Strengthening Partnerships for Out-of-School Time
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Strengthening Partnerships for Out-of-School Time
Municipal leaders can work with community partners to create a common vision for out-of-school time, as well as a shared set of priorities and outcome measures. A clear vision and plan will help city leaders demonstrate to funders, taxpayers, businesses and the community at large that resources directed toward out-of-school time are being spent wisely and that programs are making a difference for youth and helping the city meet various goals.
Citywide systems are most effective when one or more specific entities have responsibility for monitoring progress and managing the work. An intermediary organization or other coordinating body can play an essential role in the continued growth of quality out-of-school time programs by helping stakeholders develop and track outcomes and adhere to a shared citywide vision. Municipal leaders can support the efforts of a coordinating entity to bring partners to the table, ensure accountability and develop a more solid foundation for a citywide system.
CREATE AN OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME VISION THAT ALIGNS WITH LARGER CITY, STATE AND NATIONAL PRIORITIES
Whether the focus is on raising the graduation rate, closing the achievement gap, developing 21st century skills, supporting working families, fighting crime or preventing childhood obesity, municipal leaders can emphasize the potential contributions that out-of-school time programs can make as part of a broader city strategy. A vision for the city’s out-of-school time agenda that resonates with the community and the city’s priorities will make parents and other residents more likely to participate and be supportive. By gaining buy-in and long-term commitment to this vision, cities stand a better chance of achieving and maintaining outcomes over time.
Jackson, Tenn.: The Safe Neighborhoods/Safe Havens Campaign
In 2007, Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist publicly launched the Safe Neighborhoods/Safe Havens campaign to keep children and youth safe from crime and gang activity. This campaign enabled city and school district leaders, the police and sheriff’s departments and others to increase the accessibility of out-of-school time activities as part of their vision to reduce crime in Jackson. The mayor began by forming a Safe Neighborhoods Task Force to study ways to enhance neighborhood revitalization and reduce crime. Responding to one of the task force’s recommendations, the mayor called on all youth-serving organizations and agencies to play leadership roles in the development of a vision and action plan, beginning with a Youth Services Providers Summit in February 2008.
Following the summit, the group of youth service providers completed a mapping and demographics study to identify available resources for young people and to identify gaps in out-of-school time services. The study found that youth in high-crime neighborhoods had inadequate access to out-of-school time activities. With concrete data on the gaps in program availability in hand, the city realigned programming to improve access in the underserved areas.
DEVELOP OUTCOME MEASURES TAILORED TO THE UNIQUE ROLES THAT OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME PROGRAMS PLAY IN THE COMMUNITY
Municipal officials can strengthen their citywide out-of-school time systems by setting measurable targets and assessing the system’s progress in achieving those outcomes. Maintaining a focus on results and accountability will help cities demonstrate the value of investments in out-of-school time programs to both partner organizations and the public. Some cities have used data management systems to track the impact of regular participation in out-of-school time programs on school attendance and academic achievement. Other cities monitor the extent to which programs that emphasize fitness and nutrition improve participants’ health outcomes or health knowledge. To accurately measure the impact of local programs, municipal leaders can work closely with program providers to strengthen data collection efforts and analyze the relationship between program participation and citywide outcome goals.
By examining program outcomes over time, municipal leaders can assess whether current efforts are making a difference for youth and what adjustments need to be made to the citywide system. City officials can play an important role in advocating for better data collection and evaluation. Success in identifying concrete outcomes will help local officials enlist new partners and keep current partners engaged, while building public will for out-of-school investment.
The process of assessing outcomes is often a catalyst for program improvements and new collaborations. Key leaders and organizations with the capacity and resources to meet citywide goals may get involved after gaining a clear understanding of how their contributions make a difference. The agreement among a large number of organizations on common goals and outcomes can increase the potential for new partnerships, leading to stronger accountability and more sustainable funding.
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Outcome Measures Demonstrate the Value of Out-of-School Time Programs
With the support of Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, Our Community’s Children — formerly known as the Mayor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families, and now a public/private partnership of the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Public Schools and various community organizations — has made enormous strides in expanding access to afterschool programs and ensuring they meet high quality standards. To measure the impact of afterschool programs, Our Community’s Children partnered with the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University to share afterschool data for the city’s March 2009 Juvenile Offense Index Report. The report found that youth crimes occur overwhelmingly in the hours immediately after school on weekdays, as well as during the evening on both school and non-school days. Additionally, a pilot study found that afterschool program participants were not involved in juvenile offenses. The city and other stakeholders are using these data to highlight the need for adequate out-of-school time programming.
DEVELOP A COORDINATING ENTITY TO SUPPORT CITYWIDE OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME EFFORTS
Municipal officials can articulate the importance of developing or designating an entity to provide long-term support for an out-of-school time system. Especially in tight fiscal times, a coordinating entity can help a community make the best possible use of all resources and provide a structure that facilitates efforts to combine resources and streamline programs. Some of the specific tasks that an intermediary organization or coordinating entity may perform include:
- Providing a neutral forum in which to convene key stakeholders and help link potential partners;
- Coordinating the use of public and private community resources;
- Assisting in the development and promotion of quality standards;
- Conducting needs assessments and identifying gaps in programming;
- Identifying system-wide staff development needs and providing or brokering training;
- Promoting the development of effective policies; and
- Mobilizing public will and building political support..2
In many cases, especially in the early stages of system development, city offices or agencies fulfill all or part of this coordinating role. However, one or more separate organizations often assume responsibility for this work or the coordinating functions are absorbed into the work of an existing nonprofit, with the city remaining engaged as a key partner.
Providence, R.I.: The Providence After-School Alliance Serves as a Citywide Intermediary
In July 2004, Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline launched the Providence After-School Alliance (PASA), a public-private venture to develop a citywide system of high-quality, affordable, out-of-school time enrichment opportunities. Today, PASA serves as the intermediary for the city’s AfterZones program, a citywide afterschool system serving more than 1,000 middle school youth per year at school-centered, community “campuses.”
Vancouver, Wash.: Using the Mayors’ Action Challenge for Children and Families as an Outcomes Framework
Many cities have used the Mayors’ Action Challenge for Children and Families (www.mayorsforkids.org) as a framework for identifying desired outcomes for out-of-school time programs and the overall well-being of children and families. Founded by a group of 26 prominent mayors in November 2008, the Challenge calls on mayors to set specific, measurable, locally-defined goals and targets in four areas to ensure that every child has, at a minimum:
- Opportunities to learn and grow;
- A safe neighborhood to call home;
- A healthy lifestyle and environment; and
- A financially fit family in which to thrive.
Throughout 2009, more than 100 mayors joined this Challenge as they seek to promote municipal leadership and innovation on behalf of children and families.
As part of the Challenge, former Vancouver, Wash., Mayor Royce Pollard supported the establishment of the Vancouver Coalition for Out-of-School Time with the objective of developing a sustainable, comprehensive system of afterschool programs.
“The afterschool hours can be a time of great risk or great opportunity for youth. It is our responsibility to ensure that children have the chance to take advantage of this time and grow as active participants in our community,” said Mayor Royce Pollard.
In May 2009, the coalition launched a new online program locator website (www.schoolsoutletsgo.org), which helps parents and youth search from a list of more than 100 different out-of-school time programs. The coalition has also developed a set of basic standards for quality out-of-school time programming, which are available on the website. These new resources will help Vancouver meet local targets for out-of-school time and strengthen the city’s vision to provide young people with opportunities to learn and grow.
Each neighborhood AfterZone provides diverse programming through partnerships among schools, libraries, community centers and other youth-serving organizations. PASA provides a variety of supports to the AfterZones, including administering their grant program, working with the school district to garner needed resources, advocating for additional funds and collecting and analyzing administrative and program data. PASA has also helped establish a citywide out-of-school time data collection system called Youthservices.net. This system enabled PASA to generate detailed school bus rider lists, which helped PASA convince the school system to allow Zone participants to ride the school system’s “late” buses — solving a key participation hurdle with few added costs. In addition, PASA helps individual programs with financing issues. For example, PASA brought several community providers together into a collaborative to access needed insurance.
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2. Martin J. Blank, et al.
Local Intermediary Organizations: Connecting the Dots for Children, Families and Youth, (Boston, MA: Jobs for the Future, 2003).