programs, and some states, like California, gave priority to grants that featured cooperation between schools and community organizations.2
But, she warned, policy opportunities also can be forgone. For example, a major missed opportunity to promote collaboration between school systems and partners occurred when the School Improvement Grants, which provided a large infusion of support for low-performing schools, provided little policy guidance about how to turn around performance.3 As a result, schools tended to do the easiest things rather than take actions with a basis in research or best practices, said Peck. In California, for example, which has 4,500 publicly funded afterschool programs, many of which are located at the same schools that had grants, the funds generally were not used to forge connections between afterschool programs and the school day.
A third tool Peck identified is the collective role of diverse advocates. For example, when leaders and systems are doing good things, advocates should recognize their work and give them credit for having the courage to deepen and sustain partnerships. “Public recognition is an incredibly powerful motivating factor for policy leaders at a variety of levels,” said Peck. “It is important to weave this into any strategy around policy change.”
Multiple sectors and partners play a role in making sure that students can be successful. “Everybody has to wear an advocacy hat,” said Peck. “We have to embed this concept into policies and guidance to move us in this direction, because we can’t just assume it’s going to happen.” In California, for example, the Partnership for Youth and Children is working with the state department of education to develop and implement in state policy a definition of high-quality expanded learning opportunities. Such a definition could apply not just to afterschool programs, but also to the wide range of resources that can be used for out-of-school programming, Peck said.
The partnership is also collaborating with the state education agency on developing guidance for districts and for out-of-school time providers around how to communicate and collaborate around the new education standards. “There’s a lot of confusion, at the local level, about how to do that well,” Peck observed.
Finally, work is under way to develop concrete tools and information that people at the local level need to understand what the implementation of new standards means for out-of-school partners. Peck said,