Victory breakdown: How Nebraska took a top 10 spot in afterschool

In The Afterschool Alliance’s 2014 America After 3PM report, Nebraska came in #8, handily outperforming 42 other states in the Expanded Learning Opportunities we offer our students once the bell rings. Here’s a visual breakdown of why Nebraska performs so well . . . and where we still have room to improve.

When it comes to what Nebraska does right, participants spend a lot of time in ELO programs, and parents are highly satisfied.

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There’s still room for improvement in accessibility for those who need ELOs the most. Many low-income young people who could benefit are not taking advantage of Nebraska’s ELOs, either because there’s no program available, it’s cost prohibitive or some other reason. A higher percentage of Nebraska’s students are unsupervised after school than the national rate:

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FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.

 

What’s quality look like in ELOs?

An Expanded Learning Opportunity—or ELO—is a high-quality afterschool or
summer educational experience that takes place outside the context of the regular school day. These hands-on, experiential, enriching chances to learn that build on, but don’t duplicate, what students are learning during the school day, and allow new and exciting ways to interact with the subject matter.

We talk a lot about the need to make sure that ELO programs across the state are high quality. But what does that mean? What does high quality look like?

In 2013, the Nebraska State Board of Education issued a policy statement identifying elements of quality ELO programs.

  • School community partnerships and resource sharing – ELO programs build partnerships that leverage the resources of the communities to provide better programming and sustain funding.
  • Engaged learning – Activities are hands-on, compelling, in-depth and sometimes student directed, to promote critical thinking and expand student horizons.
  • Family engagement – The program serves as an effective means to involve parents in the school community, making them more comfortable communicating with teachers and administrators.
  • Intentional programming aligned with the school day – Quality programs build on what the kids are learning during the school day, allowing students to learn in different, more experiential ways. ELO professionals work with school-day teachers to make sure they’ve got the right programming, and to determine which students need more individualized attention.
  • Diverse, prepared staff including certification – ELO professionals are youth development professionals and area specialists, who should reflect the diversity of youth they serve.
  • Participation and access – Quality programs are accessible to the students who most need them – those from low-income families, non-English speaking households and those with other risk factors for low academic achievement.
  • Safety, health and wellness – High quality ELO programs teach safety and nutrition, provide healthy snacks and meals, and ensure that students are getting extra exercise.
  • Ongoing assessment and improvement – ELO programs that measure their outcomes can make changes to improve them even further.

FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.

ELOs improve quality of life for working families

In Nebraska, 76.7% of families have all available parents working, according to the American Community Survey. With every adult on call to make ends meet, out-of-school care is a major challenge in Nebraska. In fact, it’s the reason many community-based afterschool programs were started.

And while Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) provide so much more than child care, this critical role cannot be overlooked. Without the affordable, high-quality, safe and structured care children receive through their school’s afterschool program, many would have no where to go at 3 pm but home to watch television or roam the streets.

Nebraska’s parents definitely prefer afterschool programs.

ELOs provide parents with peace of mind that comes from knowing that their children are in a safe and productive environment. The peace of mind that they need to be the productive workers powering Nebraska’s economy.

Nationally, parents from low-income and minority families report more problems finding available, affordable and quality afterschool and summer opportunities than their counterparts in other economic/ethnic categories.

Low‐income and minority parents are much more likely than higher‐income and white parents to say they value and yet have trouble finding high‐quality, convenient and affordable afterschool and summer learning programs for their children. (Public Agenda, 2004 & Afterschool Alliance: America After 3PM – Special Report on Summer, 2010)

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An evaluation found that 74 percent of parents agreed that afterschool programs made it easier to keep their jobs, and 73 percent agreed that they missed less work now compared to before their child became involved in the program. (Policy Study Associates, Inc, 2009).

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What does this tell us? Aside from helping kids improve their academic performance and workforce readiness, ELOs play a critical role in helping families maintain their economic stability.

FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.

ELOs put STEM learning front and center

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In order for the Nebraska economy to grow and thrive, today’s students need to be prepared to develop the high-tech agriculture, software and advanced manufacturing skills that will attract businesses to the state and keep them here. And in the 8-3 school day, there is simply no time to devote
to the in-depth, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences required to build a base for these skills.

Expanded Learning Opportunites (ELOs) are afterschool or summer programing, and are an ideal environment for STEM learning to thrive. STEM-focused ELO programs have been proven to produce:

  • Improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers
  • Increased STEM capacities and skills
  • Higher likelihood of graduation and pursuing a STEM career

Catherine Lang, the former Commissioner of Nebraska Department of Labor and the Director of the Department of Economic Development said:

“Nebraska has worked hard to develop businesses that require high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand workers. To keep this competitive advantage, we need an
abundant and talented workforce ready to seize opportunities when they emerge. Afterschool programs, especially strands focusing on the STEM areas, will play a huge role in helping Nebraska develop a comprehensive talent pipeline we
need to succeed in the future.”

