The Arkansas Out of School Network
The Arkansas Out of School Network (AOSN) is one of 38 statewide afterschool networks working to promote an expansion of school-based and school linked afterschool programs serving children and youth ages 5-19. AOSN’s mission is to create safe, healthy and enriching experiences for Arkansas youth during out of school times. The Network was formed in 2005 as a result of a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and fiscal support from key Partners and is a sponsored initiative of Arkansas State University’s Childhood Services. The Network serves as a vehicle to bring together key stakeholders and has an array of partners who have committed staff, resources, and technical assistance to support afterschool programs. AOSN’s work is currently organized into four main categories: Program Quality, Professional Development, Communication and Public Education, and Finance and Resource Development, and Public Education.
· A continuum of supports to meet the developmental needs of children and youth for the first two decades of their lives.
· A positive, asset-based approach to child and youth development.
· Access for all to high-quality developmental opportunities.
· Accountability at the program, community and state levels.
· Advocate for support of Out-of-School time opportunities through a combination of public and private sources.
Recent Key Successes:
· In July of 2009, the announcement of the Innovations Project was distributed through the AOSN list serv, the Arkansas School Boards Association, school administrators, and mayors. An audio conference was held with prospective applicants and a review committee comprised of representatives of the Arkansas Department of Education, the Division of Child Care, 4-H Youth Development, and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families was convened to review the applications. A total of five communities responded within the prescribed time frame. The review committee identified two finalists; Pine Bluff and the Lake Village/Eudora community. Ultimately, the southeast Arkansas community of Lake Village/Eudora was selected. This project represents a collaborative effort among AOSN, the Arkansas School Boards Association, and Phoenix Youth Centers to engage a variety of community stakeholders in a process called Study Circles. The end result will be a comprehensive community action plan to address the need for high quality OST opportunities in that community.
· AOSN staff offered research and policy expertise centered on how to properly utilize the more than $312,000 in general improvement funds appropriated during the 2009 legislative session for after school and summer programs. Members of the AOSN Steering Committee and the AOSN Quality Standards Committee provided expertise and research support to the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education in drafting the guidelines for the General Improvement Fund Pilot RFP. This set the stage for the future use of best practice models to be incorporated into state funding requests for afterschool.
· AOSN members, school superintendents, providers and interested parties participated in multiple conference calls and public forums to discuss how local school districts might make use of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), particularly the $142 million in Title I funds, to expand access to quality after school and summer programs. AOSN played a key role in disseminating information about these events through its network of supporters.
· AOSN staff, as well as, members of the AOSN Quality Committee was actively involved in the ongoing process to develop stand-alone school-age licensing regulations, as well as, providing input to the Division of Child Care into the design of the school-age component of the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) or Better Beginnings. AOSN distributed notices about the public hearings and the call for public comment through its network.
· The Governor’s Task Force on Best Practices outlined a series of recommendations for promoting quality and for improving standards and program evaluation in its report released in August 2008. To keep the momentum toward quality improvement moving forward, the Arkansas Out-of-School Network (AOSN) partnered with the Center for Youth Program Quality (YPQA) to provide training and technical assistance for quality assessment and improvement planning in select after school programs across the state. This YPQA model is closely aligned with the task force recommendations and measures actual on site interventions with youth. This Arkansas YPQA Pilot Project engaged over 40 programs from across the state to complete an evaluation intervention to assess, plan, and improve their quality. AOSN began the planning process with the Arkansas Department of Education to conduct a second round of training with all of the 21CCLC funded programs.
· AOSN released the best practice standards for afterschool programs entitled Arkansas Standards for Quality Afterschool Programs.
· In September of 2009, AOSN participated in the NCSL Annual Youth Policy Institute held in Nashville, Tennessee. Arkansas’s delegations consisted of the AOSN Network Coordinator, two members of the Arkansas House of Representatives, one member of the Arkansas Senate, a Department of Education representative, a representative from the Division of Child Care, and a community based youth program provider. The Arkansas team worked on a state plan to address the most pressing needs of Arkansas youth. A key component of this plan was recognition of the need to expand access to quality afterschool and summer programs. The group designated AOSN as the main point of contact for further work and organizational leadership to engage a broader array of stakeholders in finalizing the Arkansas State Plan.
· A key development was the decision by the Governor to commit an additional $500,000 in Child Care Development Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to build the professional development system and improve the quality of afterschool and summer programs in Arkansas. ASU Childhood Services and partners of AOSN began providing face-to-face trainings that address a wide range of topics aimed at improving point-of- service quality in afterschool programs. AOSN also began work with the Colorado Afterschool Network to develop three online trainings that will address the 40 Developmental Assets.
· In June of 2010, AOSN convened 200 key stakeholders to launch their “Afterschool is Key” public education campaign to communicate the benefits of quality out-of-school-time programs to the general public. The public education campaign will coincide with the convening of a Joint Coordinating Committee on Afterschool and Summer Programs.
For more information on the Arkansas Out-of-School Network (AOSN) contact: Laveta Wills-Hale, Network Coordinator at (501)660-1012 or email@example.com.