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October 1, 2020

Students with disabilities may face unique learning challenges during school closures or conversion to virtual programming. A recent webinar from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) shines a bright light on Resources and Practices to Support Back to School and Continuity of Learning for Children With Disabilities. While these resources are directed at school-day educators, 21st CCLC programs might find them useful — especially those on supporting families of students with disabilities. No time to watch the archived webinar? Y4Y has you covered! Here are some highlights:

Consider sharing with families the CEEDAR Center’s Virtual Toolkit and Family Guide to At-Home Learning, available in English and Spanish. The center recommends six strategies for helping students of all ages who struggle with at-home learning: model, provide clear directions, provide support, help the student stay on task, give specific feedback and use goal setting. The family guide has helpful tools and examples for each strategy.

The High-Leverage Practices in Special Education website shares best practices for addressing student behaviors in face-to-face, online and hybrid environments. High-leverage practices are those that are foundational to effective teaching and can be used regularly with students of all ages and abilities. These practices are intended to complement, not replace, data-driven interventions. The site includes unedited clips of teachers implementing “R.U. Asking” (a problem-solving strategy) and including checks for understanding and opportunities to respond throughout instructional time to keep students engaged.

In the OSEP webinar, University of Northern Colorado professor Todd Sundeen addresses concerns affecting educators with limited access to educational technology in rural communities, which represent one in nine U.S. students. He tells about families taking extreme measures like sitting in their cars in school parking lots to access the building’s broadband internet for their children. He advocates collaborating with parents to ensure they’re included in all conversations, following up with students who aren’t participating virtually, providing parents with learning opportunities on how to best support their children’s learning, and making sure that funding structures provide full access to technology and adequate internet access.

The National Center on Improving Literacy offers evidence-based strategies for serving students with literacy-related disabilities, who are more likely than their peers without disabilities to regress during distance learning. The center advocates explicit and systematic instruction focused on the five “big ideas” of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Recommendations include providing students with disabilities with additional intervention time, using small-group or one-to-one intervention three to five times a week, and following academic intervention charts from the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). You can access implementation toolkits, ask-an-expert and other resources through the center’s website. Be sure to check out Kid Zone, a source of online literacy games and activities for students who need intensive literacy intervention.

Karen Erickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill addresses remotely serving students who are medically vulnerable and/or have complex disabilities. Some of these students may be physically unable to interact with technology or have other barriers to engaging for necessary lengths of time. As a result, family engagement and support among each other has become essential in the virtual environment. Teaching assistants grew into new supportive roles, such as preparing students for their day with short recorded videos. Ms. Erickson says strategies at Project Core have been invaluable to families helping their children navigate new formats for learning. She also points to Tarheel Reader and Shared Reader as helpful resources for reading. Above all, she says, focus on routine. Be flexible and responsive, and share resources generously with families.

A new guide is available from the Center on Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). Returning to School During and After Crisis describes how a multi-tiered systems of support framework can support students, families and educators during transitions back to school. The center urges educators to focus on the basics — the smallest number of things you can do well to support student learning. Your connecting, screening, supporting, teaching and monitoring should work to creative a positive, predictable and safe learning environment that fosters students’ social, emotional, behavioral and academic growth. The segment of the webinar that discusses this guide features New Jersey’s PBIS implementation efforts.

The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) presents a process of intensive intervention that’s based on experimental teaching. It integrates data-based decision making across academics and social behaviors. NCII focuses on explicit instruction (I do, we do, you do) sequencing, progress monitoring and collaboration. Visit the center’s website for videos and webinars from educators implementing these practices remotely.

Lynn Fuchs of Vanderbilt University reinforces the importance of explicit instruction for students with disabilities, offering an eight-step method for online teaching strategies. Packaged explicit instruction interventions are available at the Vanderbilt University website. Similar resources are also available at the NCII website to address the performance gaps that students with disabilities are likely to experience in a virtual environment.

The state of Michigan, in recognition of the avalanche of information and resources directed at educators attempting to navigate during the pandemic, offers a simple guiding philosophy: Focus on routines. Teaching and using routines, both social and academic, has been shown to foster a positive climate and increase student success. These routines become even more powerful in a climate of uncertainty such as now, as they provide a safe, predictable and supportive environment where students know what it takes to be successful and can develop the skills to be so. Michigan makes sure the resources shared with special educators reflect this spirit of simplicity. The resources for teams may have the greatest relevance to 21st CCLC programs.

Lise Fox of the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations offers insight into resources for early education professionals and families. You might want to share these resources with families who have preschool-age children. The center emphasizes social and emotional wellness for students, families and staff.

