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State Leaders Promote Expanded Learning

Education teams in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington are the winners of $50,000 grants sponsored by the C.S. Mott Foundation that will be used to enhance and support expanded/extended learning programs in their respective states. The teams include state legislators and education officials, after-school network directors, and policy advisers.

This is the third part of an initiative launched in 2007 by the Mott Foundation, the National Governors Association Center for Best practices, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Council of Chief State School Officers . The NGA Center, NCSL, and CCSSO will work directly with the new grantees to provide technical-assistance training and support services to enhance their programs.

Each state proposed a different plan on how they will use the funding: California intends to focus on summer learning opportunities; Connecticut aims to integrate expanded learning into K-12 schools; Washington state is using expanded learning to close the achievement gap; and New Jersey will try to incorporate the common-core standards into its expanded learning programs.

Also, the first in a new series of issues from the Harvard Family Research Project and the National Conference of State Legislatures on expanded learning issues has been released. The brief, "The Role of Expanded Learning Opportunities in School Success for Older Students," takes a look at how these programs can improve outcomes for older youths.

Many out-of-school-time programs target elementary and middle school youths, but the brief discusses how research has shown that regular participation in such programs can also help older students finish high school and move on to careers or earn college degrees. Higher rates of school attendance and lower dropout rates, improved school attitudes, improved health and nutrition knowledge and practices, and stronger connections to adults and peers are some of the key outcomes these programs can have for older students.

Yet these programs should look different from those for younger students, the brief suggests. Expanded learning opportunities for older students should provide leadership opportunities, be flexible in structure so older youths can still maintain outside commitments (job, family), provide youths with more independence and choice in program activities, and hire staff that can identify and mentor these students. They can also serve as a vehicle to help students earn high school credits and reduce dropout rates.

Given the tough financial situation, these programs often struggle for dollars, says the brief, which offers recommendations on how to sustain programs through various funding streams and partnerships.

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