Posts Tagged ‘on the ground in afterschool’

On the Ground in Afterschool: Building a Grad Nation Summit 2013

Friday, March 8th, 2013

What a day!  I was so inspired and informed.  I had the honor to be invited as a panelist in a February 25 Breakout session of the Grad Nation 2013 Summit in Washington DC. The Summit is hosted by America’s Promise Alliance, and three other partners.

In the session “Finding the Time: Building Support for Expanded Learning” my goal as a panelist was to talk about the role Afterschool can play in improving student achievement.  I was able to share NJ’s work in the national Support Student Success (s3) project.

For the NJSACC s3 project, we invited high quality afterschool programs also known as ELO providers, serving students in grades 6-8 to demonstrate how ELO’s can support student success with taking intentional steps to infuse the program content with Common Core State Standards (“the Common Core”).

The project goals were to raise awareness about the Common Core amongst the ELO providers in NJ, to identify effective practices and common challenges of ELOs working to support the Common Core and to establish evidence that ELO providers are key partners in Common Core implementation.

As NJ takes up the challenge of implementing the Common Core, the NJSACC team advising the s3 project believed that high quality ELO’s are an ideal partner.  The Common Core represents an important step forward for our public schools.  The Common Core was designed with the real world in mind, reflecting the knowledge and skills that NJ’s students need for success in college and careers and ultimately, to compete successfully in the global economy.

While NJ is clearly making bold moves to improve public education, significant budget cuts have forced school districts to seek ways to do more with less.  Increasingly, school districts are looking at out-of-school time hours in order to meet their goals in a cost-effective way.  In came the 10 programs that volunteered to participate in a year of working on this project with us.

They varied greatly: 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Community Education and Faith-based ELO providers all participated.

We supported their efforts by providing resources, guidance, introductory training and ongoing communication.  We asked that the programs develop plans to learn what the Common Core State Standards are and how they related to ELOs.  We wanted them to understand and demonstrate how ELOs can complement the learning that happens during the school day.  They were asked to make linkages between the Common Core and their program activities, and the overall work was intended to make stronger relationships with principals and teachers. They were asked to develop a vision and a project that would ultimately help prepare students for the challenges of the Common Core.

Ten different projects arose out of the 10 different groups that signed up to participate.  They varied from working on Professional Development for the ELO and school day staff, to developing clubs that specifically addressed English/Language Arts and Math standards of a particular grade group.  One program used their year of work to educate the students and families about what the expectations were to be when the Common Core became fully implemented.

The project achieved the general goals in a short period of time and much was learned along the way.  I was able to witness the programs in their efforts to be key partners in helping students achieve in school. The afterschool programs did it through fun, creative, hands on activities that are intentional in encouraging children to be engaged and interested in learning! They did it by engaging in purposeful Professional Development on Common Core integration.   They are still doing it, even after the pilot ended, because they saw how important the work was.

I had a short time at the panel to talk about the amazing work of the 10 programs, but the following are the major take away after 1 year working on the s3 project:

  • Relationships between afterschool and school day staff need to be strong, communication should flow well and frequently. Information about students should be shared in a way that is appropriate and with intention to help children succeed.  ELOs with established relationships with schools had more success in communicating about students’ academic needs.
  • Professional Development is a key factor in success.  Trainings can be shared.  The staff working before 3 PM and after 3 PM need the same quality of Professional Development and can share the resources on both sides of the bell to help students.    Non-certified teaching staff have more of a challenge comprehending the Standards but it can be taught. Common Core implementation requires careful analysis and proper training for all involved.
  • Programs that choose staff with strong interest in activities and making academic connections have more success with students.
  • Adults working with students during school and afterschool want to see the students succeed.

People ask similar questions each time I talk about s3. Do you have any questions?  Please use this link to ask your questions and give your comments and I will follow up.

I look forward to continue to share about the work that the pilot sites of Supporting Student Success.

Want to know more about Expanded Learning Opportunities? Join NJSACC and NJDOE who are partnering to present the ELO/Summer Learning Symposium on April 24, 2013. Hear from NJDOE, The National Summer Learning Association, The National AfterSchool Association, Liberty Science Center, The Newark Museum’s Maker Lab and more!

On The Ground in Afterschool.

Sarah Cruz

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About Sarah Cruz, Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO):

Sarah has been working with children and for organizations serving children and families since 1996. Currently, she is the Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) for NJSACC.

Previously, Sarah was the Director of the Hanover Township School- Age Child Care Program (HTSACC), a program operated in a NJ Public School system. At HTSACC, Sarah facilitated the National Afterschool Association Accreditation of 3 public schools before and afterschool programs.