The OSEP webinar concludes with a panel discussion featuring three professionals who offer their experience and advice on implementing successful re-opening strategies for students with disabilities. The panelists reinforce the value of communicating with families. Nobody should have to stumble around in the dark, trying to find their way through such uncertain times, least of all students with disabilities. Feel free to forward this post to others who might find this information useful!



August 7, 2020

Your 21st CCLC program has much to offer students, especially those with fewer opportunities than their more-affluent peers. As you reflect on student needs, it’s unlikely that the question of program priorities has ever carried more weight than it does at this very moment in time. Chances are, helping students feel safe is at the top of your list. After all, how can students focus on learning if their minds are engaged in worry?

Safety can mean many things. Freedom from threats of physical danger or harm might be the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s also social and emotional safety — a feeling of acceptance and support that frees us to express ourselves and take the “good risks” that learning requires. In the current flurry of activity, as you prepare for a fall opening unlike any you’ve experienced as a 21st CCLC professional, you’ll feel more confident in every step, in every decision, if you and your colleagues jointly address two essential questions: (1) What can we do to make students, families and staff feel safe as they participate in program activities? and (2) How can our program culture and climate support “safety,” in all its forms, as a priority for all? Answering the second question will help you answer the first one!

You’re in luck because Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course is shaped around key strategies for addressing your program’s culture and climate. The Culture Climate and Perception Survey is a great tool to be sure you and your staff are starting off at the same place. Try doing the staff survey individually. Collectively, you can then reflect on who you are as a program and what you want to become. What do you value collectively? What are your priorities?

Someone might ask, “Is it OK to change our program priorities just because the world around us is changing?” It’s not only “OK” — it’s critical that your priorities and values reflect the immediate needs of your students. Accept that you may need to spend more time than usual on basic health and safety measures, knowing that one day soon you’ll have the luxury of arranging field trips and other community-based experiences. Revamping your activities to accommodate social distancing might not feel like “improvement.” That word implies “better than,” and maybe that’s not how you feel this year’s program is going to look. But “better than” can be “better suited to.” If your revamped activities are better suited to current conditions and student needs, your program is remaining faithful to continuous improvement. Even if those amazing STEM projects don’t look the way you imagined, and the simple “high-fives” in the hallway that have always motivated students and staff have to take the year off, you can offer fun, creative activities and positive feedback in other ways that are better suited to the circumstances.

Here's an idea: In June, Y4Y presented a four-part webinar series, An Artfully Formed Positive Environment, with sessions dedicated to sketching your organizational culture and ensuring a positive learning environment, appropriate safety measures, and social and emotional learning. Consider hosting a virtual watch party of these timely strategies, rich with voices from across the country, and discussing them with your staff in light of current circumstances. Give everyone a chance to express their ideas and concerns so that you can address them as a team. That way, you can head into the fall with a shared goal of paving a high road for your students, where the path is dry, the view is fine, and there’s room for all. That road can lead to success, to safety, to basic well-being — it’s up to YOU to determine what your students need most right now. Y4Y believes in you (air high five!).



July 22, 2020

Flexibility is at the heart of every 21st CCLC program. Organized chaos is the name of the game. You’ve always found your greatest successes by moving and grooving with the prevailing winds, rather than sticking like glue to a rigid plan. But 2020 has brought a new meaning to the idea of flexibility. If only you WERE on plan B – maybe you wouldn’t be quite so hot under the collar this summer! But if you’re like a lot of other programs, you’ve made several course corrections since March 15. Maybe you’ve hit your virtual stride for summer programming, but see more uncertainty on the horizon this fall. Take heart: Y4Y, too, has been adapting on the fly, shifting to more virtual offerings for your professional development opportunities. Consider these tips – from two Y4Y spring webinar series on intentional program design and literacy – as you continue to go with the flow.

Time Is On Your Side

With less time on site, you and your school-day partners have a little more cushion in your schedules to check in — and doing so has never been more important. Everything feels like it’s happening in a silo right now, but for students to get the most out of the educational experience everyone’s working so hard to pull together, you’ll need to keep all communication channels open. Ask administrators if you can attend their virtual staff meetings in planning for fall so your program is prepared to align and support. Circle back with classroom teachers for key student-level data. Considering all standardized tests may not have been administered this spring, some school-level data may be lacking. Put your heads together on the most important skills or content your summer program can help students with to minimize the summer slide.

Homework Support

Your virtual programming might actually be connecting you with families MORE, not less, than usual. You are, after all, coming right into their homes virtually. How can you fill a need for academic intervention and homework support, especially when classes resume? Some families may be willing and able to support their student in content areas, but could use a refresher on today’s teaching methods or the ABCs of virtual learning. Have them “hop on” for quick tutorials, vocabulary reviews or tips on finding easy-to-use resources. If content can’t be easily supported at home, consider breakout rooms for your virtual program. You can offer a math room, a science room, a reading room or whatever is needed from day to day.

In the Service of Others

Now is the perfect time to think about service-learning opportunities, and to give students more ownership of their projects. Have them think about the unique needs around them – whether in the school community, neighborhood or town – and reflect on what they can do to help. Remember that project-based learning and service learning go hand and hand. Many programs are electing to produce homemade masks. But what are the best materials? Where are they available? What simple sewing is involved, and how can that be learned online? How can they be packaged safely, and where’s the best place to donate? Another idea is partnering with your local senior residential facilities, where residents are feeling totally isolated. Arrange a letter-writing campaign or regular video chats. Many citizen science projects are thriving during the pandemic. Each of these ways to contribute and learn make tremendous impact on young lives.

Training Day

Proper training is essential to setting your staff up for success. Summer is always a great time to take advantage of courses and Trainings to Go from Y4Y — both of which can be done 100% virtually. Also think about content-specific skills, such as those needed to successfully implement literacy activities virtually. Consider holding virtual staff meetings with breakout sessions on how to facilitate virtual book clubs or how to implement reading comprehension strategies. Read-alouds are a great example. This age-old favorite can and should be so much more for students than just story time. An enriching read-aloud demands planning ahead, such as using sticky notes to remind yourself where in the book you’d like to have students learn a new vocabulary word, reflect on literary elements, or do some critical thinking. Instead of assuming all staff possess this skill, consider targeted training and peer practice sessions.

Read Read Read

Think outside the box when it comes to book clubs in your program. You might task students with reading the same book or the same short story, article, blog or poem. Another idea is to suggest they each find something to report to the group on a common topic, theme or genre. By posting questions ahead of time to your social media page or discussion board, you can conduct asynchronous learning and reduce student anxiety about the virtual spotlight, setting them up for success during your group literary meeting. Make the most of your shared screen time — students can give a commercial-style book review, or create a short video with family consent to share at the end of each unit.

The Best Advice

Friends of Y4Y shared some of their do’s and don’ts as your COVID-19 plan B, C, D through Z takes shape. Shannon Browning of Macomb, Oklahoma, shared a bit about their rural 21st CCLC summer program, which has been offering virtual activities in the arenas of cooking, story time, science experiments, and crafts, based on student interest inventories taken last September. They’ve made sure they’re staying in contact with school-day partners to build on what students took away from the school year. Since internet access is an issue among her students, Ms. Browning emphasized the importance of maintaining phone contact and delivering activity materials with clear directions and personal notes from staff. A key to engagement: have staff produce activity videos themselves; don’t just direct students to online resources. After all, 21st CCLC is very much about relationships, and even though some staff members had to learn how to use their phones to record videos, they got a kick out of it, and the students and families love staying connected this way.

Tim Zoyac of the Pathways 21st Century Program in Bridgeton Public Schools, New Jersey, noted how challenging programming has been when 30% of his students are without internet connections. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to meet students where they are. He suggests programs reach out to their parent organizations, professional partners and state agencies to learn where the gaps are, and be prepared to offer support in new and possibly very different ways. This will look different from community to community, and even from school building to school building.

Building on these themes, Johanna Friedel from Greenville, Texas, said their program has closely monitored virtual attendance as a data point to determine what engagement efforts are working and what are not. Their program continually monitors site-specific and overall problems, goals and needs. From the beginning, they saw the value in centrally locating resources and plans on a Facebook page. The program also created its own YouTube channel in response to the heavy need for video offerings. She advises programs to make sure they keep instructions for at-home learning activities simple and basic. Finally, recognizing the social and emotional needs unique to the current environment, Ms. Friedel spoke of student leader video interviews being shared out to inspire students to be open about their own feelings around everything from teachers and staff to quarantine in general. Kids didn’t sign up for plan B either, but we’re all in this together!



June 16, 2020

June is for educators what December is for the rest of the world. And this academic year was certainly not what anybody expected! What worked in your program, and what “new year’s” resolutions would you like to set for next year’s program? How can Y4Y resources help you achieve those goals? To get those creative juices flowing, start by exploring Y4Y’s tools for continuous improvement, such as the SWOT Analysis Worksheet, Sample Evaluation Guide, the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Planner. Then, plan for a deeper dive into those areas that need particular attention.

Here are the top 2020 New Year’s resolutions set by Americans, and their translation into 21st CCLC-speak:

Exercise More

How well are you incorporating physical activity into your program? Have you caught Y4Y’s archived Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreation Opportunities? A summary of the resources presented is also available. Start with a good stretch: Reach out and connect with your community using Y4Y’s Mapping Community Assets tool. Get the heart pumping with engaging project-based learning. A wealth of ideas were presented during the May webinar series, and resources were shared to the discussion board. Looking for a little muscle mass? The Y4Y course on strategic partnerships offers important steps to building a stronger program and the importance of teamwork. Don’t forget the cool-down.

