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Enrichment, Recreation for LA's BEST

I was recently out in Los Angeles pursuing the after-school beat for a story on LA's BEST, the largest after-school organization partnered with a school district in the country. The news feature is running in the print edition of EdWeek that's being delivered to mailboxes this week. You can also check out the full story online.

LA's BEST, in its 23rd year of operation, runs after-school programs at 180 sites that serve 28,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country. The program and the leadership of its president, Carla Sanger, were influential in the "movement" in California in the past decade to increase support for after-school programs statewide.

The majority of LA's BEST sites receive state funding through California's After School and Education Safety Program, which supports after-school programs at 4,000 school sites throughout California. The state spends roughly $550 million a year in grants to these programs, the only state in the country to support after-school programming this heavily.

While out in L.A., I visited Kingsley Elementary, a Title I school in Hollywood with roughly 500 students, 100 or so of whom are in the LA's BEST program that runs from the end of the school day till 6 p.m. On the day I visited, students were participating in an art class with a professional artist and a healthy-lifestyles program to combat childhood obesity, and working on science projects for an upcoming science competition.

The Kingsley students follow a curriculum all LA's BEST programs follow called "three and a half beats," which features academic, enrichment, and recreation components, along with a snack. While these staples are present at every site, staff members are able to implement special programming to meet the particular needs/interests of staff and students at their individual sites.

"The structure of the school day doesn't lend more time for exploration or for students to go deeper into something they're interested in," said Debe Loxton, LA's BEST chief operating officer in an interview. "There isn't this page, at this time, or only 20 minutes of art today at LA's BEST. More than anything, the program provides an opportunity for extended learning time for what kids want to explore."

Throughout the week, I'll be delving more into LA's BEST and California after-school programs.

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