Media Coverage

Nine-Hour School Day is the Norm, and a National Model, at Oakland Middle School

In Susan Frey’s recent article on EdSource, also picked up by the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and The Hechinger Report, Citizen Schools’ Expanded Learning Time (ELT) partnership with a middle school in Oakland, CA, is highlighted as a model that works.

Elmhurst Community Prep’s principal, Kilian Betlach, describes his vision to close the opportunity gap for low-income students by bringing a variety of experiences to life. Partnering with Citizen Schools is a powerful alternative to traditional after-school programs, he says, because it allows him to create an integrated longer school day filled with academic support and enrichment like apprenticeships:

Rodzhaney Sledge, dressed in the light-blue school uniform, is new to the school as a 6th grader, but she already understands how the after-school part of the program supports her academic work. For example, she took a class called Tools for Peace, where she learned to meditate. Meditation, she said, has helped calm her so she can focus on academics. She also appreciates the help with her homework she receives for at least an hour each day.


“I don’t understand the students who have problems staying after school until 5 p.m.,” she said. “You can do your homework and don’t have to do it when you get home. You’re free.”


Betlach and community partners – primarily Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit that focuses on providing quality expanded learning programs for middle school students in low-income communities – have cobbled together federal, state, local and private funding to support the unique program…


What makes the expanded school day economically possible is the school’s reliance on AmeriCorps teaching fellows like [Ashur] Bratt. The fellows are funded by the federal government and receive special training from Citizen Schools staff on how to teach in an urban environment. They are involved in both the academic morning program and the after-school classes from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, helping to provide a seamless transition for students. The schedule also allows the regular academic teachers an hour each afternoon, from 2 to 3 p.m., to work collaboratively and plan.


In exchange, the AmeriCorps fellows will have earned their intern teaching credential at the end of their two years at Elmhurst.


Edgard Vidrio, a sixth grade history teacher who joined the Elmhurst staff this year, said he appreciates the variety of opportunities the program is offering his students…Vidrio says the young, dynamic AmeriCorps teachers develop deep relationships with their students. If a student in his class is upset, he or she will often ask to talk to one of the teaching fellows, Vidrio said…


AmeriCorps teaching fellow Jeannette Aames, who is finishing her second year and hopes to teach high school math in Oakland Unified in the fall, said teaching a math intervention class was her most rewarding experience at Elmhurst. The class of three girls and nine “rowdy boys” could not grasp the concept of negative numbers.


“Direct instruction didn’t work with them,” Aames said, requiring her to develop more hands-on approaches to teach the concept…


The students also get opportunities through Citizen Schools to participate in apprenticeships with “citizen teachers,” any adult from the broader Bay Area community who has a passion, such as robotics or radio reporting, to share with the students. The citizen teachers receive basic training on how to teach from Citizen Schools staff before they begin the after-school class.


The citizen teacher is partnered with an AmeriCorps fellow who assists the teacher with handling classroom management. At the end of the apprenticeship, the students make a presentation (called a “WOW!”) to their parents and business and community leaders, showcasing what they have learned.


In addition, local companies invite students to their offices for apprenticeship experiences. At Pandora, students learned how to make an app.


“It was a video game where you dodge fireballs,” Betlach recalled.


The positive school culture that Frey captures is the result not of a miracle education reform formula, but of a committed collaboration of human beings, caring and working really hard.  The students, AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, and teachers whose voices fill the story bring that to life better than most research briefs and infographics. We’re proud every day to serve alongside Principal Betlach, Mr. Vidrio, and the rest of the ECP community, meditating, dodging fireballs, and dreaming big!

Apply to the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship today and you can join next year’s team at ECP!

Read the full article on EdSourceOakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, or The Hechinger Report.

Huffington Post: US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum

Reposted from the Huffington Post: Impact– US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum. By Eric Schwarz, CEO and Co-Founder of Citizen Schools, and Executive Chairman of US2020. Posted on November 12, 2013.

US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum

The call was answered. Last month 52 cities self-organized to compete in a nation-wide competition designed to address one of our nation’s great challenges. I am honored today to announce the finalists of the US2020 STEM Mentoring City Competition.

Read more…

Boston Globe: Key lessons on expanding the school day

Boston Globe

October 8, 2013

In an opinion piece co-authored by Pat Kirby, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Citizen Schools, and five principals of Citizen Schools’ partner middle schools, describes the lessons learned from expanding the learning day in Boston.

