Achieving Better Educational Outcomes Means Thinking Beyond the Classroom

February 3, 2014

By Tim Mudd

NLC is proud to announce its continued partnership with The Wallace Foundation. Through a new communication grant, NLC is working to equip city leaders with the knowledge to create, expand and improve afterschool opportunities in their communities. It’s not just classroom activities that determine whether a student will succeed in life. Opportunities outside the classroom are equally important to the positive development of children and youth.

Often overlooked, the afterschool hours are a source of advantage for some, offering opportunities to learn and discover new interests. For others, it’s an unsupervised educational void that leaves young people vulnerable to dangerous and delinquent activities and put an extra stress on working families.  

More than 25 percent of America’s youth are alone after school, when juvenile crime triples and youth often fall prey to using alcohol and other drugs.  Across the country, millions of children and youth lack access to afterschool and summer programs that provide rich opportunities for growth, learning and mentorship.

For more than a decade, with support from The Wallace Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, NLC has worked with hundreds of cities to support their efforts to correct this inequality of opportunity. Increasingly, mayors and city councilmembers have recognized the importance of afterschool opportunities  and are using their positions to ensure that all young people have a safe and productive place to go during the afterschool hours.

When NLC President Chris Coleman became mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, he immediately made improving the lives of young people through quality educational opportunities a top priority.

Calling on the entire community, he helped to put in place a process that would lead to a national model for citywide afterschool. Referred to as “system building,” St. Paul employed an approach that moves away from management and funding of isolated programs toward in-depth coordination among city, school and nonprofit providers.

The result was Sprockets – a network of afterschool and summer program provider that seeks to improve the quality, availability and effectiveness of out-of-school time learning for all youth through the committed, collaborative and innovative efforts of community partners.

“In our cities today, afterschool programs are one of the best things we can do to keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, teach new skills and help working families,” said Mayor Coleman. “Sprockets plays a critical role in helping to close the achievement gap and ensure all of St. Paul’s young people have opportunities to excel. “

St. Paul is just one among many cities across the country working to build high quality citywide afterschool systems – but there is still much work to be done.

Through a generous $260,000 grant from The Wallace Foundation, NLC, through its Institute for Youth, Education and Families, will partner with the foundation over the next year to equip city leaders with the knowledge to create, expand and improve afterschool opportunities in their communities. Through this grant The Wallace Foundation has joined a multi-funder collaborative to support the Mayors' Education Policy Advisors' Network (EPAN), a network of mayors' education advisors from the 75 largest cities in the U.S.

A primary focus of this work will be strengthening the Afterschool Policy Advisors Network (APAN) – an existing national peer learning network of municipal leaders working to create or expand citywide systems of high-quality afterschool opportunities for children and youth.

A unique aspect of this grant is the support to host a Leadership Academy on Citywide Afterschool System building to help advance the efforts of approximately 15 cities that are working to coordinate the range of afterschool opportunities that exist in their communities, improve quality and track their impact.

“We are grateful for the support from The Wallace Foundation to help NLC build upon over a decade of work to help city leaders use their leadership to create stronger and more accessible afterschool opportunities for young people,” said Audrey M. Hutchinson, program director for Education and Afterschool in NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families. “Meeting the needs of youth in the afterschool hours aligns with many city priorities and our we stand ready to share best practices among cities to support their work.”

NLC’s work will supplement the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to research and knowledge dissemination.  On its website, The Wallace Knowledge Center makes available research reports and other resources to assist community leaders in advancing quality afterschool programming and building strong citywide afterschool systems. These resources include two new videos that demonstrate the benefits of afterschool and afterschool systems. The Wallace Foundation has also joined a multi-funder collaborative to support the Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN), a network of mayors' education advisors from the 75 largest cities in the U.S.

Local governments’ imperative to promote afterschool lies at the intersection of our responsibility to providing the best opportunities for each young person and to building better and more vibrant communities.

City leaders are encouraged to show their support by connecting with APAN for resources and opportunities to make a difference in their community.

Get Involved: If you are interested in joining or knowing more about APAN and its benefits, please contact Bela Shah Spooner or Kim Eisenreich.