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July 16, 2018

How is your summer program going so far? Are students engaged and attending? Retention can be a real challenge this time of year, when you don’t have the automatic incentive of school attendance to support program attendance.

Two keys to retaining students in summer and out-of-school time are family engagement and student engagement. Ideally, you already have some engagement strategies in place. For example, if you’re going to have an attendance contract with incentives for compliance, that needs to be set up at the outset. If you decide to have a parent liaison — a tactic proven to improve retention — you need to recruit a volunteer or part-time staff member well in advance. Here are more ways you can add to your retention toolkit if your current strategies aren’t enough.

Family Engagement

The younger the student population, the more family engagement matters. Here are some ideas for keeping parents and caregivers involved.

  • Pick up the phone. Call families of children who’ve missed more than a day or two. Let them know their child’s participation is important to the child and to the program.
  • Send materials home. Keep families engaged by showcasing what their children are doing. Suggest “conversation starters” about an aspect of program content that families can discuss together, followed by simple activities the whole family can do at home — find examples here.
  • Set up a family meeting. Involve whole families in program content with a fun, active event.
  • Recruit family members to help with programming. It’s not too late to get family members who aren’t at work during the program day to help with field trips, games, art activities, reading aloud or any activity where you could use an extra (untrained) adult.
  • Make a “good news” call. Boost retention by calling families to report children’s academic or behavioral gains.

Student Engagement

Keeping young people involved in program content and activities is important no matter the age group. It’s especially vital for high school and older middle school youth, whose parents have less influence over their attendance and who juggle other priorities that compete with program attendance. 

These ideas for engaging students are long-term strategies, but now’s a great time to start!

  • Set up a culture of high expectations. An environment in which students hold one another accountable will go further than any number of reminders from adults.
  • Get students involved in authentic work. You’ll get built-in motivation from project-based learning that delivers products with tangible benefits for the students or the community. Use this checklist with students and staff to gauge participation levels.
  • Tap into the power of peer groups. Students are more likely to show up when they know their group needs their creativity and input — and will miss them if they’re gone.
  • Support staff to build strong relationships. The quality of youth-adult relationships is an important factor for getting young people to come back. Try using positive youth development approaches and other ways to create a positive environment.

If you haven’t already built these retention tactics into your program, what can you add today? What can you put on the planning list for next year?



June 20, 2018

Do you wake up each morning with a new brilliant idea for your program? That’s wonderful! But when was the last time you encouraged your program team to bring their ideas to the table? Try these strategies to bolster professional learning this fall, and you’ll set the stage for teamwork and creativity.

  1. The spontaneous yes. The next time you hear a team member introduce a good idea with “I wish…” or “If only…,” respond with an enthusiastic “Yes! Terrific idea!” Follow up by asking them to start thinking of ways to make it happen. Offer to put the idea on the agenda for a future team meeting so they can get input from others and develop the idea further. Your encouragement and support might be just the push they need to get the ball rolling.
  2. Virtual brainstorming. These sessions often start in real time during team meetings and move to a virtual (online) space with a "ticking clock" deadline (usually 1 to 5 days). This approach gets even the most shy or reluctant team member to participate. Team members can add to one another's ideas during the virtual brainstorming session but refrain from evaluating or criticizing ideas. No decisions are made until after the deadline.
  3. The “what if” game. Invite your team to reflect on this question: “If money and resources were not an issue, what program practice would you add, change or get rid of, and why do you think it would make a positive difference?” Once everyone’s ideas are on the table, challenge the team to “think outside the box” about possible ways to make their best ideas come true. (You could use the “virtual brainstorming” process to play this game.) 


June 20, 2018

You developed a high-quality summer learning program for your students and worked with your staff to design a continuous improvement process. Now, how do you ensure the plan is being implemented with fidelity (in other words, implemented as planned)? The Y4Y Summer Learning course tools and resources can help you monitor to stay on track.

Observations

Use Y4Y’s Observation Checklist to observe academic and enrichment activities. Are you doing what you said you would do? If you planned on a student-to-teacher ratio of 10 to 1 but ended up at 18 to 1, this difference is likely to impact your outcomes. Observations are one way to track important areas of implementation so you can make modifications along the way, assess outcomes and plan for future programming. Make sure to visit all the activities, spread observations across the summer, and observe transition and dismissal times.

Feedback

Students and families are your “customers” and you want to know how well your program meets their needs. Surveys are effective and easy ways to find out. The Y4Y Summer Learning course has sample surveys for families and students that you can customize to your program. Administer them in person or online through Google Forms, which collects your feedback into a spreadsheet. Be sure to schedule time with your program team to discuss the results and follow-up action steps. Feedback is only valuable if it leads to action.

Continuous Improvement

If you used the Y4Y Summer Learning course, you have already developed a continuous improvement plan. If not, download the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Continuous Improvement Planner to get started. The Continuous Improvement Planner helps to keep you on track with goals and outcomes. As you complete each data collection window, analyze your data and record outcomes. Take time to discuss why you met or fell short of your goals (or exceeded them!) and consider implications for the coming school-year program.

