[Federal Register: December 2, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 231)]
[Notices]               
[Page 63773-63776]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr02de97-124]


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Part IV


Department of Education

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21st Century Community Learning Centers Program; Notices


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

RIN 1850-ZA01

 
21st Century Community Learning Centers Program

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final priorities.

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SUMMARY: The Secretary announces priorities for the 21st Century 
Community Learning Centers Program, administered by the Office of 
Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). The Secretary may use 
these priorities in fiscal year 1998 and subsequent years. The 
Secretary takes this action to focus Federal assistance on stimulating 
and expanding significant learning programs available to children and 
youth beyond regular school hours. The absolute priority is also 
designed to ensure wide and effective use of program funds to support 
centers that provide expanded learning opportunities for children and 
youth in a safe and drug-free environment, and to engage the support of 
citizens in those efforts. Two competitive priorities concern serving 
early adolescents and middle school students and services related to 
core academic subjects.

DATES: These priorities take effect January 2, 1998.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol J. Mitchell or Amanda Clyburn, 
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and 
Improvement, 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Room 504, Washington, DC 20208-
5644. E-mail addresses are: carol__j.__mitchell@ed.gov or 
amanda__clyburn@ed.gov. Individuals who use a telecommunications device 
for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service 
(FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern time, 
Monday through Friday. Individuals with disabilities may obtain this 
document in alternate formats (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, 
or computer diskette) on request to either contact person listed in the 
preceding paragraph.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 21st Century Community Learning Centers 
Act authorizes the Secretary to award grants to rural and inner-city 
public elementary or secondary schools, or consortia of those schools, 
to enable them to plan, implement, or expand projects that benefit the 
educational, health, social service, cultural and recreational needs of 
a rural or inner-city community.
    A Community Learning Center established in a local public school 
can, among other things, be a stimulating, safe, supervised and cost-
effective after-school, weekend or summer haven for children and 
youth--and their families. As reported in the recent Department of 
Education (ED) publication ``Keeping Schools Open as Community Learning 
Centers: Extending Learning in a Safe, Drug-free Environment Before and 
After School,'' recent research shows that a stimulating environment of 
this type can improve thinking and language performance of 
participating children and youth. Research also indicates that these 
programs reduce crime, delinquency, and victimization of children and 
youth. However, although the number of after-school child care programs 
has grown over the last 20 years, there are still far too few 
communities that offer effective, organized and extended opportunities 
for learning outside the regular school day. Of the 49,000 before- and 
after-school programs available in the United States in 1991, only 
about a third were housed in public schools. And, for in-school and 
out-of-school care programs, only a tiny percent served older children 
and youth. In 1995, there were 23.5 million school-age children with 
parents in the workforce. But as recently as the 1993-94 school year, 
only 3.4 percent of children in public elementary and combined schools 
were enrolled in any of the estimated 18,000 before- or after-school 
programs at public schools. Seventy percent of all public elementary 
and combined schools did not have before- or after-school programs.
    The needs and demands are clear: a 1994 survey of parents found 
that 56 percent think that many parents leave their children alone too 
much after school, and a 1989 survey of school principals found that 84 
percent agreed that there is a need for before- and after-school 
programs. But even though the number of after-school programs is 
growing, the demand is growing faster, as thousands of parents who 
currently care for their children during the day are encouraged to 
enter the workforce.
    After-school programs are well positioned to reduce the incidence 
of drug use and violence and their detrimental effects on learning. 
Research by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that the 
hours between 3 and 6 p.m. are when youth aged 12 to 17 are most at 
risk of committing or of being victims of violent acts. After-school 
programs located at Community Learning Centers will give youth a safe 
and supervised place to go during these hours.
    The absolute priority supports centers that have a goal of 
providing learning opportunities for students in a safe and drug-free 
environment. For example, before- and after-school programs can be a 
place in which tutors provide reading help to younger children or in 
which mentors guide older children to take challenging mathematics and 
science courses that pave the way to college, and help them succeed in 
those courses. However, programs applying for assistance are required 
to carry out at least four of the activities listed in section 10905 of 
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 U.S.C. 8245), and should 
propose an array of inclusive and supervised services that include 
extended learning opportunities (such as enriched instruction, tutoring 
or homework help) but may also include safety and drug-abuse prevention 
programs, recreational, musical and artistic activities; and 
opportunities to use advanced technology, particularly for those 
children who do not have access to computers or telecommunications at 
home. Although the absolute priority requires that children and youth 
be served, applicants may propose projects that also serve and involve 
other members of the community.
    The competitive priorities authorize ED to give a preference to 
applicants that propose to serve the academic needs of participating 
children and youth. These can include services that will assist 
students who need additional support to master reading and literacy 
skills, both by directly providing reading services as well as tutoring 
and mentoring programs in supervised locations. For younger children 
who are not reading as well as they should, Community Learning Centers 
can provide extended time in which to overcome the obstacles that have 
in the past prevented them from becoming good readers. The competitive 
priorities will also encourage schools to develop strategies to address 
the needs of students who can benefit from additional enrichment or 
challenge in mathematics or science, or who are not performing as well 
as they should. Community learning centers can provide extended hours 
for students to learn and review basic concepts they may have missed 
during class, to delve deeper into a more challenging curriculum, or to 
participate in enjoyable hands-on activities and experiments.
    Funding of particular projects depends on the availability of 
funds, the priorities, the quality of the applications received, and 
the requirements in the law for equitable representation nationally and 
within States of rural and inner-city programs. The first cycle of 
awards will be made from fiscal year

