The Wallace Foundation is awarding up to $7.8 million in new grants to nine cities to strengthen their efforts to provide poor, urban youngsters with more high-quality programs after school.
The nine cities are Baltimore, Denver, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Jacksonville, Louisville, Nashville, Philadelphia and St. Paul – all cities where at least half of public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The cities will use the grants to make high-quality after-school programs available to more children and teens by more formally knitting-together the municipal agencies, schools, nonprofit youth programs and other institutions vital to providing these services. Wallace calls this approach “system-building” and selected these cities because they are well-positioned to build on work they already have begun.
The work in the nine cities will focus on two areas – gathering reliable data and improving program quality. In some of the cities, planned work includes: building a management information system to track program quality and participation data, customizing a commercial software package to a city’s particular after-school needs and developing an online tool to help families find good programs. Many cities intend to link their after-school data with school data to better understand the connection between after-school participation and children’s learning and development.
To improve the quality of programs, some cities plan to develop and adopt citywide quality standards, increase the use of quality assessment tools and develop a citywide vehicle for training those who work in after-school programs, such as providing joint professional development for school and after-school employees.
“Research tells us that more children and teens can get access to high-quality after-school experiences when communities coordinate the work of the many different groups involved,” said Nancy Devine, director of communities at Wallace. “We want to encourage more cities to adopt this system-building approach, and one of the things we can expect to see is more cooperation between schools and after-school programs as they collaborate to better the education of our neediest urban kids.”
The nine new grants are the second phase of an initiative Wallace began in 2003 in five cities – Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence and Washington DC – to help cities better coordinate after-school programs to improve opportunities for poor children and teens. That first phase revealed six building blocks essential to strong after-school systems: mayoral leadership and commitment to after school; multi-year planning; a coordinating entity to lead the work; access to reliable data; efforts to improve the quality of programs; and efforts to increase participation of youngsters in them. An analysis of the first phase of the initiative can be found in a recent report from RAND Corporation called Hours of Opportunity: Lessons from Five Cities on Building Systems to Improve After-School, Summer, and Other Out-of-School-Time Programs. . It found that while after-school program quality is typically variable within cities, the five cities demonstrated that “organizations across cities could work together toward increasing access, quality, data-based decision making and sustainability.”
Cities expressed interest in learning more about both data and program quality, as the two areas are interrelated. For example, it’s hard to make informed decisions about improving quality without credible information to answer questions such as how many children regularly attend programs, where programs are located, and what type of programming yields academic or developmental gains for youngsters. Wallace believes that by the end of the project, cities will better use data to inform practice and policy, as well as to improve after-school experiences for children.
In October, the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families released the Wallace-commissioned report Municipal Leadership for Afterschool: Citywide Approaches Spreading Across the Country. It identifies 27 larger U.S. cities that have made significant strides in building systems to support after-school programming, and documents how they went about it and identifies common practices.
Wallace selected the nine cities from those included in the report as having already made substantial progress in setting up a citywide system with the key building blocks in place – committed mayoral leadership and a sound ongoing planning process. The following organizations will each receive grants of up to $765,000 over four years:
- Family League of Baltimore City
- Mayor’s Office for Education and Children, City and County of Denver
- City of Fort Worth Parks and Community Services Department
- Our Community’s Children, City of Grand Rapids
- Jacksonville Children’s Commission in Florida
- Metro United Way, Louisville
- Middle Tennessee Community Foundation, Nashville
- The Fund for Philadelphia
- St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department
“These grants will help each of the cities make significant strides in strengthening citywide systems to provide high quality afterschool opportunities and will propel a growing national trend as cities foster collaboration to make afterschool programs available to more children and youth,” said Clifford Johnson, executive director of NLC’s IYEF.
As Wallace’s longstanding partner in building broad understanding of the value of citywide after-school systems, NLC is receiving a grant of $1 million to help coordinate the initiative and serve as a resource to the participating cities.
“I made a commitment five years ago to increase learning opportunities for children after school and during the summer. I’m thrilled The Wallace Foundation recognizes the collaborative strength of our city’s youth programs, many of which have come together to make sure our kids have a chance to learn throughout the day, said Christopher Coleman, mayor of St. Paul, Minn. “With this money, our efforts will have a greater impact on kids throughout St. Paul.”
The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for children. The Foundation maintains an online library of lessons at www.wallacefoundation.org about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening educational leadership to improve student achievement; helping disadvantaged students gain more time for learning through summer learning and an extended school day and year; enhancing out-of-school time opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts.