Literacy in the Zone – A Partnership for Sustainability Between Nashville After Zone Alliance and Nashville Public Library

Guest post by Rachel Roseberry

“A critical and sometimes overlooked resource is the public library, which is well-positioned to facilitate collaboration, build partnerships, address gaps, and support a lifetime of improved education outcomes.” – Urban Libraries Council, Winter 2015

Former Mayor Karl Dean created the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) in 2009 to increase the high-school graduation rate by leveraging after school programs’ capacity for student engagement, a capacity that has been linked to increased school-day attendance, improved behavior, and grades. NAZA is an expanded learning system whose programs provide free, high-quality after school opportunities for middle school students throughout Metro Nashville Public Schools. Its services are organized by geographic zone, in order to ensure students can safely access afterschool resources within their own communities.  With Mayor Dean’s departure due to term limits looming in 2014, NAZA began looking for a permanent home.

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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.

Building Better Afterschool: Dispatch from Madison

Yesterday, BetterTogethercoverimageThe Wallace Foundation released Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool (A Conference Report). This report shares lessons from national experts and teams from 57 cities who came together in February 2013 to share lessons on expanding access to high-quality afterschool programs, especially in low-income areas, through coordinated citywide systems. Watch a video of the conference’s opening session.

In the following post, the Honorable Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, WI, reflects on how participation in the Better Together conference impacted his city’s efforts to build an out-of-school time system.

Guest post by Paul Soglin

In 2012 the city of Madison, The Madison Metropolitan School district and our non-profit partners started exploring Out-of-School Time (OST) systems. At the end of the year, an invitation arrived to attend The Wallace Foundation’s conference, Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool. The timing could not have been more opportune.

The City of Madison’s joint committee with the school district and Dane County was interested in piloting a version of an OST system. Around the same time, I met with a host of neighborhood center directors and articulated a vision in which all children and youth were within walking distance of OST activities. The center directors agreed to take a lead role in developing a system that would adequately serve youth throughout Madison.

There was already momentum in our community to provide system-wide programming that focused on improving attendance, lengthening the school day, involving more parents, and combating hunger and trauma. While all of the partners were experienced and committed to serving youth outside of the school setting, the development of a comprehensive system was challenging.
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Building Data Systems: Tips and Resources

Yesterday the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS) participated in a webinar about harnessing the power of data to improve OST programs. Session speakers discussed the value of collecting and sharing data across systems and highlighted some best practices and valuable resources.

The webinar took as its launching point the fact that city-wide approaches to after-school education are growing. As they do so, providers are increasingly looking for help in gathering and sharing data, or building “management information systems” (MIS). Management information systems are comprised of various stakeholders (e.g. funders, agency managers, program staff, parents, and school principals) and the ways they might want to use, evaluate and share data.building_management_information_systems_toolkit_nlc

We learned that as cities are developing management information systems, it is important that they identify each stakeholder and the questions they want to answer, as well as to ensure that information flows in a two-way street among program providers to funders and OST networks.

Below is a list of resources on collecting, using and sharing data to improve out-of-school-time programs that were shared during the webinar and #afterschooldata Twitter chat.

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