opportunity”—hours in which kids can potentially be engaged in enrichment, team-building activities, meaningful adult mentorships, and more.

Yet for many kids, the hours outside of school are a missed opportunity. Only 15 percent of school-age children participate in after-school programs, with children from higher-income families participating at twice the rate of children in poverty.

Afterschool: Hours of OpportunityTwo new videos from The Wallace Foundation show how high-quality after-school programs can help fill gaps in opportunity. Featuring leaders of after-school programs and school districts around the country, Afterschool: Hours of Opportunity illustrates how programs help kids forge relationships with peers and educators, improve their behavior and academic performance, and motivate them to stay connected to school—a crucial ingredient for students who feel disengaged. These programs aren’t restricted to a specific time and place; they can happen before school, over the summer, or as part of an expanded learning day.

What can interested communities do to ensure they meet high standards of quality and offer access to the greatest number of students? A second video, Better Together: Boosting Afterschool by Building Citywide Systems, explains the key elements of building a citywide after-school system—a coordinated effort among service providers, public agencies, funders, and schools that helps stretch dollars, serve more youth, and improve quality. School and after-school data systems that can “talk” to one another, for example, or a mayor who champions the cause, can go a long way toward ensuring that programs meet the needs of a community and reach more students.

You can read about one mayor’s efforts to build an out-of-school time system in Madison, WI, in an earlier post.

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A Spending Bill for All Seasons: What the Omnibus Means for Expanded Learning in the Coming Year

Early childhood education, afterschool, and workforce development programs may be enjoying a little breathing room as they return to work this week. Last week Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that improves funding levels for these and other education programs, which saw their budgets significantly reduced in 2013 as a result of across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration.”

The bill restores some funding to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the only federal funding stream dedicated to after-school and summer learning programs. The 2014 appropriation for the program is $1.149 billion, up $57.8 million from 2013 levels.

The omnibus spending bill also funds a number of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education programs that may affect expanded learning programs. Some notable policy provisions include:

•    Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is funded at $14.384 billion, an increase of $625 million from 2013 but below the 2012 level of $14.5 billion. Title I funds support schools with a high concentration of students from low-income families; funds can be used to support after-school and summer programs. States that were granted waivers are required to identify and focus on their lowest-performing, or “priority,” schools, implementing meaningful interventions aligned with the Department of Education-identified turnaround principles, which include redesigning the school day, week, or year to include additional time for student learning and teacher collaboration.

•    School Improvement Grants, which target achievement in the nation’s lowest-performing schools, are funded at $505.7 million—the same as the 2013 level, but lower than the 2012 level. The bill permits funds to be used to implement a “research-proven, whole school reform model” and allows state educational agencies, with the approval of the Secretary of Education, to establish a state-determined school improvement strategy for use under the SIG program. Both the Transformation Model and the Turnaround Model require the use of extended learning time. In addition, the bill allows states to make five-year awards, rather than the existing three-year awards.

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