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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 28, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 19
Out-of-School-Time Graduate Program Aims to Develop Leaders

Baltimore City youth enjoy enrichment activities at an area farm and petting zoo.
Photo by Matthew D'Agostino

By Jeanne Johnson
Center for Summer Learning

Out-of-school-time learning isn't what it used to be. What once was viewed as not much more than after-school child care has evolved into a profession that is challenged to engage kids in innovative ways, both after school and during the summertime.

"It has to be relevant or kids, particularly high school kids, won't come," said Marty Cifrese, Bridges Program manager for the Howard County (Md.) Public Schools.

Cifrese is among 17 people from a variety of backgrounds who were on the Homewood campus Jan. 17 and 18 to kick-start the Johns Hopkins School of Education's new graduate certificate program in Out-of-School-Time Learning Management. Students included managers who run frontline programs, grant administrators and others involved in out-of-school-time learning, from four states and Washington, D.C.

The mostly online program aims to develop leaders to run high-quality out-of-school programs at a time when the field is gaining in prominence.

"This is an exciting time for both after-school and summer learning," said Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at the School of Education, which created and runs the program. Perceptions of after-school learning have changed, Fairchild said, from simply providing safe child care to delivering programs that are more accountable for producing results in terms of developmental and academic outcomes for young people.

"With the growing awareness about the challenges that young people face in the global economy, there is a critical need for leaders in the out-of-school-time field to develop new strategies and techniques to help young people succeed," Fairchild said.

During an intensive, two-day, on-campus program, the participants got their first classroom immersion into the field. They discussed how to overcome challenges and became familiar with the latest research related to after-school and summer learning, including the finding that two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. They also learned about recent research that examined successful programs and found that those with the most impact didn't always rely on traditional teaching techniques.

"We often think that after-school and summer programs need to look like punitive tutoring and intensive academic remediation in order for those programs to be effective and produce results," Fairchild said. "It's important to understand that [that] isn't what most parents and children want from our programs. In order to close income-based achievement gaps, we need to support programs for young people in high-poverty communities that provide access to the arts, music, sports and other types of enrichment that more affluent young people participate in routinely."

As examples, students cited programs that involve project-based learning that is deeply rooted in what interests young people. Schools in Baltimore City, for example, offer video game design, Microsoft certification and music production. And a school in Kentucky had an enthusiastic response to a class called Making Your Own Guitar, which involved reading, history, math, measuring and problem solving.

"There's been a remarkable change in out-of-school-time learning, which in many ways is beginning to push the boundaries of the traditional school calendar that has constrained our thinking about what constitutes teaching and learning for too long," Fairchild said. "The people in this room will continue to drive that change over the next 20 years and will help reshape what types of teaching and learning experiences all young people should have access to throughout the day and year."

The class is mostly online but requires three face-to-face meetings and attendance at the center's Summer Changes Everything conference April 17 and 18 in Albuquerque, N.M.

The certificate can be combined with another School of Education graduate certificate to earn a master's degree in education.


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