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After-School and Youth Development Programs Support Common-Core Implementation

By guest bloggers Danielle Baer, Emily Emerson, and Shannon Robinson

There is an emerging need for the afterschool and youth development field to support k-12 efforts to close the opportunity gap and improve student outcomes. Danielle Baer, Emily Emerson, and Shannon Robinson share how School's Out Washington is responding to this need by developing strategies, tools, and resources that advance out-of-school time programs as innovative partners in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Afterschool and youth development (AYD) programs have a stake in the impact of Common Core State Standards implementation on everyday practice. Children and youth spend only 20% of their waking hours in school. How they spend the remaining 80% of their time has a significant impact on their success and well-being. Over a decade of research and evaluation shows that high-quality afterschool and youth development programs can make a difference and are directly linked to youth achievement of positive social, emotional, health, and academic gains.[1]

Despite the controversy and ample news coverage of the Common Core, many people are still unaware of what the standards are and what they mean for students. A poll conducted in the spring of 2014 by Ready Washington, a coalition of state and local education agencies, associations, and advocacy organizations that support college- and career-ready learning standards, showed that 56% of Washingtonians had no recognition of Common Core State Standards despite their adoption in 2011. This limited knowledge creates an important role for AYD providers. According to the Forum for Youth Investment, school districts are already overwhelmed with implementation of the Common Core, so AYD field partners can offer support in a meaningful and informed way that does not add burden to already overtaxed districts.

In addition to providing experiential practice in math and English language arts, the AYD field has long supported the development of the Habits of Mind, also called 21st-century skills, which encompass a range of skills that are critical in preparing young people for college and career readiness, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork and global understanding. These types of skills are included in the Common Core State Standards' mathematical practices and English language arts capacities.  Focusing on the Habits of Mind and 21st-century skills is a youth development approach which research shows can effectively increase the academic skills required of the Common Core.

Here are some strategies AYD providers can use to support Common Core implementation:

  • Educate parents on the Common Core and why these standards were created.  Give our issue brief, "Building Washington Youth's 21st Century Skills for Success," to parents as a takeaway to support this process.  See other parent outreach materials here.
  • Use the issue brief in an afterschool program staff meeting to enhance staff awareness of the Common Core and the specific ways AYD programs can support student success.
  • Plan afterschool activities that intentionally link to school-day curriculum and incorporate Habits of Mind skills.
  • Engage in program quality improvement efforts utilizing research-based tools proven to support programs with increasing positive staff-youth interaction and improving program outcomes.
  • Provide school leadership and teachers with more knowledge and ideas around the importance of community partnerships in supporting implementation of the Common Core.
  • Collaborate with school personnel for joint professional development efforts aligned with the Common Core.
  • Inform local funders of the role of AYD in supporting students, particularly around the Common Core.

As more people working with youth become informed of the Common Core and how implementation impacts students both in and out of school, these tips, resources, and tools can help AYD programs communicate their role as a partner in addressing the achievement gap while providing fun, enriching, and engaging activities.

Danielle Baer is the communications and resource development director, Emily Emerson is the statewide training manager, and Shannon Robinson is the Bridge Conference and events coordinator for School's Out Washington.

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[1]  National Institute on Out-of-School Time, Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. (2008). Making the Case: A 2008 Fact Sheet on Children and Youth in Out-of-School Time.

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