policy

A Step in the Right Direction: Career Exploration in Middle School

A Step in the Right Direction: Career Exploration in Middle School

In the quest for college and career readiness, policymakers are slowly but surely coming around to the importance of career readiness. Though much of this nascent effort is focused on career readiness for high schoolers, middle school is beginning to enter the discussion, too. The middle grades are a crucial time to engage, or reengage, students and put them on a path to college and career success. Research has demonstrated that grades, attendance, and engagement in middle school are strong predictors of high school graduation and postsecondary success. The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University found that “sixth graders who failed math or English/reading, or attended school less than 80% of the time, or received an unsatisfactory behavior grade in a core course had only a 10% to 20% chance of graduating [high school] on time.”

US2020 Honors Leaders of the STEM Mentoring Movement

US2020 Honors Leaders of the STEM Mentoring Movement

This morning, US2020 announced the winners of the third annual US2020 STEM Mentoring Awards. The awards are a national platform to celebrate and encourage exceptional work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentoring. Awards were handed out at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where national leaders in this field are discussing strategies for advancing STEM opportunity in the United States.

The City as Classroom

The City as Classroom

As summer’s blaze softens into autumn hues, our city’s children are back in the schoolhouse. For many students in the Boston Public Schools, summer was more productive, inspirational and fun than they expected. This is thanks to citywide work to replace traditional summer school with creative and research-based summer learning, as well as a growing commitment in Boston to ensure all students, regardless of family income, access a wide range of summer activities.

DACA Should be Kept

DACA Should be Kept

Have you heard anything about DACA and/or DAPA?  DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA is an American immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in June 2012. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents sometimes called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, is a planned American immigration policy to grant deferred action status to certain undocumented immigrants. DAPA and DACA give immigrants opportunities such as employment, but there are some downsides to DACA and DAPA that affect many immigrants. DACA and DAPA programs do too little to protect undocumented immigrants while allowing them to legally stay in the US because their rights can be easily taken away and they don’t know if they can get citizenship. But others, like Republicans think that immigrants get too much support because there is too much spent on the immigrants.

Citizen Schools Applauds Sen. Elizabeth Warren for Passing of New Federal Education Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BOSTON, Mass—December 9, 2015— Citizen Schools, which partners with public schools to provide academic support and hands-on learning for middle school students in high-need communities in seven states, applauds U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for her efforts to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, which rewrites No Child Left Behind. The legislation, approved by the Senate Wednesday, provides a new opportunity to improve education in America through greater adoption of expanded learning time in public schools, says Steven M. Rothstein, chief executive of Citizen Schools.

The Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2015, with strong bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the year. Senator Warren sits on the Senate Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor Committee and played a key role in supporting expanded learning time throughout the process.

"This is the biggest commitment the federal government has ever made to expanded learning time. This is a historic milestone for underserved students and a strong statement from a bipartisan group of legislators. It will be an important step to reduce the opportunity gap that has grown over the years,” said Rothstein.

Citizen Schools commends the U.S. Congress for producing legislation that keeps important accountability components for closing the achievement and opportunity gap for low-income and historically underrepresented students, but does away with one-size fits-all federal requirements.

In particular, the organization applauds Congress for the inclusion of Expanded Learning Time in several areas of the legislation—most notably, within the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the only federal program dedicated solely to delivering after-school, before school, expanded day, and summer services for low-income students.

“Preserving targeted programs like 21st CCLC, as well as targeted funds for school improvement and innovation, will benefit millions of students across the country,” said Rothstein. “We commend the Congress for its efforts to increase STEM learning opportunities and to promote evidence-based practices in K-12 education.”

Media contact: Matt Ellis Ellis Strategies, Inc. matt@ellisstrategies.com | 617.278.6560

Citizen Schools Applauds Passing of New Federal Education Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BOSTON, Mass—December 9, 2015—U.S. Senate passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which rewrites No Child Left Behind, provides a new opportunity to improve education in America through greater adoption of expanded learning time in public schools, says Steven M. Rothstein, chief executive of Citizen Schools which partners with public schools to provide academic support and hands-on learning for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders in high-need communities in seven states.

The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2015, with strong bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the year. "This is the biggest commitment the federal government has ever made to expanded learning time.

