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Turmoil in Detroit as NAA Talks Best Practices

Even as after-school educators from around the country gathered this week in Washington to celebrate their work, news of a more distressing nature surfaced in Detroit, where the school district's emergency financial manager has cancelled extended-day, after-school programs until further notice.

Last Friday, a district court judge temporarily barred the city district from implementing its academic plan. That action forced the district to cancel a scheduled training for after-school educators and to consider canceling summer school, as well, according to Robert Bobb, the financial manager who had advanced the academic plan and who was accused by the school board of overstepping his authority—thus, leading to the lawsuit. The Detroit Free Press also reports that Bobb sent an order to principals yesterday telling them to cancel after-school programs for now.

Time Magazine's Detroit blog asks whether Bobb's actions represent "a bureaucratic temper tantrum." I don't know enough about Detroit to say, but the threats do sound extreme. What would happen, I wonder, if the district simply ended summer school? What happens to the kids enrolled in after-school programs?

Even as Detroit news swirled, participants at the National AfterSchool Association/Afterschool Alliance convention being held near the nation's capital shared stories of innovative after-school programs. One key to The After-School Corp.'s pilot ELT/NYC program is that principals must lead their schools' after-school programs, said TASC's Saskia Traill. It can be a challenging adjustment, but it's critical, according to Traill. ELT/NYC also works to improve collaborative professional development among those who teach during the regular school day and after-school educators. It emphasizes collaborative planning and alignment between in-school and out-of-school learning, Traill said.

Patrick Duhon from Providence, R.I., said a relatively new program there also focuses on linking in-school and out-of-school learning. But after-school learning doesn't have to cover exactly the same content as in school, he said. Rather, it should build on the skills that enable students to learn key concepts. For instance, Duhon talked about after-school science initiatives focused on inquiry-based learning rather than specific curriculum pieces.

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