The Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence is proposing quality standards for out-of-school-time programs. The standards, “School’s Out, Make It Count: Arizona Quality Standards for Out-of-School Programs,” were produced in partnership with the Valley of the Sun United Way. They were based on statewide input from out-of-school time providers, educators, families, business leaders and policymakers. Melanie McClintock, executive director of the Center, will discuss the standards.
Ted Simons: The Arizona Center for After-School Excellence is proposing quality standards for out-of-school-time programs. The standards are based on input from educators, families and business leaders. Melanie McClintock is the executive director of the Arizona Center for After-School Excellence. Good to have you here.
Melanie McClintock: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Out-of-school-time programs. What the heck is that?
Melanie McClintock: That is a new term. Rather than after-school, which has been used for years and refers to the hours of 3 to 6 when after-school programming first came into vogue because mothers were going back to work, we now realize that children are in the classroom only six hours a day, so our question is where are they all those other hours of the day? What kind of programs are either available to them or what kind of programs are they in? So this is before school, after school, weekends, during school breaks, and especially during the long summer vacation.
Ted Simons: Vacations. Indeed. What kind of programs are there out there for them right now?
Melanie McClintock: There are really a wide variety. When we discuss out-of-school-time you're talking about the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, but increasingly you're also talking about more long term daily after-school, out-of-school-time programs run by school districts, by churches, by nonprofits.
Ted Simons: are there quality standards in place now for the programs or are you saying there need to be more or just some to begin with?
Melanie McClintock: In Arizona, our State Department of Health licenses after-school programs but only a fraction of the programs in the state are licensed programs. There are 33 states that have preceded us in quality standards for out-of-school-time programs. Arizona is the 34th.
Ted Simons: What standards are we talking about here?
Melanie McClintock: The state, as you can imagine, is worried about the health and safety of the child, so when they go in to license an after-school program they are looking at is this a safe place for the child to be and for the program to operate. We take our standards much further because we're really looking at the social and emotional foundation of the child and what they need to be able to have secure emotional foundation on which to then learn.
Ted Simons: Give me an example of what they would need to get that foundation.
Melanie McClintock: they need engagement and enrichment. These programs are first of all meant to engage children so they want to be in these programs, and that they are learning but having so much fun learning, when you ask what did you learn today, they go, we just had fun building a rocket.
Ted Simons: They don't realize what they're learning.
Melanie McClintock: That means it's a good program.
Ted Simons: Providers, educators, families, business leaders helping come up with the standards?
Melanie McClintock: Absolutely. Six years ago this effort was made and it was after-school providers trying to come up with the standards. You know that group has not the leverage to move the needle, so when we created this committee a year ago we wanted to have the people who could move the needle that's going to impact the outcomes for children in Arizona.
Ted Simons: Do these programs necessarily coincide with what's happening in the school day or with their school classrooms?
Melanie McClintock: That is a great question. Some do, some do not. But we talk about building a bridge between formal learning that occurs in the classroom and the informal learning that should occur in a quality after-school program.
Ted Simons: give me an example of that bridge.
Melanie McClintock: Major school districts all run after-school programs. In some districts that will go unnamed Johnny belongs to the school up to 3:00. He belongs to that after school program after 3:00, but the teachers don't talk to the after school-providers and vice versa. Honestly, the parents tend to have more interaction with the after-school provider than they do the classroom teacher. Wouldn't it be fabulous if we had the after-school program as another leg on the stool supporting that child?
Ted Simons: Everyone wants to find a measurement for that leg on all stools and accountability is a big thing now in all aspects of education. Is there a way to quantify, qualify what's going on here?
Melanie McClintock: There is and these standards are the first in a three-step process that we're calling continuous quality improvement. The first was the development and adoption of the standards. The second will be the development and adoption of an assessment tool that programs can use to measure their own strengths and then the third step will be the development of a comprehensive professional development system so that people caring for your child after school will have the core competency they need to impact your child.
Ted Simons: What kind of costs are we talking about here?
Melanie McClintock: Well, as you know these things are operating on a shoestring.
Ted Simons: I do.
Melanie McClintock: We're trying to find a lean and mean way to do it because we know there's not a lot of money to pay for it. That's another reason why to reach out to the business community. If these programs can actually help prepare the children to graduate from school and enter the work force, then we see them as work force readiness programs and shouldn't the business community be helping us fund them so that they are then getting the caliber of new employees that they so desperately need?
Ted Simons: You're reaching out to the business community. Is the business community reaching back?
Melanie McClintock: Where they have the most interest is people are recognizing quality after-school programs are the perfect venue to introduce children to STEM. STEM is one of the hottest things going.
Ted Simons: Yes.
Melanie McClintock: so why not have children build rockets, design bridges, play with robots, and that does take a little more in resources, so why shouldn't businesses be contributing to help us do that with the children after school?
Ted Simons: Last question. What kind of response are you getting from educators, from the business and education community?
Melanie McClintock: Probably much -- very favorable from the education community. Teachers are asked to do the impossible with six hours a day, 180 days a year. So principals and superintendents are reaching out to us and saying, how does this after school thing work and how can we make it work? We just have to convince them this shouldn't look like the classroom. This should be hands-on, experiential learning where children are applying the concepts they learn in the classroom. Businesses are not yet as enthusiastic but we're sure when they hear the message and see firsthand the results they will get more enthusiastic.
Ted Simons: All right, school's out. Make it count. Sounds encouraging. Good to have you here.
Melanie McClintock: Thank you.
Melanie McClintock:Executive Director, The Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence;