5 Things Cities Can Do to Support Afterschool in 2020

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In 2015, 19 percent of 350 municipal leaders surveyed by the National League of Cities said that they used their bully pulpit to promote summer learning with 11 percent stating that they made policy changes in support of summer learning.

Since then, many municipal leaders have embraced summer learning as a strategy to solve some of their city’s toughest challenges, improve outcomes for youth in their city and to reduce the effects of summer learning loss.

  • In 2015, Providence, Rhode Island Mayor Jorge Elorza formed a Summer Learning Task Force comprised of local leaders to craft a strategic and focused response to the challenge of summer learning loss.

“In Providence, we’re all in for education and that means that we have to take advantage of every opportunity our kids have to learn. This commitment to increasing summer learning will allow over 850 students to not only keep pace, but to stay ahead,” Elorza said.

  • In 2016, Fort Worth, Texas Mayor Betsy Price issued a challenge at the formation of the Fort Worth Literacy Partnership that any youth program supported by city funds should include a literacy component and be aligned with the community’s goal of ensuring that 100 percent of third-graders are reading on grade level by 2025.
  • In 2017, Boston, Massachusetts Mayor Marty Walsh unveiled an initiative to engage 2,200 high-need students in an innovative approach that blends rigorous academic learning with hands-on enrichment.

“A student’s education shouldn’t stop at the end of the school year when the ‘4th quarter’ of learning closes,” Walsh said.

  • In 2018, Troy, New York Mayor Patrick Madden renewed his commitment to partnering with the local YMCA and Boys and Girls Club to offer a free six-week summer camp full of sports, activities, and two meals a day.

“Providing positive opportunities for local children remains one of our community’s most important responsibilities, ensuring kids have a safe place to spend their summer, stay engaged, stay active, build friendships and experience new opportunities to grow and develop,” Madden said.

In 2019, several more mayors joined the list of champions for summer learning such as Seattle’s Mayor Durkan, Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot, and Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti.

A Vision Forward

Considering the growing investment from cities over the past five years and research from The Wallace Foundation, we have learned that summer provides an opportunity to improve the education, health, safety, and well-being of children and youth.  Yet, there is more work to be done to meet the needs of children and youth during the summer.

According to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Shaping Summertime Experiences, “summertime experiences are not evenly and equitably distributed, and many children and youth lack access to quality experiences due to challenges in availability, accessibility and affordability.”

In order to make communities more equitable for all children and youth, there are a number of opportunities that municipalities should consider for strengthening and expand summer learning programs. Based on the report’s conclusions, here are five ways municipal leaders can strengthen summer learning programs:

  1. Municipal leaders can visit The Wallace Foundation’s Knowledge Center and NLC’s blogs on summer learning to access the research on the effectiveness of summer learning programs.
  2. Consider summer learning as a strategy to address multiple city priorities. NLC’s three issue briefs outline how city leaders can leverage afterschool and summer learning programs as strategies to improve public safety, workforce development, and college and career readiness.
  3. NLC’s CHAMPS initiative helps cities reduce child hunger by expanding participation in the Summer and Afterschool Meals Programs. Learn key steps city leaders can take to support meal programs here.
  4. Using intentional and unique recruitment strategies is vital to reach children and families most in need of summer learning programs. Consider adopting these strategies and tools for future recruitment.
  5. More and more cities are using data to improve the quality and impacts of programs. Read our Data in Afterschool Blog Series to learn more about how your city can use data.

We invite all cities to join the National League of Cities Afterschool Policy Advisors Network to get up to date information, resources, and tools to strengthen afterschool and summer learning efforts.

Gislene Tasayco AuthorAbout the Author: Gislene Tasayco is the senior associate for NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families Education and Expanded Learning team.