Continuing its nearly decade-long effort to help cities expand access to high-quality afterschool programs, The Wallace Foundation has announced that it will award up to $7.8 million in grants to nine cities as part of a four-year initiative to strengthen citywide afterschool systems that serve children and youth. The YEF Institute will help coordinate the project.
Each city will receive a grant of up to $765,000 over four years to strengthen existing systems for coordinating local afterschool opportunities offered by city agencies, schools and nonprofit organizations. In addition, the foundation will provide a $1 million grant to the YEF Institute to help coordinate the initiative and serve as a resource to the participating cities.
"We're pleased to continue our strong partnership with the National League of Cities, which has been an effective partner in building understanding that cities can improve children's access to high-quality afterschool by improving their use of data and focusing on quality," said Nancy Devine, Director of Learning and Enrichment at The Wallace Foundation.
Participating cities were chosen following a rigorous selection process that began in the spring of 2011. Through a previous initiative funded by The Wallace Foundation, the YEF Institute identified 27 cities that are among the most advanced in their efforts to build citywide afterschool systems marked by six key elements: committed leadership, a public or private coordinating entity, multi-year planning, reliable information, expanding participation, and a commitment to program quality. In nearly all of the cities, at least half of public school students qualify for free or reduced price school lunches.
The YEF Institute's October 2011 report, "Municipal Leadership for Afterschool: Citywide Approaches Spreading Across the Country," shows how these cities have made a fundamental shift toward in-depth collaboration across numerous stakeholders and program providers. The Wallace Foundation selected nine cities from those included in the report that have made substantial progress on key building blocks of an afterschool system and have exhibited strong mayoral leadership and long-term planning.
The report underscored cities' need for assistance on two key system elements: gathering reliable data and improving program quality. Through the new project, cities will receive assistance in building or expanding management information systems to track data on program participation and its connection to learning outcomes in school. Cities also plan to develop online program locators to help families find programs that meet their needs and will adopt quality standards and utilize assessment tools to measure program quality. Joint professional development opportunities for school and afterschool staff will increase program capacity to better meet the needs of young people.
"Research tells us that more children and teens can get access to high-quality afterschool experiences when communities coordinate the work of the many different groups involved," said Devine. "We want to encourage more cities to adopt this system-building approach, and one of the things we can expect to see is more cooperation between schools and afterschool programs as they collaborate to better the education of our neediest urban kids."
The new grants are the second phase of an initiative The Wallace Foundation began in 2003 to help five cities - Boston, Chicago, New York City, Providence, R.I., and Washington D.C. - better align the efforts of local afterschool providers. An analysis of the first phase of the initiative can be found in a recent report from RAND Corporation called "Hours of Opportunity: Lessons from Five Cities on Building Systems to Improve After-School, Summer, and Other Out-of-School-Time Programs." A number of studies have linked high-quality afterschool programs with better attendance and achievement in school and reduced likelihood of drug use, criminal activity and other negative behavior.