Second Mayors’ Institute on Children and Families Focuses on Out-of-School Learning Opportunities

April 12, 2010
Nashville, Tenn., Mayor Karl Dean, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Christopher Coleman brought stakeholder teams to Chicago last week for the second pilot session of the new Mayors' Institute on Children and Families.

Following a December 2009 Mayors' Institute on Children and Families on early childhood and data sharing for children and youth, this session explored strategies for expanding access to high-quality out-of-school time learning opportunities.

Both pilots were sponsored by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute), in collaboration with the Chapin Hall policy and research center at the University of Chicago and the Seattle-based Institute for Community Change led by former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, an NLC past president. The Atlantic Philanthropies has supported NLC's development of the Mayors' Institute for Children and Families model, and the William T. Grant Foundation provided support for the session.

The Mayors' Institute on Children and Families offers a new model of practical advice and customized assistance for individual cities seeking to improve outcomes for children and their families. At each session, mayors from two to three cities brought teams of senior municipal staff and key community leaders to present a carefully prepared case statement on a local problem or challenge. After each mayor presented his or her city's case statement, the other mayors and city teams, along with a distinguished group of national experts, practitioners and academics, participated in a discussion of potential solutions.  

These sessions were modeled on the Mayors' Institute on City Design (MICD), a partnership program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Architectural Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors that has helped prepare more than 800 mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities over the past two decades. As the driving force behind the MICD's development, Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., advised the YEF Institute on establishing a similar model of assistance to help mayors take action in promoting child and family well-being.

Topics for both of the initial pilot sessions were organized around the first goal of the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families of ensuring that every child has "opportunities to learn and grow." Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay participated in the first session.

Out-of-School Learning Systems

Each of the mayors participating in last week's session view students' educational success as a fundamental factor in their communities' economic competitiveness. They believe that out-of-school time programs can reinforce in-school learning gains during the hours when students are not in class, recognizing the benefits of these programs in closing academic achievement gaps.

However, issues of quality and access pose significant challenges. These barriers have a disproportionate impact on adolescents in middle and high schools, only a small fraction of whom participate in structured afterschool programs.

Mayor Dean is tackling this challenge through the new Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), a partnership with the school district, local agencies and youth-serving organizations. Built on Rhode Island's Providence After School Alliance's (PASA) "AfterZones" model, NAZA coordinates scheduling, marketing and evaluation of afterschool programs for middle school students within specific geographic areas of the city. PASA's executive director attended the Mayors' Institute on Children and Families session to offer feedback to the Nashville team as they grapple with transportation, access and program design issues.

In St. Paul, Mayor Coleman, chair of NLC's Council on Youth, Education, and Families, is working to ensure that every young person in the city has access to high-quality out-of-school opportunities. The city plans to link in-school and out-of-school learning at geographic "learning campuses" modeled on the efforts of Providence and Nashville.

These campuses would include at least one elementary, middle and high school, at least one library and recreation center, and multiple community partners. However, St. Paul faces funding challenges due to city and school district budget shortfalls and is working to build the data systems necessary to ensure that all children are connected to positive supports and opportunities.

In San Antonio, Mayor Castro intends to use his city's After School Challenge initiative to provide a rich array of learning experiences and put more young people on the path to higher education. Mayor Castro has set a goal of increasing college enrollment in San Antonio by one-third over the next five years. With the city investing $2.5 million each year in the After School Challenge, city leaders are seeking new models to engage local school districts and community-based providers and develop a more focused, data-driven out-of-school time system that promotes well-rounded development and bolsters student achievement.

Next Steps

Mayors had the opportunity to gain feedback on their case statements from top experts representing the Department of Education, the City of Chicago, PASA, Mathematica Policy Research, The After-School Corporation (TASC), Princeton University and the Erikson Institute.

YEF Institute staff will continue to provide technical assistance to participating mayors and their senior advisors. With two pilot sessions of the Mayors' Institute on Children and Families now completed, NLC and its partners are currently exploring the feasibility of using this model to accelerate the pace of municipal innovation on behalf of children and families.

Details: For more information about the Mayors' Institute on Children and Families, contact Julie Bosland at (202) 626-3144 or bosland@nlc.org. To learn more about the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families, visit www.mayorsforkids.org or contact Michael Karpman at (202) 626-3072 or karpman@nlc.org.