Dr. Young: The Extended Day discussion is still in realm of collective bargaining so they don’t want to talk about issues related to the extra hour. Their presentation is aimed at collaborative work between school and City on afterschool. The focus is on Out of School Time (OST).
Dr. Turk: There is a critical need to ensure students have access to robust experiences both during school traditional school day and outside the school day. No one can work in isolation on this so it’s important to partner in as many different ways as possible so kids are prepared for high school, college and careers. We want the kids to be engaged in work that is rigorous and will help prepare them, but it’s also something employers look for. Especially in line with 21st century skills, they’re hearing employers are looking for critical thinking, media savvy, being able to apply knowledge and skills to real world and so forth. In terms of OST opportunities, perhaps the students most in need of those activities are often not the first in line to register or to seek out opportunities. So one piece of the work with CPS and Agenda For Children is to build relationships with students, make families aware of wide range of opportunities in City and helping students get to those opportunities so they see how good they are and will continue on their own. Not sure how the Extended Day will play out, but however it does they’re ready and committed to figure out a way to make it work for the kids.
The funding of Middle School Network represents every Middle School program in the City. CPS produced, in the last few years, a resource guide to help folks get a better grasp on the tremendous number of opportunities that exist in so many places. Workshops before end of summer for every grade and Upper Campus so that Middle School students would know what was going on and how to access it. Every Upper Campus has a part time liaison to work with families to help them access opportunities. A data system has been developed to track which students are engaged in what activities, ID the kids who are not active and help have conversations with family to figure out why. Despite the fact that so many programs that are offered, some families participate in other activities such as Brazilian Martial Arts, which are out there but not offered by CPD or DHS. Also, CPS is surveying students to see what they might enjoy.
A number of OST providers then spoke for a few minutes each:
Science Club for Girls– pushing STEM, helping girls think that they can do that for a career. STEM learning and life opportunities. High quality afterschool STEM programs create safe places for kids where opportunities are rich and expectations high by cost of failure is low. It creates safe places for folks to learn to engage, innovate and learn beyond rote stuff. Students need to develop a perception in stem where they are learners and teachers- it’s about collaboration and encouragement.
Cambridge youth centers have programs for After School Time, summer, older kids, younger kids and so forth that allow them to keep kids in programs for 10 years with kids often becoming staffers. Retention rate is over 90% which allows them to really get to know a bunch of the kids. Provide supervision and guidance, academic support and enrichment building on what they do in school; provide experiences in various areas like STEM and arts, having good food and physical activity while having fun. Some examples include MS girls being taught boxing by a CPD officer, 4th and 5th graders kayaking, boys and girls cooking with Harvard food lab, etc. Allows young people to explore, take risks and succeed when they might not have those experiences otherwise. They also provide a link in the wrap-around services idea.
Margaret Fuller House: Something special about afterschool human connections, co-creators of a shared space bounded and defined by connection. Parent/primary care giver feels there is an extended family around their family, fully immersed in their kid. Sort of like the “village” concept, an OST program rooted in the community on a localized cultural level. Lower income families do not get the same important family support upper income families do. A strong afterschool program can help bridge this gap between school and family. The local Afterschool programs are connected with local families, local cultures, bring kids together who have been bussed all over town. Parents meet other local parents, bonds are made that would not have otherwise been made, etc. And extended family at the afterschool community currents the real family.
Community Arts Center (in Area IV): we’ve all seen loved ones succeed and struggle and the latter is really tough, when we feel powerless to help them. Wouldn’t we give anything to find someone who can help, who loves that child as much as we do, who might give us some new information. We all want to do what’s best for our young people. OST folks are offering to step in, partner and help in a real way, provide the missing piece. Kids spend about 80% of their time outside of school and the CAC is hugely open, see kids for more hours than their parents, then, over time, their schools. OST consistency real addresses the AG and really helps kids who need it, to include arts based programs of which many exist in Cambridge. Arts programs help young people make sense of the challenges they face and foster positive growth.
Tutoring Plus: A variety of organizations work directly with CPSD, Tutoring Plus, Breakthrough Cambridge, Upward Bound, Workforce, Cambridge School Volunteers, etc. and think of themselves as true partners of the district, sharing space, coordinating on classroom and OST issues. Mutual respect between school and OST academic programs. Many kids go through a variety of these programs, largely aimed at reducing AG and opportunity gap. There is a partnership among the OST programs as well as with schools. They ask that the OST folks are engaged in all planning elements as educational planning goes through. As we think about extending the school day, remember Workforce offers job opportunities for kids, how would an extended day impact them. Little things can become big things and we need to keep that in mind going forward.
Ellen Semenoff- the OST/CPSD partnership is a very important one. Everyone is committed, how do we renew the partnership. Dr. Turk looked at various partnership possibilities during the IA, some of which have happened. Agenda For Children helps support the quality of all of these programs and in November the staff of all OST programs is giving a multi-day set of discussions with staff talking about their expertise.
Some general themes in the Q&A were:
- lots of growth in special needs children accessing the City’s OST programs, though a few are still not served.
- kids have a “passport” of OST activities that allows kids and staff to see what the children are doing, but there are some holes in how the connections between OST and CPS happen. The connection between CPS and OST record sharing has been an ongoing conversation for five years, apparently due, at least in part, to issues which lie with the vendor who was bought and sold. The idea had been to have records being available across school/OST but it didn’t’ happen. CPS’ hope is that Aspen, the new company handling the records, will be able to do this. They are sort of doing it manually now with OST liaisons and heads of upper schools looking at data and this review helps us realize that 74% of kids in first year of IA were participating in some form of OST activity.
- there is an void in provider possibilities in places like North Cambridge’s Jefferson Park. In that case, the closest provider is the Gately, and if you live there, it’s bleak so perhaps there could be more options there given the demographics of the area.
- we’re all different. Children don’t all have to pass the same landmarks, have the same interests. And can’t all be put in the same boxes.
- some unstructured time is good. Learning how to be bored is, to some extent, a useful skill.