This is a historic milestone for underserved students and a strong statement from a bipartisan group of legislators. It will be an important step to reduce the opportunity gap that has grown over the years,” said Rothstein.

Citizen Schools commends the U.S. Congress for producing legislation that keeps important accountability components for closing the achievement and opportunity gap for low-income and historically underrepresented students, but does away with one-size fits-all federal requirements.

In particular, the organization applauds Congress for the inclusion of Expanded Learning Time in several areas of the legislation—most notably, within the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the only federal program dedicated solely to delivering after-school, before school, expanded day, and summer services for low-income students.

“Preserving targeted programs like 21st CCLC, as well as targeted funds for school improvement and innovation, will benefit millions of students across the country,” said Rothstein. “We commend the Congress for its efforts to increase STEM learning opportunities and to promote evidence-based practices in K-12 education.”

Media contact: Matt Ellis Ellis Strategies, Inc. matt@ellisstrategies.com | 617.278.6560

A Toolkit for Change - Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit

Over six months ago, 250 guests from 11 states and 16 cities nationwide came together for Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit where we laid out an important mission -- make expanded learning opportunities the new normal for all students, especially during the critical middle school years. Some KEY TAKEAWAYS include:

  • High-quality expanded learning can help raise student achievement through engagement and mentoring during the critical middle school years, a leading indicator of success in college and beyond.
  • Many districts and schools could get close to funding extended learning time (ELT) under more flexible policy conditions, but funds are often still tight and uncertain year to year. Hence, increased local, state and federal funds that are concentrated for student need would give schools and districts the ability to make ELT a sustainable reality.
  • By 2022, our economy will require more than nine million STEM professionals; currently, we're producing fewer than 300,000 college graduates to fill these jobs. Hence, it is critical to partner with STEM professionals to share their experience and teach students how to apply their academic learning in STEM to real life situations in order to inspire and ignite their interests.
  • States like Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina--among others--have supported expanded learning in their budgets or through legislation to provide high-quality expanded learning opportunities.

RESOURCES

View the summit sessions online to learn more  about a wide variety of topics such as:

In addition, all reports, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations can also be found HERE.

CALL TO ACTION

We encourage you to remain an active part of the national discussion for expanded learning, here are a few things you can do to make ELT the new normal for all students:

This work is far from finished, and we encourage you to continue to TAKE ACTION by:

  1. Sharing Your Story -- LinkedIn is running a #ThankYourMentor Campaign. Please take a few minutes to #ThankYourMentor today!
  2. Volunteering --Join one of our convening partner organizations or find an expanded learning or mentor program near you using sites like mentoring.org, volunteermatch.org, US2020, and Million Women Mentors.
  3. Advocating -- take two clicks and two minutes to respond to this ACTION ALERT on legislation in the U.S. Congress.

POLICY & LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Since the summit, Citizen Schools and others in the expanded learning field have been actively involved in advocacy and policy development at the federal and state level to support expanded learning time programs.

ESEA Reauthorization -- The U.S. House and Senate passed respective bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) earlier this year. Each chamber has appointed members to a conference committee to decide on a final version of the bill to be signed into law by President Obama. The Senate bill, Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), which passed with strong bipartisan support, preserves federal programs critical to expanded learning and STEM.  In addition, the bill provides enough flexibility within the program to support states, districts, schools, and community partners that provide high-quality expanded learning time. In September 2015, Citizen Schools, along with the National Center on Time & Learning and the Afterschool Alliance, sent a letter to education committee leaders with signatures from 671 organizations across all 50 states calling on Congress to adopt the Title IV language in S.1177 in a final reauthorization bill. Please click on the links to view the letter and press release. Congress is expected to vote on a final bill before the end of the year.