Save Money/Stick to a Budget

Do you know that as many 21st CCLC programs have unspent funds as those that end the year on the crumbs of their annual funding? The key to a successful fiscal year is staying right on target. Step 1: Know your grant! Step 2: Catch session 1 of the New Leaders Academy Webinar, which gives an overview of what expenditures are allowed in your program. Step 3: Go deeper and take Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course. Step 4: Get out Y4Y’s Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet and start the new program year fresh as a crisp Benjamin.

Don’t forget to share the importance of fiscal responsibility with your students and their families. Y4Y offers a Click & Go and an online course on financial literacy.

Eat More Healthily

“Garbage in, garbage out.” Although this expression came from the computing industry, we have come to appreciate that our bodies need the right fuel to work best, and so do our 21st CCLC programs. Nothing fuels a healthy program like the right staff! Y4Y’s Human Resources course will help ensure you recruit and retain the right folks for the job. Safety is also at the center of your program’s health. Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go to safeguard the health of your program and your students.

Get More Sleep

People who set a resolution for more sleep recognize they’re trying to do too much, and probably not performing efficiently or effectively in the process. Achieving this goal often means improving self-management and decision making. These skills are at the heart of Y4Y’s course on social and emotional learning, along with self-awareness, social awareness and relationship skills. The role of your 21st CCLC program in the lives of your students extends well beyond academic support. Research tells us they’ll need social and emotional tools to be well-adjusted and to truly succeed as adults. The good news is, you can weave this theme through activities you’re already doing in your program. Look to Y4Y’s Logic Model Template, Delivery Methods, and other tools to achieve this worthwhile goal without spending time you don’t have, or worse still, time you’re stealing from other important areas. Like SLEEP!

Focus on Personal or Mindful Growth

One of the greatest luxuries of out-of-school time is the space it creates for individual attention and care. Your program can be a haven for students’ social and emotional growth — a safe space where they can explore who they are and who they want to be. Some might say you’re nourishing not just their minds, but their hearts and energies. Y4Y’s course on Creating a Positive Learning Environment can help you ensure that students feel supported. Appreciated. Special. Safe. For best practices that promote the “energy wellness” of your program and your students, also take a look at Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care. It can help in those instances where the hearts in your care need a little extra nurturing.

Tip: Planning to bring new staff on board? If they’re new to 21st CCLC programs, Y4Y’s Introduction to 21st CCLC course can help them get up to speed! Don’t forget Y4Y’s ready-to-use tools you can use to train your entire staff, whether they’re 21st CCLC novices or veterans, on a variety of topics, including project-based learning, financial literacy, college and career readiness, and more! Happy New Year!



June 3, 2020

At the intersection of 21st CCLC programs and the U.S. census lives an ever-reliable old gent who goes by the name of DATA. By now you’ve discovered that “data” is in Y4Y’s top 10 list of favorite terms. That’s because it’s so important to advancing your program’s work. Likewise, long ago, when the U.S. framers wrote the Constitution, so important was the idea of collecting data on its citizens that the basis for the census was written into Article 1 of this founding document.

Surely our forefathers couldn’t have imagined what our country looks like today. The sheer numbers and diversity we boast, and the technological advances we’ve made, astound many of us who are actually living it! The U.S. Census Bureau has tapped into modern computational power to carry out the spirit of the law the founders intended — collecting, analyzing and publishing a variety of useful statistics and online tools.

Take the Census Bureau’s “Statistics in Schools” initiative, for example. Visitors to this online resource can learn how data from the census drives school funding nationwide. They’ll also find activities to help students understand statistics in general. Information compiled by geographic region can help students see similarities and differences between their region and other parts of the country. What areas have the highest average ages, or the lowest? How does the average family size differ by geography? There are many of these questions you can have fun exploring in person or virtually with your students. Your findings can be a springboard to meaningful discussions about social, cultural and economic issues that affect them.

As your 21st CCLC program wraps up the current school year and looks to the next, you can also use the current census “buzz” to excite your staff about the power of data within your own program. If you have staff members who are new to data-based decision making and need an easy place to start, try introducing staff to the Three Types of Data you’ll needed in your program. Summer is the ideal time to improve training on this subject. Check out the Y4Y Training Starters on Data Collection and Logic Models as you put your team back together for the fall. Go even deeper with Y4Y’s archived webinar series, Telling Your Story Through Data: A Deep Dive Into Process.

Wherever you are in your quest for data, Y4Y has the tools you’ll need to look beneath those numbers and make your program the best it can be. Go ahead. Make data work for you and your students. There’s a 99.9% chance the U.S. founders would approve!