Key lessons on expanding the school day

“Expanded Learning Time has been touted as a key lever for school improvement in the Boston mayoral campaign. As a network of middle schools partnering with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, we have first-hand experience navigating the complexities and opportunities of expanding the school day for Boston Public School students.

Together, we are partnering to build better school communities with increased family involvement and the resources necessary to close educational gaps. We leverage Citizen Schools’ “second shift” of AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows and volunteers to compliment a swing shift of Boston Teachers Union teachers. Together, we aligned to improve our student’s academic performance and engagement while building greater teacher collaboration.” Continue reading.


NBC Education Nation: “Citizen Schools” showing success

NBC Education Nation

October 4, 2013

“Citizen Schools” Showing Success

Citizen Schools was featured on NBC’s national Education Nation series on Friday, October 4th showcasing the work and success of Citizen Schools. The segment includes interviews with Citizen Schools North Carolina Executive Director, Jake House, and Advisory Board Chair and long-time Citizen Teacher, John Gilson. Watch the video.


Huffington Post ImpactX: It Doesn’t Take A Teacher To Make An Impact On Students’ Lives

Reposted from the Huffington Post: Impact X – It Doesn’t Take A Teacher To Make An Impact On Student’s Lives. By Kimone Gooden, Business Development Manager, Cisco Posted 10/4/2013

It Doesn’t Take A Teacher To Make An Impact On Student’s Lives

I never envisioned when I accepted a job offer from Cisco 12 years ago that I would be able to squeeze in a career as a teacher as well (without moonlighting). For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of being a Citizen Teacher in Oakland and San Jose schools. This is thanks to Citizen Schools, a Cisco sponsored nonprofit whose mission is to expand the learning day for middle school students in low-income communities. They do this by engaging an army of professional volunteers as “Citizen Teachers” to spend 10 weeks teaching what they already do, know or love.


Initially the idea of teaching middle school students was quite intimidating; I wondered what I could teach that would be valuable and meaningful. I learned in the schools that Citizen Schools target, there is a gap in elective curriculum in topics like robotics, blogging or painting, which more affluent schools take for granted. I eventually chose to teach STEM related topics — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math– because they hold great potential for education and career opportunities. There are currently 26 million STEM-related jobs in the United States alone. And it is expected that, by 2015, roughly 90 percent of professional jobs across all sectors will require technology skills.

My first class was on blogging and culture. Over the course of a semester, my students published their own blogs on the culture of a country they were interested in. They learned how to research, write and publish their own articles. Most recently, I taught “Technology is Everywhere” with a group of Cisco Connected Women volunteers to an all-girl class.

Our objective was to foster early interest in STEM careers, which is still a predominantly male field. Women make up almost half of the American workforce, yet hold less than 25 percent of STEM-related jobs. And while girls earn the majority of college degrees, only 12 percent are computer science degrees (and that drops to three percent for minority women). The topics in our class varied each week, from IT to marketing to engineering, depending on each volunteer’s area of expertise. The students were eventually introduced to 10 different career options and the class culminated with a field trip to Cisco’s Executive Briefing Center, where the students were able to experience our telepresence video technology, which they anecdotally related to “Star Trek.”

Over the course of a semester I witnessed the students’ level of interest and excitement increase. I saw a new awareness develop around what was possible that they did not envision before. Engineering, marketing, and IT were now added to the list of careers our students wanted to pursue when they grew up. A few even decided they wanted to work for Cisco. We were able to explain the critical role attending college would play in making those dreams a reality.

While creating a very, very early recruitment pipeline for Cisco was a nice side benefit, the true value, I discovered, in being a Citizen Teacher is not what we taught, but who we were and that we were there. We were caring adults that represented new, tangible and viable options. We were models, in the absence of professional models in their own communities. In some cases, we looked like them, and even had similar backgrounds, and because of us, what wasn’t on their radar before was now accessible in a very real way. This a true example that — regardless of the socio-economic circumstances surrounding these students’ lives — given the access, we can begin to close the achievement gap by closing the opportunity gap.

The challenges we face in education reform — declining graduation rates, teacher tenure, class size, pay for performance, the lottery system — can seem daunting. As I’ve come to find, however, this work is not only the responsibility of teachers, administrators, and education professionals. As citizens, we have enormous power and opportunity to provide true value as mentors, tutors, and buddies. We can create real impact in the midst of all the debate where it matters most: the lives of our students.

Kimone was also featured in two inspirED blog posts: Cisco Citizen Teachers of the Year and Cisco Connected Women Inspire Girls to Pursue STEM Careers.