The data below how STEM and informal Expanded Learning Opportunities intersect.

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FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.

Want smarter students? Expand their opportunities to learn

Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are high-quality afterschool or summer educational experiences that take place outside the context of the regular school day. These hands-on, experiential, enriching chances to learn that build on, but don’t duplicate, what students are learning during the school day, and allow new and exciting ways to interact with the subject matter.

Past blog posts have already discussed how ELOs close the achievement gap, keeps students safe, and reduce crime in communities. But did you know that high-quality ELOs help participants do better across the board during the school day?

Annual teacher-reported performance data from nationwide afterschool/summer learning programs demonstrate that students participating in programs targeting these academic areas raise their math grades by 37% and English grades by 38%. They also improved homework completion and class participation by 72% and their positive behaviors in class by 67%. (Learning Point Associates, 2011)

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An analysis of 68 afterschool studies concluded that students participating in a high-quality afterschool program went to school more, behaved better, received better grades and did better on tests compared to non-participating students.
(Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, 2010)

These enhanced skills don’t stop at the classroom door.

Research shows that afterschool programs can help prepare
young people for the 21st Century workplace. Hands-on learning projects help youth develop critical thinking, leadership and team-building skills—skills we need to be competitive in the global marketplace. (Afterschool Alliance, 2013)

Youth who participate in afterschool programs show significant improvement in their feelings and attitudes, as well in their ability to self-regulate their behavior. (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, 2007)

So much good comes from an investment in Expanded Learning Opportunities.

FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.

Why ELOs matter: Community crime rates

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We talked in a recent post about how violent juvenile crime spikes at 3 pm. Other high-risk behaviors among tweens and teens flourish in the afterschool hours and summer months as well.  We’ve also already talked about how Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) keep kids safer afterschool.

But an investment in ELOs does more than keep students safe. It makes communities safer for everyone. 

The afterschool hours are prime time for crimes committed by youth. And we’re not just talking about the shoplifting, loitering and vandalism you’d expect. Most violent juvenile crimes—including homicides—happen in the non-school hours. When young people are engaged in meaningful afterschool and summer activities, the instances of these crimes dramatically decrease.

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A study found that children who attended LA’s afterschool programs were 30% less likely to participate in criminal activities than their peers who did not attend the program. Researchers estimate that every dollar invested in the LA’s BEST program saves the city $2.50 in crime-related costs. (UCLA National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, September 2007)

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A study of afterschool programs in 12 high-risk communities found that, among youth participating in the programs, vandalism and stealing dropped by two-thirds, violent acts and carrying a concealed weapon fell by more than half, and arrests were cut in half. School discipline, detention, suspensions and expulsions dropped by a third. (Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, 2009)

That’s a huge payoff for an investment in afterschool and summer learning opportunities.

FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.

Why ELOs matter: Reducing the risk from 3-6 pm

The hours between 3 and 6 pm are a time of opportunity for students. But if they’re not involved in structured, supervised learning, there’s  plenty of opportunity for high-risk behavior.

Nationally, juvenile violent crimes triple during the 3-6 pm window.

During these hours, youth are also most likely to be victims of a crime, get in a car accident, smoke, drink and do drugs.

Crime spike

Teens who don’t participate in afterschool programs are 3 times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs and are more likely to drink, smoke and engage in sexual activity (YMCA of the USA, 2001).

The summer months represent the same dangers for disengaged students. That’s when first use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs peaks among youth ages 12-17 (SAMHSA, 2012).

And none of this is surprising, considering that more than 25% of students spend those hours unsupervised—and that percentage goes up in high-poverty communities.

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These national numbers are stunning, but in Nebraska, the challenge is even greater. 36% of our state’s students are unsupervised afterschool, compared with the national average of 26%.

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It’s a fact. Kids in high-quality ELOs are safer.

Aside from the countless academic advantages, access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs–experiences we call Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs)–ensures that students are in a safe, structured and supervised environment in the off-school hours. They’re receiving healthy snacks, getting homework help, and engaging in the kind of hands-on learning many children would not otherwise get to experience.

Children who participate in school-aged afterschool and summer programs spend peak risk hours in a supervised, structured environment. They are not experimenting with cigarettes, drugs or sex. They are not sneaking beers. They are not cruising around with inexperienced drivers, loitering or any other
high risk behavior. The risks associated with the hours between 3-6 pm and the summer months have been effectively removed by ELOs.

The Promising Afterschool Programs Study found that elementary students reported reductions in aggressive behavior towards other students and skipping school, and middle school students reported reduced use of drugs and alcohol, compared to their routinely unsupervised peers. (Policy Studies Associates, Inc., 2007)

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman concludes that a complement of early education and participation in school-age afterschool programs can reduce early drug use among youth by nearly 50 percent. (University of Chicago, 2006)

That’s a lot of good generated in the afterschool hours and summer months.

FIND OUT MORE. DOWNLOAD THE BIG BOOK OF ELOs IN NEBRASKA NOW.