Sarah is a prolific trainer. Nationally, she serves as a National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Facilitator for the workshop “Aligning the Learning Day, Collaborating Strategies for Principals and Afterschool Program Leaders.

Sarah is a National Afterschool Matters Initiative Practitioner Fellow  and In 2001, Sarah wrote ‘Fantastic Finales,’ a compilation of activities for school age children. She attended Douglass College at Rutgers University and graduated with a BA in Urban Planning and a certificate in Professional Youth Work.

Sarah coordinates the activities of the NJSACC Afterschool Ambassadors, the NJSACC Afterschool CARES, Supporting Student Success and the PSE&G Energizing Afterschool Partnership.

Email Sarah here.

Twitter: @sarahNJSACC

On the Ground in Afterschool: Woodbury Child Development Center

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

NJSACC: The Statewide Network for NJ’s Afterschool Communities provides regular support and technical assistance to out of school time programs that request it.  Last year, NJSACC served 129 programs serving NJ’s youth, a total of 130 hours.

I really enjoy Technical Assistance AKA TA and every person that works at NJSACC provides it on a daily basis to programs that call us and email us.  The topics requested range from how to better design space to information on creating policy manuals for staff and families.  We have built great relationships with providers with TA and I enjoy getting to see how the resources and support we provided impact on program quality.

This year, NJSACC was contracted by PSE&G Foundation to provide one year of TA to PSE&G Quality Afterschool Funding grantees.  The year has come to an end but what a year it has been!  Three programs participated in an intensive TA experience where NJSACC staff led the afterschool program staff on a path of self-assessment, problem solving and creating action plans for program improvement.

In April, the programs created teams of staff, family members and community members that conducted observations and surveys using Quality Standards for Afterschool.  In May, that information was compiled into an Action Plan for Program Improvement using team problem solving methods, a collective approach to improvement.  Then, from June to now, the programs implemented the changes and reaped the benefits of being so intentional about making the programs better.

We end the year knowing the programs have tools to use going forward to address concerns and that the program administration feels great about the work that they done.

On Friday, February 22, 2013, I was able to escort the PSE&G Foundation President Ellen Lambert and, Lisa Barile, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist  for PSE&G Corporate Social Responsibility on a visit to one of the TA Grantees, Woodbury Child Development Center in Gloucester County.  I was blown away when I walked into the room because I hadn’t visited the program in over 6 months.  The space was transformed.  There was a lovely presence of the children’s love and excitement about their program and the staff excitement to show it off.  The Exectuve Director, Phyllis Folk and NJSACC Consultant Dennis Groomes worked with the staff and children to transform the program.

We watched as the children moved through their newly designed space that included new books that were donated as a result of building community relationships, soft space purchased with grant funds, free play materials that were in great condition and age appropriate.  Walls that were previously bare were alive with youth artwork and writing projects.

The children were very excited to show off their newly learned skill of cinematography as they used digital video cameras to record an interview wth PSE&G Foundation president Ellen Lambert.  They showed her movies they had made and took her to the PSE&G Technology lab to give her a lesson on editing.

The kids were excited.  They were working in teams, using technology and problem solving as they worked to make short films.

It was a great visit to witness a program so dedicated to making the environment a place where youth learn new skills, and gives them to the tools to foster creativity.  The generous support of PSE&G Foundation made much of the changes at Woodbury CDC possible, but from my experience of daily TA, any program can use the Self-Study tools and process to make change that will impact on program quality.

This spring, I will get to visit the 2013 Quality Afterschool Funding Grantees and I look forward to sharing what I have learned from them.

On The Ground in Afterschool.

Sarah Cruz

________________________________________________________

About Sarah Cruz, Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO):

Sarah has been working with children and for organizations serving children and families since 1996. Currently, she is the Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) for NJSACC.

Previously, Sarah was the Director of the Hanover Township School- Age Child Care Program (HTSACC), a program operated in a NJ Public School system. At HTSACC, Sarah facilitated the National Afterschool Association Accreditation of 3 public schools before and afterschool programs.

Sarah is a prolific trainer. Nationally, she serves as a National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Facilitator for the workshop “Aligning the Learning Day, Collaborating Strategies for Principals and Afterschool Program Leaders.

Sarah is a National Afterschool Matters Initiative Practitioner Fellow  and In 2001, Sarah wrote ‘Fantastic Finales,’ a compilation of activities for school age children. She attended Douglass College at Rutgers University and graduated with a BA in Urban Planning and a certificate in Professional Youth Work.

Sarah coordinates the activities of the NJSACC Afterschool Ambassadors, the NJSACC Afterschool CARES, Supporting Student Success and the PSE&G Energizing Afterschool Partnership.

Email Sarah here.

Twitter: @sarahNJSACC