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1998 funds. If applications of high quality remain unfunded, additional 
awards may be made in fiscal year 1999 or future fiscal years, pending 
availability of funds. The publication of these priorities does not 
preclude the Secretary from proposing additional priorities, nor does 
it limit the Secretary to funding only these priorities, subject to 
meeting applicable rulemaking requirements.
    On September 30, 1997, the Assistant Secretary published a notice 
of proposed priorities (NPP) for this program in the Federal Register 
(62 FR 51089-51091). There are no differences between the NPP and this 
notice of final priorities.

Analysis of Comments

    In response to the Assistant Secretary's invitation to comment on 
the proposed priorities, eighteen parties representing concerned 
individuals and members of organizations submitted comments. An 
analysis of the comments follows. Major issues are grouped according to 
subject or proposed priority. Minor editorial changes--and comments 
recommending changes the Secretary is not legally authorized to make 
under the applicable statutory authority--are not addressed.

Population to be Served

    Comments: One commenter believed that only ``at-risk'' students 
were to be served by this program and suggested that ED explain more 
clearly that all children are eligible to participate. However, another 
commenter believed two new priorities were needed to ensure that the 
needs are met for (1) students from low-income families and (2) 
students considered ``at-risk.''
    Discussion: The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Act 
authorizes the Secretary to make grants to rural and inner-city public 
elementary and secondary schools, or consortia of those schools. The 
term ``at-risk'' is not mentioned in the legislation or in the proposed 
priorities, but it is implied, by limiting eligibility to ``rural'' or 
``inner-city'' communities, that the program will provide services to 
high-needs neighborhoods. The legislation is also clear that Centers 
must be open to all the members of the community. The Secretary does 
not believe that additional priorities need to be established to assist 
students in either of these categories.
    Changes: None.

Eligible Applicants and Collaboration

    Comments: One commenter believed that only public schools and 
public school systems were eligible to carry out programs under this 
legislation and desired more emphasis on non-traditional service 
providers who are not part of the public school system. Another 
commenter believed that existing community-based organizations that 
have played a leading role in providing after-school programs should be 
made eligible for grants under this program. Another commenter felt 
that priority should be given to projects with a set category of 
community partners and a built-in governance system that allows for 
family and community decision making and involvement in partnership 
with the schools. Several other commenters recommended specific 
language either requiring or giving priority to community collaboration 
projects.
    Discussion: While the authorizing legislation specifically states 
that only rural or inner-city public elementary and secondary schools, 
or consortia of those schools, are eligible to receive a grant under 
this program, it also states that these entities ``should collaborate 
with other public and nonprofit agencies and organizations, local 
businesses, educational entities (such as vocational and adult 
education programs, community colleges, and universities), 
recreational, cultural, and other community and human service entities, 
for the purpose of meeting the needs of, and expanding the 
opportunities available to, the residents of the communities served by 
such schools.'' By statute, applications must include ``a description 
of the collaborative efforts to be undertaken by community-based 
organizations, related public agencies, businesses, or other 
appropriate organizations.'' The notice of proposed priorities stated 
that ``although the proposed absolute priority requires that children 
and youth be served, applicants may propose projects that also serve 
and involve other members of the community.'' For instance, community-
based organizations can, under this statute, provide youth development 
services within the public schools.
    Changes: None.

