What should a 21st Century learning system look like?
This question prompted the creation of Boston Learns Together, a call to action for creating new opportunities for learning beyond school. To date, 65 leaders have embraced this statement of principles for “whole child” learning, committing their organizations to implement this agenda with the next mayor and superintendent.
How and where young people spend their time outside of school influences how they will perform in school. It also affects their prospects for success throughout life. Experiences in rich learning environments beyond school build the background knowledge that is essential for academic success. Just as important, the time spent in engaging programs after school and during the summer can improve skills such as creativity and collaboration, which are critical to success not only in school, but also throughout life.
The unusually broad coalition represented in Boston Learns Together is a strong step in creating even more and better learning opportunities for Boston’s young people. The next mayor will be uniquely positioned to call on this coalition and others to ensure that all children have meaningful learning experiences beyond school. Similarly, the next superintendent will be charged not only with deploying the resources of Boston’s schools, but also coordinating a complementary set of the resources from organizations across the city that are ready to play their part in helping to close the opportunity gap.
This work is well underway, and Boston should be proud of where it stands. Under Mayor Menino’s leadership, Boston appears to have bucked national trends. With more than 2,000 programs offered by some 700 organizations, half of BPS students are estimated to participate in an after-school program. This rate contrasts with national census data from 2009 which shows that the participation of children ages 6 to 11 in clubs, lessons, and sports ranges from just 20% for those below the poverty level to about 40% for those children at 200% or more of the poverty level.
We at Boston After School & Beyond look forward to working with a wide variety of organizations to make Boston Learns Together a reality. We are especially excited about the work to coordinate after-school and extended day partnerships in the K-8 grades, new efforts underway to extend the classroom to the community for teenagers, and the cutting edge partnerships in summer learning that have students and teachers making use of some of Boston’s most attractive natural and cultural assets.
This blog was originially created for Boston Ed Blog by Chris Smith, E.D. of Boston After School & Beyond.