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Sara Tenney-Espinosa, of the Seattle School District, describes the evaluation goals and early findings from a collaboration between the district and local after school providers.

In the spring of 2001, the Seattle School District invited 31 teams of schools and after school providers to participate in the first phase of its Community Alignment Initiative. Alignment is a framework that guides the way schools, school-based after school programs, families, and communities work collectively to support children's academic pursuits. Initiative partners engage in alignment by jointly coordinating program planning, curriculum, and training. This collaboration better connects after school activities with learning standards and facilitates the integration of the after school program into the school community. In aligning these various spheres, the district hopes to ensure that schools and after school activities together support, in a holistic sense, the developmental needs of children and youth.

Each school–after-school provider team completed an alignment partnership plan that specified how these partners intended to work together to support children's learning. The plans were then reviewed by a multidisciplinary advisory committee. Plans that were approved entitled the after school provider to receive a rent-free lease agreement with the district for program space, with continuation pending demonstration of alignment per an annual evaluation. Currently, all 80 school-based after school programs in the Seattle School District are engaged in alignment. Programs include licensed school-age child care providers, community learning centers, and school-based programs administered by Seattle Parks and Recreation. Programs will develop plans for implementing the initiative in fall 2005.

Expectations for Alignment and Indicators of Success
The Community Alignment Initiative framework is driven by a set of overarching outcome goals, which are linked to related partnership practices and principles, and are measured by specific indicators. The initiative's annual evaluation plan evaluates the following three primary outcome goals: (a) increased success in school, (b) increased developmental assets/protective factors in children's lives, and (c) greater support for children's growth and learning through increased collaboration and communication between the school and after school provider. By focusing on these objectives, the district is better able to articulate the positive impact of alignment for students, schools, and communities, as well as focus on approaches that research suggests significantly contribute to the success of our children.

Core Outputs of Alignment to Date

•Eighty school-based after school providers currently engaged in alignment
• Close to 10,000 children and youth served annually by aligned after school programs
• Over 125,000 hours of additional standards-based instructional time provided each year in the after school hours—often to those children and youth at greatest risk of academic failure
• Over 500 after school program staff and Seattle School District staff trained in how to support learning after school

Early Evaluation Findings
After partial implementation of the Community Alignment Initiative in the spring of 2004,¹ initial findings suggested that, among other positive outcomes, children served regularly by aligned after school programs have increased rates of completing and turning in homework, as well as improved reading and math skills, as measured by school-day teacher surveys, test scores, and grades. In addition, attendance for participating students is greater than that of the general school population. Furthermore, an analysis of suspension rates of participating students suggests that these students are less likely than the general school population to be suspended. It is important to note that these results speak to the Community Alignment Initiative as a whole and do not address whether it is the alignment per se that is related to outcomes. Full implementation of the evaluation plan will occur in the spring of 2005.

Since its inception, the Community Alignment Initiative has served over 20,000 parents and families by providing children with high quality, aligned after school care. A sampling of those served documents parents' perceptions that the after school programs contributed to their children's improvement in reading and math, as well as to an increase in their children's social skills.

Since the quality of the school–after-school provider partnership is critical for successful alignment, we have also attempted to capture information about these parties' level of satisfaction. A sampling of participating schools and their after school partners indicates increased satisfaction with the way teams address key partnership issues, for example, shared use of space, custodial services, staff and volunteers, and materials and supplies. The sampling also indicates increased awareness on the part of the after school program of the learning needs of participating students.

¹ For a copy of the full 2003–2004 Community Alignment Initiative evaluation report or to find out more about school–after-school partnerships in Seattle, contact the author.

Sara Tenney-Espinosa
Office for Community Learning
Seattle School District
Mail Stop 33-160
P.O. Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165
Tel: 206-252-0990

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