The Case for Out-of-School Time Systems
Here at Youthprise we frequently refer to the number 2,000. That’s how many hours youth spend outside the classroom each year. It might seem like a lot of discretionary time (what would you do with 83 free days?) but we know that this is important time for youth to learn skills, build relationships, and perhaps most importantly, lead in their communities. We hope to transform these 2,000 hours and intentionally build and support learning opportunities that are deep and powerful – this is where out-of-school time (OST) systems come in.
Youthprise supports systems building by developing a shared data collection system that crosses geographic boundaries, breaking down silos between schools and community-based organizations that serve youth, providing seamless access to quality learning opportunities, and providing a forum to share best practices across the region and nationally.
Systems building supports the argument that access to quality should not be defined by one’s zip code. Inner city and rural programs can, and should, be well resourced so they can be on equal footing with their suburban counterparts. We cannot afford to be satisfied with pockets of excellence. Focusing on the importance of standards in quality and investing in capacity building efforts ultimately raise program quality for all Minnesota’s youth.
Youthprise is a partner in a national coalition of intermediaries building OST systems, the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS). Through CBASS, we work to document best practices, convene organizations serving youth, and offer capacity-building support to youth-serving nonprofits. One of the strengths of Youthprise’s involvement in CBASS is the Collaborative’s dedication to increasing the availability of quality after-school programming by building citywide afterschool systems, and working in collaboration with service providers, public and private funders and policymakers to make afterschool an integral part of the system of essential services that support young people.
The work around public policy is especially important for OST systems now, because Congress is considering reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA includes funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding targeted to afterschool programs. Unfortunately, the ESEA Reauthorization bill that was just approved by the U.S. House would eliminate 21st CCLC. The U.S. Senate is considering a much different, and better, version of the bill. Jennifer Peck from CBASS partner, Partnership for Children and Youth, has a great article in the Huffington Post that describes what’s at stake.
We believe that, by coordinating the collective energy and creativity of multiple actors – youth, communities, schools, afterschool programs, public agencies and funders – we can work to close the opportunity gap that exists for underserved and under-engaged youth in accessing quality OST initiatives.
The solutions are attainable. The allies in this movement are accomplishing great things, and are eager to work together to advance the quality, scale, accessibility and accountability of OST programs. And, through our grant-making, convening, policy advocacy and technical support of our allies, Youthprise is cultivating fresh thinking, forging new partnerships and engaging many stakeholders in truly investing in our state’s greatest asset – our young people.
Youthprise Director of Public Policy & Communications
Karen convenes a peer learning community of staff in cities throughout Minnesota that are working to build effective citywide OST systems to increase access to high quality learning opportunities beyond the classroom.