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October 24, 2017

Y4Y is pleased to offer a series of webinars designed specifically for 21st CCLC state coordinators/directors by the U.S. Department of Education. These recorded events are available for viewing at your convenience right here. This blog presents highlights from “New State Directors,” and you can download a copy of the blog to keep it handy for quick reference. For other resources that support your work, click on State Coordinators on the Y4Y home page.

New State Directors Webinar

Every new job comes with a learning curve. Perhaps, on day one as coordinator/director of your state’s 21st CCLC program, that curve felt steeper than expected. Fortunately, resources are available, and this webinar offers information about where to find them. It draws on the experiences of two state coordinators: Sonia Johnson of Oklahoma and Haydee Perez-Livingston of New Jersey. Here’s an overview of their advice. 

Advice

- Give yourself time. Learn, listen, assess program status and figure out how things work. 

- Don’t be afraid to make decisions. Use federal and state guidance to make educated decisions; you can always make adjustments next year.

- Act in the best interest of the program, keeping students and community in mind.

- Have a growth mind-set. Consider the successes and challenges you hear from other states, and use them to revisit policies. Recognize that this field is growing and changing, and you need to look at the big picture. 

Sonia Johnson noted that partner connections help her model what it looks like to connect to the school day and to incorporate other elements of high-quality programs. As she put it, “These connections to other organizations help me see how it all fits together in supporting the whole child and improving education.” 

Find Written Guidance

- Federal laws: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)

- Code of Federal Regulations: Title 2: Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance); Title 34, Parts 74-99: Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR)

- U.S. Department of Education Non-Regulatory Guidance for 21st CCLC Grants

- State guidance: State laws, agency policies, state education plan, grant guidance, 21st CCLC request for proposal/application form

Links to all federal documents are available on this 21st CCLC program page.

Build Relationships

- State department of education: The previous 21st CCLC state coordinator/director, the coordinators/directors of federal Title offices, and your 21st CCLC state-level evaluator. 

- Budget office and grants management office (if your state has one): Get help with finance and grant review/administration.

- State agencies with overlapping missions: The departments of labor and health and human services, among others, may have policies and programs that connect to 21st CCLC activities.

- Your 21st CCLC grantees: Connect through regional meetings, conference calls and the listserv. Let them know about state-level information and resources. Also, get to the actual program sites to build relationships and find out what works and what doesn’t in the various communities.

- Your 21st CCLC peers: Other state coordinators/directors willingly share knowledge by phone, email or listserv. Depending on your need, reach out to states that have geographic or grant size similarities. The ed.gov website provides contact lists and other information about state grants.

- Federal venues: The Department’s 21st CCLC program officers and the 21st CCLC Summer Institute are great resources for professional learning and networking. 

- Partners: Remember that “community” is in the program name. Connect with community partners, institutions of higher education, and state and national organizations to help build capacity and to cultivate potential grantees. Focus on groups that relate to issues important in your state, such as health, early childhood or other areas.
 



September 21, 2017

You’ve worked hard to make your 21st CCLC program feel like a second home to children and youth. So how do you ensure that their families feel the same way? Try the three R’s of family engagement: Be a resource, be a refuge and help families refuel! 

These tips and the linked tools can help you put family-friendly practices in place right away. Also be sure to visit the Y4Y Family Engagement course!

 

Be a Resource

- Assess family needs. When family members pick up students, ask them to complete a brief survey or have a brief conversation to learn about areas where they need help. 

- With your program team, map community assets. Find agencies and organizations that target unmet needs. 

- Set up a family information center. Offer brochures and application forms for free or low-cost services, such as food pantries, housing support and children’s health insurance. Put information and forms where family members will see them when they pick up their children. 

- Hold an evening or weekend information fair. Invite students’ families and people from the service agencies and organizations to come learn about one another. Be prepared to help family members complete applications or schedule appointments. 

 
Be a Refuge

- Start by welcoming families, learning their names, using translators if they speak a language other than English, and doing other things to build trust.  

- Help families learn about the school system. Families want their children to do well in school, but cultural or personal factors may make them reluctant to approach school personnel. Help families understand education jargon, how the school system works and how to get help for challenges their children face. 

- Make connections to the school day. You see family members several times a week, so you can show parents what students have done on their homework, and suggest ways family members can help continue the learning at home. Make an opportunity for a casual, friendly introduction to a school-day teacher or principal. 

- Offer a safe space. Work with your facility manager or a local partner and local law enforcement to offer a community recreation space that adults can share with children. 

 
Help Families Refuel

- Nurture social and emotional connections. Hold regular (perhaps monthly) events such as coffee hours where families, program staff and school-day staff can get acquainted in a relaxed setting.

- Create opportunities for physical activity. Arrange for occasional yoga, dance or exercise classes that welcome all family members, including seniors and those with mobility issues. 

- Feed the intellect. Tell families about free or low-cost adult education and job training programs in the community. Connect parents and students to workshops about college financial aid and testing.

- Recognize financial needs. Coordinate with schools and local employers to hold a job fair, so family members can learn about local work opportunities. Provide information about housing support, unemployment benefits and other programs that help to meet basic needs. 

 

A Word About Respect

In all that you do, treat students and their families with dignity and respect. Take time to hear their voices, and to understand their strengths as well as their needs. Whenever possible, schedule program events at times that are convenient for families, and coordinate with school-day activities and community events. Respecting others never goes out of style. In fact, it might be considered the fourth R of family engagement — resource, refuge, refuel and respect



September 21, 2017

A new school year has started, and your students are that much closer to making decisions about the future. You can help them be ready!

Did you know that when ACT analyzed 2016 test results, it found only one in four U.S. high school seniors are college and career ready?By focusing on a mix of academics and employability skills,2 your 21st CCLC program can provide fantastic opportunities for students to learn and apply knowledge and skills, interact with others to identify and solve problems, and develop workplace skills such as communication and resource management — all skills required for college and career success. Y4Y is here to help you kick-start your efforts! Here are three things you should know before diving in:

1. College and career readiness has importance for all age groups — yes, even the youngsters!

In elementary school, responses like “I can do that!” and “Let me try!” are common as students engage in hands-on activities. These attitudes will serve them well as they get closer to entering college and careers. So give them opportunities to work and play with ideas and materials related to various careers (for example: robots!). 

Consider using career stations for grades K-5. For grades 6-12, use the Y4Y Exploration Toolkit to help students explore careers that match their interests and strengths. 

2. Projects offer a powerful way to prepare students for college and career success.

This is all about tapping into young people’s natural excitement and curiosity to help them gain academic and 21st century skills connected to possible college and career paths. Try these project ideas to start: 

- Service learning. Connect youth to projects that have positive impacts on local communities.

- The arts. Give students opportunities to work with teaching artists, to connect with local arts organizations, to lead or join a project team, and to showcase what they learn (in music, theater, dance or visual arts) for the larger community.

- Citizen science. Students can support real projects by becoming citizen scientists and using the skills professional researchers use, such as observing and recording data. For example, they can help map the surface of Mars by joining NASA’s Be a Martian project.  

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Programs for more ideas.

3. Families want to know about low- and no-cost ways to help children succeed in school and beyond.

Nature walks, snack preparation, trips to the library, late-night talks about the trials and tribulations of playing team sports — through simple activities like these, families can help their children explore their world. Every day offers hidden opportunities to use and practice reading, math and other skills! Tell families about simple things they can do to prepare their children for college and career success. 

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Families for 10 practical ideas to share with families.

As a 21st CCLC practitioner, you can use program activities to help young people see and imagine career possibilities, understand how to prepare for those careers, and gain and practice skills they will need to pursue their dreams. Y4Y is here to help. Start with the tools linked in this blog, and be sure to visit the Y4Y College and Career Readiness Course.

References:
1. ACT. (2016). The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2016. Available at https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/CCCR_National_2016.pdf 
2. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education. (n.d.). Employability Skills Framework: What Are Employability Skills? Available at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/index.php/framework 


July 10, 2017

Summer has started and before you know it, the staff will be preparing for the next school year. No doubt you have plans in place for fall activities, and have done some intentional design to target student needs. Now it’s time to identify and target staff needs.

You may have collected some data in the spring to determine what types of professional learning would be most valuable. A staff survey, ongoing program observations and requests from individual staff members can all inform your training plan. You’ll also want to look at the delivery strategies, activity types and general knowledge areas your staff needs to master. This list suggests some possibilities:

Delivery Strategies

• Project-based learning
• Blended learning
• Service learning
• Themed learning

Activity Types

• Academic learning
• Academic enrichment
• Family engagement
• Recreation
• Health/nutrition

Knowledge and Skill Areas

• College and career readiness
• 21st century skills
• Positive youth development

Don’t let this list overwhelm you — you don’t need to do them all! Your returning staff members may already have expertise in some areas, and introductions to topics for new staff can be refreshers for continuing staff. To further support new staff, you might identify experienced staff to act as mentors or leaders in specific areas. However, if you want to use a strategy such as blended learning or project-based learning for the first time, or at a deeper level than before, you might make it a focus of your fall training. 

Be sure to include the “evergreen” topics. For example, academic enrichment — the practice of purposefully incorporating academic skills and knowledge into many types of activities — deserves ongoing emphasis. If your students need to learn and practice math skills in fun, relevant ways, embedding those skills in citizen science, art, music, recreation and other activities can be powerful. You want your staff to understand how to make this happen.

Whether you plan to dive deep into a topic, or brush up on existing knowledge and skills, here are some tips for how to prepare for effective learning events. Y4Y and other resources that can help are listed at the end of this article.

Tip 1: Know Your Needs. Review your observation notes for areas where you need to build capacity. Then, survey your staff to find out which areas they want to know more about. Shape your learning event around the results and provide time for introducing and practicing the high-priority skills. 
Tip 2: Use Your Experts. You and your staff have built knowledge and skills you can introduce to new staff members. Share leadership of training with your in-house experts. 
Tip 3: Include Your Partners. Your school and district partners have knowledge about delivery strategies and activity types. Your community-based partners can help you think about ways to integrate academic enrichment into the arts, recreation and other activities they lead.

Resources

The Magical Mathematics of Music. See illustrations that show the mathematics behind the sounds we hear.
https://plus.maths.org/content/magical-mathematics-music 

Music and Math. Go here for lesson ideas to help students use music to understand mathematical concepts.
http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/music-and-math.html 

Maths and Sport: Millennium Mathematics Project. Get activities, video challenges and more to help students explore connections between sports and math.
http://sport.maths.org/content 

Intentional Activity Design Diagram. Customize this tool to look at staff wants and staff needs to design powerful professional learning experiences.

Y4Y Courses. Get ideas and video examples to use during your training from any or all these courses: Citizen Science, Project-Based Learning, College and Career Readiness, and STEM.
 



June 8, 2017

Whether or not you offer a summer learning program, you can partner with families to use strategies that keep children’s brains active during the summer. We know that all students run the risk of summer learning loss, and children in low-income communities have the highest risk. Here are some ideas to involve your 21st CCLC families in helping students hold on to the skills they learned in the past school year. 

1.    Connect With Family Members

Work with school-day teachers to create tip sheets so families have ideas about how to help their students. Then, deliver the tip sheets when you can have a conversation, so you make personal connections and can answer questions. 

•    Meet at the program site. If you operate a summer learning program, provide the tip sheets when family members pick up their children at the end of the day, or during a family event that’s tied to program activities.

•    Make home visits. If you don’t run a summer program, plan a short visit to deliver the summer learning tips.

•    Meet in the community. If you hold a community-based event, use email, a postcard or phone call to invite families to come pick up their summer learning tips. You might do this at a book swap (see below) or when you have an informational event — perhaps at a local street fair or a local market.

2.    Promote Literacy

When students lose reading ability over the summer, they rarely catch up during the school year, and summer losses can really add up. By fifth grade, if learning stopped over the summers, a student may be two or more grade levels behind. Here are ways that families and programs can help students maintain their reading and writing skills:

•    Share books with families and encourage reading out loud every day. Your program can hold a monthly book swap — arrange a place and time (just half a day) when families can bring books to trade so everyone gets something new to read and enjoy. Ask a community partner to provide the location, and even to conduct a book drive to expand the reading choices. 

•    Use story starters to encourage writing and reflection about summer activities. In your program or at home, a sheet of paper with simple prompts can start student writing about summer activities. Thinking of family members as the audience, students can “tell about today’s adventure” or “explain what you learned when…” At the dinner table, everyone can read the story and discuss the activity.

3.    Practice Math Skills

When families know which math skills their students need to reinforce — fractions, multiplication, measurement or something else — they can involve students in everyday activities that require math:

•    Do the math when grocery shopping and preparing meals. Students can help their families by reading price tags and nutrition information to make good decisions at the grocery store. When cooking together, students can learn how to read recipes and measure ingredients, and how to expand or reduce recipe amounts to serve a different number of people. 

•    Make good home fix-up decisions. Students can help adults do the math to answer questions like these: How much paint does it take to give my bedroom a new look? How much lumber should we buy to fix the fence in the back yard? 

Y4Y Resources

Family Engagement course. Take advantage of this free online course to brush up on many aspects of engaging with families. Don’t miss the Coaching My Staff section if you want ready-to-use materials for your fall training.
 
Family Engagement Strategies. This tool includes some of the above ideas, and more. 

Family Engagement Implementation Planner. This tool offers strategies for welcoming family involvement in your program.