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Ready News: January 3, 2013

Ready News
January 3, 2013

Great Stories and Resources from 2012

2013 promises to be an exciting year for those of us working together to get all young people ready by 21. As we launch into the new year, let's look back at some accomplishments and lessons from 2012 - through some selected stories, reports, blogs and events designed to help you change the odds for children and youth.

Focus on Afterschool Quality Ignites a Youth Assets Movement
Things just aren't the same anymore for kids in afterschool programs around Buncombe County, N.C., where providers have embraced a movement to build the developmental assets that young people need for success. Staffers now enlist youth in choosing and designing activities, and go through training on such things as small group activities and helping kids manage frustration. The kids are trying new things: from designing jewelry and campaigning for a new basketball court to creating skits about bullying and building a greenhouse.

It's all part of a commitment to a continuous improvement model, through which program directors "are seeing an impact on their projects," says Gina Gallo of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. This case study explores the changes.

Engaging Youth for Community Change
Leaders all over the country see the importance of engaging young people in community change, but they're not sure how to do it well. Nashville, Tenn., knows how - and a new case study tells the story.

Nashville created a Child and Youth Master Plan that isn't just about young people - it reflects the ideas of young people. The city's youth were brought in from the start to frame, build and implement the plan, which serves as a blueprint for revamping youth services and supports throughout the region.

This four-page case study examines the role played by youth, from serving on task forces and facilitating meetings to crunching data and producing recommendations.  

Leaders Give Kids New WINGS
Kids in one of Atlanta's neediest neighborhoods are getting robust afterschool programs because two executives met more than 500 miles from home - and a group of leaders turned that chance meeting into action.

One of those executives runs WINGS, an afterschool program looking to expand beyond its home base of Charleston, S.C. The other co-chairs Atlanta's Ready by 21 Leadership Council, which is working to improve youth services in high-need neighborhoods. Now WINGS is coming to 200 youths in one of those neighborhoods. This short story shows how a strong leadership group can make changes happen quickly.

Changing Policies can Boost Student Health and Success
While boosting college access and success can seem complicated and expensive, officials in one state have found that some solutions are relatively simple: like, help students eat better.

Expanding access to government-funded food programs appears to be on the fast track after Maryland leaders gathered to discuss that and other policy recommendations for helping more young people get to college and succeed. This short story explains how policy scans work and provides links to the recommendations.

Cycle of Assessments and Improvements Boosts Afterschool Quality
Afterschool programs get better the more they assess themselves and make changes based on those assessments, a new study finds. The study, Continuous Quality Improvement in Afterschool Settings: Impact Findings from the Youth Program Quality Intervention, found that a cycle of assessing staff practices, planning based on the assessment and targeted training improves the quality of services delivered to young people. Read a summary of the study here.

New Guide Helps to Improve Afterschool Quality 
Efforts to improve afterschool quality got a boost with a first-of-its kind guide to help cities and communities strengthen and sustain quality in afterschool programs.  

Building Citywide Systems for Quality: A Guide and Case Studies for Afterschool Leaders, is a how-to guide from the Forum  to support the development of quality improvement systems (QIS) in afterschool settings. Commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, the guide is based on decades of social science research on child development, teaching and learning, and organizational management, as well as the Forum's experience working with over 70 afterschool efforts around the country. It draws heavily on initiatives in six communities to build systems to improve the quality of afterschool programming, and offers case studies of each. Learn more about the guide here.

Afterschool Programs Can Find a Place in the 'Common Core'
The expansion of the Common Core State Standards in education opens new doors for out-of-school time (OST) providers to align their work with schools.

So says this new issue brief from the Forum, The Common Core Standards: What do They Mean for Out-of-School Time? As schools and teachers prepare for the rollout of the standards over the next several years, OST programs are trying to determine what exactly the standards cover and where they fit in implementation.

The report says the standards give the OST field a window to assert itself as a necessary part of children's development and education, with the goal of complementing, supporting and expanding (but not replicating) the core work of schools. The brief describes the Common Core standards, shares examples of OST programs and systems responding to the standards, and recommends ways for how the OST field can think about alignment opportunities.    

New Policies Should Align with Existing Goals and Plans for Children and Youth
To have a collective impact on child and youth outcomes, leaders must develop and implement a broad, long-term child and youth strategy, and be accountable for results. This can be a challenge. Policies often require the creation of strategic plans that are organized around a single, narrow topic. Instead of working toward collective impact, policy leaders end up generating separate sets of goals and plans, which fragment their efforts. This guide provides a set of strategies and recommendations to ensure that new child and youth policies align with existing efforts in order to create a seamless system of supports. 

Collective Impact and Opportunity Youth: Movements at the Crossroads
The past few years have brought a renewal and reframing of two powerful American ideas: collective action and individual success. And now these ideas are coming together at the intersection of "collective impact" and "opportunity youth." Rarely do we have such a chance to combine concepts that could fundamentally change how decision makers think about policy, practice and human potential.

Read Karen Pittman's blog about how leaders can make these ideas work together.

Why a Ready by 21 Team Jumped for Leap of Reason  
"About a year ago," writes Brad Bryant, co-chair of Atlanta's Ready by 21 Leadership Council, "I was invited to Washington to hear someone discuss his book about how leaders can work together better to achieve community change. I expected to be enlightened; I didn't expect to come home with copies of a book that so reinforced our collective impact work that it became almost required reading for our Ready by 21 team in Atlanta.

"Mario Marino's Leap of Reason spoke directly to our vision and our challenges. You'll soon see why." Read more of this blog.

The Power of One
If we are going to reach people's hearts with stories of how we are changing the odds for young people, Karen Pittman says in this blog, we must harness the power of one: Not only the story of one youth or one family, but also of one school system, one neighborhood, one coalition, one community. And we must tell stories that start with an individual young person but unfold to reveal our complex agenda for change.

Webinar about Performance Partnership Pilots on Disconnected Youth
What does a new federal proposal to align policies for disconnected youth mean for practitioners and policymakers?

Some 800 leaders from around the country joined a Forum webinar on June 27 to find out.  Kathy Stack of the White House Office of Management and Budget shared information about Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth - a provision in President Obama's 2013 budget proposal to allow selected states and communities to use money from different federal funding streams to pilot innovative approaches. The purpose: Work across department lines to improve outcomes for disconnected youth. Much of the webinar was dedicated to Q and A, with questions coming in via Twitter and a live chat. Hear the recording and see the presentations here.
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