Budget & Appropriations--On November 2, 2015, President Obama signed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” into law to raise the debt limit and set the federal budget for the next two years.  The deal extends the debt ceiling to March 2017 and raises the budget caps set by the 2011 budget agreement. The bill increases spending caps for defense and nondefense discretionary spending by a combined $80 billion over fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Nonetheless, each congressional appropriations subcommittee must reset their allocations for specific programs in order to pass an omnibus bill for the President to sign into law. We urge Congress to restore cuts to federal programs that support expanded learning, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) program that provides targeted funds for expanded day and out-of-school time programs, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program. Moreover, we are urging Congress to avoid using the appropriations process to create new restrictions, known as a “policy rider”, on the 21st CCLC program that would set back the progress being made on the authorization side. In particular, we oppose the current provision in the FY16 House Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that would prohibit states and districts from using expanded learning time as part of their 21st CCLC programs. This policy rider would be particularly harmful to states, districts, and schools that have already incorporated expanded learning time into their 21st CCLC programs.

Career & Technical Education (CTE) -- In October 2015, the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee solicited recommendations and proposed legislative changes to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. Citizen Schools recommends the Perkins Act be more inclusive of middle school grades, including offering enough flexibility in the law to allow state and local entities to leverage federal CTE funds for middle school CTE-related coursework and learning activities. Currently, the funding is targeted for activities at the secondary and post-secondary level, which in some states includes seventh and eighth grade, but usually not sixth grade.

Title II and Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) -- Citizen Schools, along with several Summit convening partners, were part of a group of 9 organizations that collectively produced a memo to the White House’s Domestic Policy Council on the use of ESEA Title II and the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) dollars to support expanded learning programs. We are now working with staff at the US Department of Education on non-regulatory guidance and proactive letter to states highlighting and encouraging the use of Title II and TIF funds for expanded learning.

Texas -- In September 2015, Citizen Schools submitted proposed interim charges to the Texas Senate requesting that the Texas Legislature examine opportunities and make recommendations about evidence based models that can be used by Texas public school districts and charter schools, including but not limited to postsecondary education and career counseling in middle school, for addressing implementation of high school endorsements. The Senate Interim Charges were released in October and include a reference to address training support for counselors and advising courses for middle school students. We are continuing to advocate for the importance of high-quality mentoring and learning opportunities for middle school students in Texas.

North Carolina -- In July 2014, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a budget that included $5 million for “Competitive Grants to Improve After-School Services”. This is targeted funding carved out of state funds already appropriated for school services to at-risk youth. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the State Education Agency, was then charged with designing and executing the grant program, including prioritizing programs that integrate clear academic content in STEM learning opportunities or reading development and proficiency instruction. In 2015, the NC final budget included an additional $1M in grant funds for a total of $6M.

PARTNERSHIPS & COALITION BUILDING

White House Announcement -- Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative -- Twenty education-based organizations from across the nation are investing a collective $620 million to create the Expanded Learning Middle School Initiative and enhance learning for 1.3 million 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders over the next five years. Steven Rothstein delivered the announcement on behalf of the group at the White House Next Gen High School Summit, a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve 21st century high school students. Click HERE for the official White House fact sheet, which includes a blurb on the middle school announcement (page 10). Click HERE for the press release Citizen Schools released on behalf of the group

While we have made and seen tremendous gains since the Meet in the Middle: Expanded Learning Summit, there is still a long way to go. We hope you continue to feel inspired and empowered by the Summit and encourage you to continue engaging with each other, with policymakers, and with your communities. Again, please see the call to action for specific steps to take.

Take Part: Is Enough Being Done to Boost STEM Education in Schools?

Take Part June 12, 2013

Is Enough Being Done to Boost STEM Education in Schools?

Education advocates such as Eric Schwarz, cofounder and CEO of Citizen Schools, feel that radical changes still need to occur in classrooms.

Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools and Executive Chairman of US2020, recently participated in the POLITICO panel, Tech Deep Dive: STEM Policy’s Next Steps, which also included Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for The White House. The discussion centered on the national state of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and  upcoming STEM policy measures.

Schwarz is quoted in this piece advocating for the important roles a longer school day and hands-on opportunities with STEM professionals can play for students and STEM education. “It is clear that K-12 schools, colleges, and corporations must work as partners to educate students and fill the gaps in knowledge about STEM careers. Our nation’s ability to compete globally will be determined by our financial support and political will for improving math and science education throughout K-12 schools.” Read the article.

