Beyond School Bells receives the Ron Raikes Innovation for Opportunity Award

Jeff Cole and the Beyond School Bells network of ELO programs was recently selected as the first recipient of the Ron Raikes Innovation for Opportunity Award.  The award was given at a statewide ARKSARBEN recognition event at the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney on Sunday, August 16.  This award was created in honor of the late State Senator Ron Raikes who served in the Nebraska Unicameral from 1998-2008 and as chairman of the Education Committee for a number of years.  Senator Raikes was known for legislation that featured innovative use of Nebraska resources for creating educational opportunities at all levels, pre-k through college age.  The Raikes Family created the award in Senator Raikes’ honor to recognize individuals or organizations making a difference in closing the opportunity gap between disadvantaged and more advantaged children or youth in Nebraska.

STEM Uncovered Video Competition

Tell the story of STEM in afterschool for a chance to win your program $1000!  The CS Mott and Noyce Foundations are sponsoring this video competition to encourage afterschool and summer programs to document successful STEM stories from across the country.  To compete – put together a three minute video showing the building, exploring, creating and dreaming that is happening every day in your program.  Visit the website for full competition details and rules.  Also, please let Beyond School Bells know if you submit a video so that we can help promote your work in Nebraska!

Showcase your program’s STEM Engagement at the Nebraska State Fair

Are you interested in engaging youth and adults in STEM?  Showing off your organization’s blue ribbon STEM programs to over 300,000 attendees at the Nebraska State Fair?  The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is partnering with the NE State Fair for a new exhibit in the Nebraska building—Grow, Eat, Learn.  The space will provide an engaging environment devoted to informational and hands-on experiences around STEM.  If you are interested, visit this website for more information and to submit your application.

Nebraska Policy Update

Here in Nebraska, Legislators also took up the cause of Expanded Learning Opportunity programs during the just completed 2015 Legislative Session.  LB 519 was signed into law – and included for the first time in Nebraska, a definition of Expanded Learning Opportunity programs (which was based largely on the Nebraska State Board of Education’s 2013 Policy Statement on ELOs) and created a grant program to support these programs in the future.  Funding for these programs is set at 1% of the education funds generated by the State Lottery.   This program will be implemented in the summer of 2016 and the Department is currently determining a process to take advantage of this new funding opportunity.  Keep posted for further updates as this program is developed over the upcoming year.

Federal Policy Update

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the law authorizing education programs, including 21st CCLC, Supplemental Education Services (SES) and other initiatives that support afterschool programs.  ESEA, formerly No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is currently in the process of being reauthorized by Congress, meaning that the goals and suggested funding levels of these efforts are being reviewed for changes.  The Afterschool Alliance has developed recommendations for changes in the law to better support afterschool programs.  Read about the ESEA reauthorization process and the recommendations.

The Senate could take up the Every Child Achieves Act (the bipartisan ESEA/NCLB reauthorization bill) as soon as the week of June 15th. Language in Title IV of the bill strengthening the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was added as an amendment that passed unanimously during mark-up of the bill in Committee in mid-April. The House could bring their version of ESEA reauthorization, the Student Success Act (HR 5), back to the House floor for a vote during June or July. Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill would eliminate 21st CCLC.

Also, the FY2016 appropriations process will continue, potentially including a vote at the Appropriations subcommittee level for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education spending bill which would set funding levels for 21st CCLC and the Child Care Development Block Grant.

LOOKING AHEAD: Lights on Afterschool is October 22nd, 2015

SAVE THE DATE!  Now is the time to start thinking about your Lights On Afterschool celebration!  LOAS is the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities. The effort has become a hallmark of the afterschool movement and generates media coverage across the country each year – and more and more NE communities are hosting LOAS events each year.  The events send a powerful message that Nebraska youth need quality afterschool programs.  Visit the LOAS webpage at the Afterschool Alliance to start thinking about your program’s event.

Summer Learning

In conjunction with Summer Learning Day on June 11th, the Afterschool Alliance released infographics and fact sheets related to parent attitudes towards summer learning that was collected through the America After 3PM survey.  Summer learning programs play a critical role during the summer months to inspire learning, provide academically enriching activities, keep kids safe and healthy, and support working families.

Unfortunately in Nebraska, only 19% of families say at least one child attended a summer program in 2013—one of the lowest rates in the nation.  However, the demand for summer programs far exceeds the current rate of participation, with 42% of Nebraska families reporting that they would like their children to participate in these important learning programs. 

Support for additional summer learning programs is vital to give more Nebraska children the opportunity to take part in fun and engaging activities; find new interests like cooking and robotics; explore their community’s libraries, museums and parks; receive nutritious summer meals; and curb summer learning loss.  And Nebraska parents agree, with 84% supporting public funding for summer learning programs.

Visit the Beyond School Bells website for links to these infographics and data sheets.  Also, view the interactive national map that examines participation rates, demand for summer learning programs and support for public funding of summer learning programs in each state.

Stop the Summer Slide!

Research shows that math and reading skills deteriorate for all youth during the summer months.  This “summer slide” is more pronounced for low income youth, who may lack access to informal learning experiences available during summer.  The summer learning opportunity gap is cumulative, with the predictable annual setbacks in student learning making it even harder for low income youth to keep pace with their classmates as they move from elementary to middle school. By the time youth reach the 6th grade, research shows that there is an average learning opportunity gap of 1,080 hours between low income youth and upper and middle class youth, due solely from different summer learning experiences.

Access to high quality summer learning opportunities can help prevent the summer slide.  Youth from Nebraska’s low-income families need these important learning opportunities – school-based programs, camps, center or library based programs – which vary from community to community.  While many programs across the state already provide important summer programs, we know more Nebraska youth need access to learning opportunities during these critical months. The National Summer Learning Association serves as a clearing house for information about Summer Learning programs.   We encourage you to visit this site and talk to other leaders in your community about developing or expanding high quality summer learning experiences – especially for youth from our most challenging educational environments.

STEM Uncovered: Telling Our Afterschool Stories National video competition

Afterschool programs across Nebraska are providing youth with hands on, engaging Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming that allows them to explore their passions.  Youth need to tell these inspiring stories.

And now they have the opportunity to do so.  Youth in afterschool and summer learning programs are invited to create a short (three-minute) video telling how they are becoming the next generation of STEM professionals through engaging, inspiring, hands-on learning taking place in afterschool and summer programs across Nebraska.

These are the two deadlines for this competition:

  • June 15 – School-year afterschool program deadline
  • August 1 – Summer program deadline

Prizes: Six winning videos (three school-year / three summer) will receive recognition at a national STEM Summit and $1,000.

Visit for more information about the competition and for video guidelines.

This program is made possible by our national partners the C.S. Mott Foundation and Noyce Foundations.

Legislative Watch: Expanded Learning Legislation Moves Forward

In April, the Nebraska Legislature gave unanimous first round approval to Legislative Bill 519 which for the first time would define expanded learning opportunity programs (p. 35-38) in Nebraska and authorize a grant program to fund future activities in this area.

This proposed legislation, which is part of a larger package of programs that use the education funds generated by the sale of lottery tickets, would also provide the first ever state level funding to support afterschool and summer programs.  While there are two more votes, and a Governor’s signature, remaining before this bill becomes law (and funding wouldn’t be available until 2016), the prospects for passage look good, especially after it made it out of the first round without any opposing votes.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislator to show your support for this bill and we will update you on the progress of LB 519 as it makes its way through the Legislature.