In an earlier post entitled, Expanded Learning Leaders Look to 2017, we shared the views of national expanded learning leaders regarding the upcoming trends and challenges facing the field. We wanted to get the thoughts on expanded learning leaders in California who work closer to the ground who run or oversee youth programs. Below are some of their responses to our questions.
EMERGING TRENDS IN EXPANDED LEARNING PROGRAMS
|Frank Escobar, Program Manager|
Visalia Unified School District
John Fuentes: Emerging trends in expanded learning programs include safety around immigrations rights for students, families and staff; more literacy support for 9th graders; and intentionally working closely with school admin to design programs using the school performance framework (SPF) data.
|Selena Levy, Program Manager|
MOST SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE FACING THE FIELD OF EXPANDED LEARNING
Frank Escobar: Connected to the obvious budget issue is the aspect of quality staffing. This is multi-layered in impact on quality. Whether its budget to hire and retain quality staff or budget to “train” low-mid quality staff or budget to pay for subs with the high absenteeism rates across programs. Some organizations are better suited to support absences and vacancies and others are left to 1-30 and 40 ratios at times because they don’t have any other options. In many cases, Site Leads are having to directly supervise students during program just to cover for absences and vacancies which is a recipe for poor program quality and outcomes. I am aware of districts that are managing these scenarios regularly and constantly in “survival mode” rather than “thrivival mode” which is what we are hoping for all programs.
This is obviously a direct impact on “quality” and programs’ abilities to pursue goals and aspirations. In many cases, sites may be fully staffed but with mid to low quality staff (little experience, no training, lack of passion for educating kids) and little to no professional development opportunity due to budget restraints. My programs are an example of that. I’ve had to fly positions 2 and 3 times to access a pool of 2 to 3 applicants for our positions whom have no experience, no training and are not considering education as a career but would prefer to work after school vs. fast-food. We then have no funds to provide training and it all falls on our Site Leads to coach and support while managing the day-to-day. It’s a daily struggle, which then wears and tears on people over time, particularly those who are not overly passionate (like myself) about this work.
|John Fuentes, Program Manager|
Bay Area Community Resources
Selena Levy: The most significant challenge facing the field right now is both funding for programs to stay open and continue to serve the young people in their programs as well as the challenge of supporting staff who work in the expanded learning programs. Staff are coming to program each day with their own pain and trauma in this political climate and need to be supported as well. Expanded learning programs need to continue to invest in their staff and help them strengthen their own competencies around social-emotional learning and character development to ensure they can continue to support the young people they serve every day.