Recent decades have seen the emergence of several promising expanded-learning programs for children that otherwise have limited access to such programs. These efforts are largely unstudied, however, and they are also small when set against the magnitude of the need, serving thousands of children at a time when close to 11 million children and teens in the U.S. live below 100 percent of the poverty level. What works and what doesn’t in expanded learning? And how can effective programs be expanded, while maintaining their quality?
How We Are Tackling It
In April 2010, Wallace began supporting the first of what would become a group of seven organizations that, in widely differing ways, provide children with expanded learning opportunities. Three—BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), Higher Achievement and Horizons National—offer summer learning programs. Two—Citizen Schools and ExpandED Schools (formerly The After-School Corporation)—offer afterschool services. Another, Communities In Schools, is a large drop-out prevention organization that provides schools with services (from dental care to clothing distribution) needed by the school’s population as a whole, while giving special attention to the children most likely to fall through the cracks. Say Yes to Education coordinates a citywide collaboration of government agencies, schools, nonprofits and others in Syracuse and Buffalo to make “wraparound” services available for all public school children K-to-12, along with the promise of paid-for college education to those who graduate from high school.
In addition, Wallace is backing Power Scholars Academy, an effort by the Y and BELL to roll out BELL’s model for summer learning in selected cities through local Ys. The idea is to see if the good work of one organization can be expanded through a partnership with a larger, complementary organization.
Wallace began supporting most of these efforts during the Great Recession. Our goals were to help them weather the economic storm—and to help them reach more children and generate more evidence of what works. Wallace was particularly interested in seeing whether the organizations could expand and maintain program quality. Grantees were asked to use funding for activities such as growth planning, strengthening their internal workings and enhancing data collection and analysis. In addition, Wallace has helped fund a number of grantee-commissioned studies examining the programs’ implementation and impact on children.
More recently, Wallace has commissioned studies examining collective efforts by school systems, state and local governments, businesses, community organizations and nonprofit institutions to improve education for children from high-poverty communities—efforts sometimes described as “collective impact” or “cross-sector collaboration.”