POLITICO: Tech, education leaders talk STEM challenges

POLITICO June 12, 2013

Tech, education leaders talk STEM challenges

From left: POLITICO's Jessica Meyers, Co-Founder and CEO, Citizen Schools, Eric Schwarz, resident and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Nina Rees, Secretary-Treasurer, National Education Association Becky Pringle, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for The White House Tom Kalil, and POLITICO's Tony Romm.

Last week, Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools and Executive Chairman of US2020, joined POLITICO Pro’s Tech Deep Dive: STEM Policy’s Next Steps. Joined by Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for The White House, and others the conversation centered on the state of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, implications on the next STEM workforce, and upcoming STEM policy measures  in the next year.

“At the end of the day, if we’re going to get where we want to go as a country … it is going to take many more successes for young people in elementary school, middle school and high school. That can happen in our schools,” Schwarz said. Read the article and watch the panel discussion.

 

Why I Became an Advocate

Michele Ahouse is the National Director of Citizen Teacher Engagement at Citizen Schools. 

Policy was never my thing. When I met my now mother-in-law, one of her first questions was how many times I had voted in elections. I smiled politely and nodded, thinking that in the great state of Massachusetts, my vote wasn’t going to swing anything one way or another. Wasn’t my voice just lumped in with everyone else’s?

Throughout my time as a volunteer Citizen Teacher for Citizen Schools teaching multiple apprenticeship classes, I took a similar approach to action alerts and policy messages that landed in my inbox. Occasionally, I would click the “Send a message to my Congressman” where I would find a nicely written message. All I needed to do was type my zip code in and bam, it was submitted.

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Within seconds, an automated “out-of-office” like email would come back from my senator telling me he agreed with my thoughts on “x”-initiative and really appreciated my voice. Sure. Whatever. I believed in the change, but I didn’t think my little voice resonated at all. I was not a phone caller, a picketer or any of those other seemingly attention-grabbing policy wonks.

Fast forward five years to my current position here at Citizen Schools as the National Director of Citizen Teacher Engagement. During my first month, I had a call with our Executive Director of Public Policy and Communications to find out more about our policy initiatives as it related to Citizen Teachers. I was dreading the call, because I knew I would have to fess up about my lack of faith in policy. But I also felt like it could be a real learning tool, because frankly, I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt this way.

Over the course of the hour, she proceeded to take me through a grassroots Policy 101 session - explaining that despite the impersonal nature of the responses, it was actually someone's (and often multiple staffers') job to count and report back to our representatives on responses they received from emails, phone calls, social media and visits.

More importantly, the more responses something got, the more attention a representative gives to the matter because his/her job is to be a representative of the people. And despite whatever concerns we have about  the current climate in Washington, when it comes down to it, we elect our representatives and that is our strongest voice.

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I had the privilege to take part in our annual Hill Day event on March 21 and actually see this all in action. This day is when Citizen Schools representatives - staff, board members, student alumni and Citizen Teachers - from all eight of our states go to Capitol Hill to meet with our representatives.

We spoke with a range of politicians- Senators, Representatives, aides and even Minority Leaders Pelosi and McConnell. We talked about the impact of Citizen Schools in their districts, the success our students experienced as a result of the program, the important work AmeriCorps members are doing throughout the community, as well as the potential for the future of education. I even saw staff answering phones and actually writing down tallies for support/dissent on policies.

In some meetings, we encountered vigorous head-nodding agreement; in others, it was a learning experience for both sides. For me personally, it was a fantastic experience to be there, having real-time discussions about the impact of sequestration, this abstract but constant buzz word that had surrounded me for the past 2 months. We strategized ways to preserve the funding and support that makes Citizen Schools be able to provide middle school students with the opportunity to realize and achieve their dreams. Most of all, we shared stories and gave a voice to the students who we serve, to the staff and volunteers who help our students achieve success.

I walked away from the day feeling empowered and full of promise. I felt like my voice was heard and we achieved something. We are currently working with schedulers for our representatives to get visits on the books for this spring to see our students and apprenticeships in action. I’m eagerly anticipating these, as I know seeing our students, staff and volunteers in action will bring to reality the importance of education support.

The cherry on top - March 21 was my mother-in-law’s birthday. When I texted her a quick “Happy Birthday” early that morning and told her what I was doing, she promptly responded back, “You’ve come a long way baby.” Have I ever!