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City Leadership Increasingly Important in After School

City leadership is becoming key to building the depth and breadth of local after-school programs, says a report from the National League of Cities released today.

"Municipal Leadership for Afterschool: Citywide Approaches Spreading Across the Country," profiles 27 cities around the country that are leading the charge in developing Web-like structures to support out-of-school time in their municipalities through strong city leadership, public and private dollars, community partnerships, and monitoring of quality standards.

Based on research and interviews with these cities' political and community leaders, the report outlines key traits that set them (and their after-school systems) apart from others. They include: adopting local after-school standards, providing quality assessment of programs and professional development for staff, and maintaining a commitment to publicly funding such programs even in tough financial times. Many of the cities are also looking into new approaches to continue improving their after-school programs, the report says, such as using program-rating systems that link performance evaluations to funding.

"The very notion of an OST 'system' provides a basic framework that guides cities as they continue on their journey," the report, supported by a grant from the Wallace Foundation, states. "Once cities get started ... the system-building perspective often fuels further progress and drives more strategic discussions about next steps. Early analyses of community resources and needs frequently reveal troubling gaps and spark efforts among key stakeholders to fill them."

All 27 cities profiled were chosen based on their history of committing to and building after-school systems, particularly through mayoral leadership, and following a framework developed by the Wallace Foundation that is tied to management and support and quality and sustainability. These cities also have student populations of more than 100,000 with a high proportion qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch.

The cities selected: Alexandria, Va.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boise, Idaho; Bridgeport, Conn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Cleveland; Denver; Fort Worth, Texas; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Rochester, N.Y.; San Francisco; Spokane, Wash.; St. Louis; St. Paul, Minn.; Seattle; Washington; and Tampa., Fla.

According to the report, at least 20 other cities are looking into building similar systems in the future.

The NLC released a report several weeks ago that examined the importance of using data to strengthen citywide systems for after-school through six main strategies.

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