General Comments on the Role of Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs Regarding the Five Shifts Outlined in the Strategic Plan:
SHIFT #1: Honoring Each Student
The plan recognizes the importance of preparing each child for success through mastery of the state’s rigorous academic standards and acquisition of professional skills. It also recognizes that each child has unique needs and interests. High quality Afterschool and Summer Learning programs provide extended time and differentiated approaches for students to master and apply the learning standards. They also contribute more time and opportunities for students to explore and identify their passions. This is especially important for children whose families and local communities have less capacity to supplement their education with academic support and enrichment.
SHIFT #2: Emphasizing Options
The plan recognizes that a viable pathway for many children is preparing for careers by acquiring professional skills and career technical education. Some Afterschool and Summer Learning programs provide this programming, particularly those focused on dropout prevention among at-risk high school students. Such programs help to make career technical education more accessible to students who are not able to participate in existing career technical programs because of local capacity or student/family preferences.
SHIFT #3: Technology is Foundational
Afterschool and Summer Learning programs offer more time and opportunities for students to use technology to enhance their learning and to learn technology that will be essential to their daily work lives. Coding, computer science, and computer-assisted design software are just a few examples of activities currently offered in Afterschool programs. For many students, Afterschool is the only opportunity for them to freely explore these activities.
SHIFT #4: Critical Reasoning and Social-Emotional Learning
Afterschool and Summer Learning programs specialize in supporting youth development, which includes helping students learn to become independent, responsible adults who are ready to collaborate and solve problems. Many programs provide individual and group clinical counseling, as well as leadership and support group activities.
SHIFT #5: Supports
Afterschool and Summer learning programs would benefit from being included in support for educators to raise the quality and improve outcomes for more children. The Ohio Afterschool Network, in turn, can provide support for schools to better leverage informal learning for their students and strengthen partnerships on behalf of children.
Additional opportunities not covered in the plan:
Throughout the document, acknowledgement is made to the value of caring adults and community organizations. It is our recommendation that Afterschool and Summer Learning programs be explicitly mentioned to acknowledge the sizable financial investment Ohio has made in the tens of thousands of programs across our state supporting students’ academic and social emotional growth after the bell rings.
Additionally, we recommend that the following be added to the plan:
In Strategy 1, Organizing around one clear message about the importance of early learning and literacy, the Ohio Afterschool Network should be incorporated as a strategic partner for messaging of a clear, common, research-based and culturally sensitive messages about the importance of early learning and literacy.
In Strategy 3, Connect early literacy with middle and high school literacy skills, Afterschool and Summer Learning programs should be listed among those with whom the development of learning strategies should be shared. Afterschool and Summer Learning programs are also uniquely positioned as additional opportunities to engage parents and should also be included as such.
In Strategy 4, Align early childhood education program requirements between the Ohio Departments of Education and Job and Family Services, as the only statewide organization focused on school-age child care policy and best practices in out-of-school time, OAN should be included as an important stakeholder for both the expertise its leadership can bring to conversations, as well as for the capacity to effectively communicate information to the field.
In Strategy 5, Ensure state learning standards and other related competencies reflect all four learning domains, in addition to educators and employers, Afterschool and Summer Learning providers should be acknowledged as experts to help develop standards and/or competencies for what students should be able to demonstrate in the domains of Reasoning and Social Emotional Learning.
In Strategies 6 and 7, Move toward a balanced system of assessments to appropriately gauge the four domains, and provide students with opportunities to demonstrate competency and mastery in ways beyond state standardized tests; and, Refine the state’s accountability system to be fairer, more meaningful, asset based and to provide feedback in Reasoning and Social Emotional Learning, Afterschool programs should be referenced, as they are important partners that can provide feedback in the domains of Reasoning and Social Emotional skills, and are caring adults who directly work with students.
In Strategy 8, Providing tiered supports and disseminate resources to help school cultivate the needs of the whole child, and understand the importance of school climate and culture, Afterschool providers should be included as the caring adults who are informal educators who should be trained in conjunction with school staff to enable a comprehensive whole child approach. Afterschool programs frequently include bullying prevention strategies in their curriculum, are able to respond quickly to incidents and help contribute to a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.
In Strategy 9, Increasing unique and bold partnerships, as appropriate, that encompass education, community, social and health care (including behavioral health care) partners to support and care for in-need preK-12 students, Afterschool and Summer Learning programs should be cited as unique and bold partners who are poised to engage with school districts to provide care for in-need preK-12 students.
In Strategy 10, Transform the high school experience so that students graduate with college credit, career-technical training, an industry recognized credential or certificate or military training, Marion Harding High School is an example of a school district that has worked with businesses and community leaders to create pathways to career. Additionally, the Marion school district has benefited from utilizing 21st Century Community Learning Center Afterschool programs grants to help create more academic and community support for its elementary school students who will eventually transition into high school.
In Strategies 12 and 13, Support districts to meet their own unique capital needs,and Increase the supply of highly effective teachers and leaders and ensure they are effective or highly effective from day one, Afterschool and Summer Learning programs can be valuable partners as employers of the next generation of educators, as they frequently hire college age students who plan to enter into education, graduates from the college of Education who are seeking a teaching position, and current educators looking for additional opportunities to work with youth. The Afterschool environment is an additional opportunity for districts to find excellent teachers and educators.
In Strategy 15, Improve targeted supports for delivering excellent instruction, Afterschool and Summer Learning programs should be considered as supports for excellent instruction. Afterschool supports project and case-based learning, STEM teaching and learning strategies, and other proven instructional techniques that challenge students to creatively solve problems through an integrated approach to learning.
Afterschool and Summer Learning programs should not be overlooked or omitted from Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education, as they are unique and willing partners to help support the work of school districts and should be explicitly cited as partners in this plan.