Celebration

Many programs plan a culminating event to showcase summer activities and student achievements. With students and staff, plan a fun event that will engage families while giving students a chance to show off their learning and express themselves. You might add a reflection element such as an open discussion about what worked well and what could be tweaked in the future. Review results from your observations and stakeholder surveys, and discuss your continuous improvement plan. Celebrating with your students and staff is the perfect way to wrap up an amazing summer.



May 21, 2018

Your 21st CCLC program can demonstrate success with two major indicators: student growth and student/family satisfaction. You can define both indicators in your continuous improvement plan and collect data to determine progress. When you recruit students and family members at the start of a new program session, you want to demonstrate that students will love the program activities, and that your program nurtures the whole child.

How do you accomplish that? The answer is simple: use data.

Yes, numbers can seem dry and boring. But, when you collect the right information and connect the dots across data points, magic happens — you tell a story! The U.S. Department of Education’s Y4Y technical assistance team is ready to help you weave your data into a compelling narrative with a showcase webinar and three-part web series that kicks off on June 14. Attend these sessions and you will be able to show the world that your program delivers academic enrichment with safe, supportive relationships and smiles all around.

Showcase Webinar:

Data! What is it Good for? Absolutely EVERYTHING! 

June 14, 2018, 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Join the U.S. Department of Education's Y4Y team to learn how to do the following:

  • Identify the components of a logic model and use the model to plan with the end in mind.
  • Describe the steps of the continuous improvement process.
  • Brainstorm strategies for reaching out to present and potential partners using program and outcomes data.
  • Use Y4Y tools and resources to support telling your story through data.

Register now.

Follow-Up Web Series, Dates TBA

This three-part web series will dive deeply into the following components: planning with the end in mind, interpreting data to make decisions, and crafting a story with your data.

Virtual Session 1: My Data Path

Planning with the end in mind transforms your data collection from haphazard and compliance-based to purposeful and meaningful. In this session, learn how to illustrate a plan for program outcomes using a logic model. With the model and other Y4Y resources, learn to build a clear path toward desired outcomes. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Use data to set SMART goals to plan intentional activities.
  • Use tools to collect needs assessment and outcome data.
  • Develop a logic model.
  • Implement with fidelity.

Virtual Session 2: Drawing Conclusions From Data

In this session, learn how to interpret outcome data and make timely, informed decisions. Consistent monitoring and responsive adjustments will ensure an authentic and positive story that describes successes and challenges. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Reflect on goals and understand why they were or were not met.
  • Plan for improvement if necessary.
  • Complete a reflection chart.

Virtual Session 3: Crafting a Compelling Narrative

Compelling and effective storytelling techniques will be paired with data analysis to translate a program’s progress into a captivating narrative. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Describe the successes and challenges you faced in reaching your goals.
  • Use Y4Y tools to develop your narrative.
  • Present your story in a compelling narrative.


April 25, 2018

It’s May, and if your 21st CCLC program offers a summer learning program, you’re already far along in the planning process. What’s left?

You’ve been clear all along about why: Research and experience confirm that much of the academic achievement gap between children from lower- and higher-income families is due to summer learning loss — loss of academic knowledge and skills while students aren’t in school, especially in reading and math.

You know what you’re going to focus on to prevent summer learning loss, and how. Depending on student needs, you’re probably planning to combine academic enrichment with fun activities or an engaging theme.

You know who you’re targeting: which students in your program and partner school especially need support to hold on to academic learning and retain skills related to attentiveness, organization and interpersonal relationships.

But, if you’re like many 21st CCLC program leaders, you wonder how to make sure those young people show up. It can be harder to recruit and retain students for the summer session than for school-term sessions.

One effective way to plan for recruitment is to look at the barriers students and families face. Then target your messages to address those barriers. For example:

Barrier: Parents and students confuse your summer learning program with “summer school,” which they might associate with failure.

Message: Emphasize that your 21st CCLC summer program isn’t “school.” Students are invited, not forced, to attend.

Barrier: Some parents think their child deserves to rest and have fun after a long, hard school year.

Message: List the program’s fun activities. Remind families that interacting with other children and caring adults is more fun and valuable than staying home alone with video games.

Barrier: Parents worry about practical matters, such as safety, transportation, timing and cost.

Message: Describe how you intend to address these practical concerns. For example, working parents can be drawn to a full-day program that offers breakfast and lunch.

Barrier: Caregivers might think they can teach the child at home using workbooks and online games.

Message: Let parents know that your summer program is designed and implemented by professional educators. They know how to create enjoyable activities that will keep students’ minds and bodies active while school is out.

How will you get these messages across? Every way you can! Use posters, public announcements, and send flyers home with students — more than once. Some of those flyers may stay crumpled in the bottom of the backpack until August, so you’ll need a variety of strategies:

  • Speak to families in person at pick-up.
  • Call or send a text.
  • Visit homes.
  • Recruit school staff to help. Most families see school teachers, principals and counselors as trusted messengers.

The Y4Y Summer Learning Youth Recruitment Planner can help you identify recruitment strategies, action steps, needed materials, team assignments and due dates. There’s room for you to write in and track additional strategies that will work for your families and students.

With intentional messages, delivered in a variety of ways, you can make sure that many students benefit from the summer program you and your staff have so carefully planned. Thanks for all you do to make it happen!