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21st Century Community Learning Centers (IV-B)

Purpose

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program provides services, during non-school hours or periods, to students and their families for academic enrichment, including tutorial and other services to help students, particularly those who attend low-performing schools, to meet state and local student academic achievement standards.

The Census Bureau has estimated that in 1995, 6.9 million children ages 5 to 14 were in self-care for an average of six hours a week. Self-care was more common for older children, but because rates of juvenile delinquency are highest in the hours after school and substance abuse and other undesirable behaviors often occur after school, after-school programs can provide adult-supervised, constructive activities for older and younger children. After-school programs also provide additional opportunities for targeted instruction and academic enrichment to support current efforts to close the achievement gap between racial or ethnic groups and between male and female students.

WHAT'S NEW--The No Child Left Behind Act

Focuses on What Works

  • Focuses services on promoting students' academic achievement after school. Academic services to assist students in meeting state and local academic achievement standards in core academic subjects are highlighted, although other activities are allowed under the law.
  • Requires programs to meet principles of effectiveness. A program must be based on an objective assessment of the need for before- and after-school programs (including summer school programs) and activities in schools and communities; an established set of performance measures aimed at ensuring quality academic enrichment opportunities; and, if appropriate, scientifically based research that provides evidence that the program will help students meet state and local academic achievement standards.

Reduces Bureaucracy and Increases Flexibility

  • Transfers program administration from the national level to the state level. Program administration is being changed from a federal discretionary grant program to school districts to a federal formula grant program (based on Title I) to the states, which then competitively award funds to eligible entities through a discretionary grant program.
  • Extends the duration of grant awards and allows states to require a local match. In the past, grants have been for three years. States now can make awards from three to five years, and may require local entities to match funds.

Increases Accountability for Student Performance

  • Requires a comprehensive evaluation of the program and activities either directly or through a grant or contract. States are required to describe the performance indicators and performance measures that they will use to periodically evaluate and monitor local programs and to disseminate the results of these evaluations to the public.

Empowers Parents

  • Designates more entities as eligible to meet parents' needs. The requirement of exclusive eligibility for public schools is lifted so that school districts, community- and faith-based organizations, local governments, and other public or private entities are eligible to become grantees.

Closes the Achievement Gap for Disadvantaged Students

  • Targets services for students in schools eligible for Title I school wide projects or schools that serve a high percentage of students from low-income families. A funding priority has been established for projects that serve students in schools in need of improvement and that are submitted jointly by at least one district and one community-based organization

How It Works

The new 21st Century program is a state-administered discretionary grant program in which states hold a competition to fund academically focused after-school programs .While the focus is on improving students' academic achievement, other activities associated with youth development, recreation, the arts, and drug prevention, as well as literacy services for parents, are permitted. In addition to districts, community- and faith based organizations, and government entities, as well as other public or private entities, may apply for these funds individually or jointly with school districts.

Key Requirements

State education agencies (SEAs) must submit an application for funding to the U.S. Department of Education that includes a plan for how they will run their competition, how they will select grantees, and how they will provide training and technical assistance. In addition, they must describe how grantees will be monitored and evaluated. They also must undertake these congressionally specified activities:

  • Ensure that awards serve students who primarily attend schools eligible for school wide programs under Section 1114 of ESEA or schools that serve a high percentage of students from low-income families and their families.
  • Ensure that funded community learning centers will be sustained after the grant period.
  • Ensure that the transportation needs of participating students will be addressed.
  • Ensure that children's needs are met by involving a wide array of groups in the application process, including appropriate state officials (e.g., the chief state school officer, officials of other state agencies administering before- and after-school programs, and the heads of the state health and mental health agencies or their designees) and representatives of teachers, parents, students, the business community, and community-based organizations.

How It Achieves Quality

Congress required programs to be based upon:

  • An assessment of objective data regarding the need for before- and after-school programs (including summer school programs) and activities in schools and communities;
  • An established set of performance measures aimed at ensuring quality academic enrichment opportunities; and
  • If appropriate, scientifically based research that provides evidence that the activities will help students meet state and local academic achievement standards.

How Performance Is Measured

States will be required to report on progress in meeting state and local academic achievement standards in reading and mathematics for regular participants in a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Key Activities For The State Education Agencies

State education agencies must:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and activities of 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
  • Create and implement program planning and monitoring guidelines for grantees (e.g., allowable activities, program priorities, Principles of Effectiveness, community involvement, reporting requirements, etc.).
  • Establish performance indicators.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007