Proposed Competitive Priority 1: Serving Early Adolescents and 
Middle-School Students

    Comments: One commenter thought this priority's focus would come 
too late for at-risk children between the ages of 7 and 11 and fail to 
block their downward spiral. Another thought that lowering the priority 
age-range to at least fourth grade was necessary for insuring 
continuity between elementary and middle-school. A third commenter felt 
lowering the range to pre-kindergarten to grade 3 would be more 
preferable.
    Discussion: The authorizing statute provides that 21st Century 
Community Learning Centers must be open to all children in inner-city 
and rural neighborhoods where Centers have been established. While the 
program may serve all children, statistics show that children between 
the ages of 12-17 are at-risk of committing or being victims of violent 
acts between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and that available after-
school programs tend to serve younger rather than older children. 
Therefore, the Secretary has given a competitive priority to serving 
the early adolescent population.
    Changes: None.

Proposed Competitive Priority 2: Assisting in Meeting or Exceeding 
State and Local Standards in Core Academic Subjects Such as 
Reading, Mathematics or Science

    Comments: Two commenters thought this priority too narrow in its 
focus on cognitive competencies and should be broadened to include 
social, physical, emotional and moral competencies as well.
    Discussion: The Secretary recognizes the importance of well-rounded 
programs for after-school enrichment. The authorizing legislation 
requires programs to offer a range of services to benefit members of 
the community; these services can include social, physical, nutritional 
and other activities. Because the statute does not specifically require 
activities that focus on academic subjects, the Secretary believes a 
competitive priority is necessary to encourage applications for after-
school programs that will offer enhanced learning opportunities, help 
children reach or exceed State and local academic standards, and 
provide some continuity between the school day and after-school 
activities.
    Changes: None.

Duration of Services

    One commenter encouraged ED to give priority to applications that 
propose year-round programming.
    Discussion: The Secretary believes the quantity and scheduling of 
extended time proposed by an applicant are matters for local decision.
    Changes: None.

Measurable Goals

    Comments: One commenter believed that an application's proposed 
measurable goals and objectives be made a priority for funding. 
However, another commenter urged ED not to hold programs to an 
expectation of

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showing measurable change. The latter commenter noted that ``effecting 
such change requires complex, comprehensive, intense and long term 
interventions.''
    Discussion: Two of the selection criteria that will be used by 
reviewers to rate applications will address the issue of program 
impact. These are (under Quality of Project Services) the ``likely 
impact of the services to be provided by the proposed project on the 
intended recipients of those services,'' and (under Quality of Project 
Evaluation) the ``extent to which the methods of evaluation provide for 
examining the effectiveness of project implementation strategies.'' In 
addition to locally designed evaluations of program effects, the 
Government Performance and Results Act requires ED to develop 
performance indicators for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers 
program at the national level.
    Changes: None.

PRIORITIES

    Absolute Priority: Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3), the Secretary gives 
an absolute preference to applications that meet the absolute priority 
in the next paragraph. The Secretary funds under this competition only 
applications that meet this absolute priority.

Activities to Expand Learning Opportunities

    The Secretary funds only those applications for 21st Century 
Community Learning Centers grants that include, among the array of 
services required and authorized by the statute, activities that offer 
significant expanded learning opportunities for children and youth in 
the community and that contribute to reduced drug use and violence.
    Competitive Priorities: Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i), the Secretary 
gives preference to applications that meet one or both of the two 
competitive priorities in the next two paragraphs. The Secretary awards 
up to five (5) points for each competitive priority addressed in an 
application (for a maximum of 10 points if an application addresses 
both competitive priorities). These points are in addition to the 100 
points an application may earn under the selection criteria which will 
be published in the application package.
    Competitive Priority 1--Projects that propose to serve early 
adolescents and middle-school students.
    Competitive Priority 2--Projects designed to assist students to 
meet or exceed State and local standards in core academic subjects such 
as reading, mathematics or science, as appropriate to the needs of the 
participating children.

    Note: This notice of final priorities does not solicit 
applications. A notice inviting applications under this competition 
is published in a separate notice in this issue of the Federal 
Register.

    Executive Order 12866: This notice of final priorities has been 
reviewed in accordance with Executive Order 12866. Under the terms of 
the order the Secretary has assessed the potential costs and benefits 
of this regulatory action.
    The potential costs associated with the notice of final priorities 
are those resulting from statutory requirements and those determined by 
the Secretary as necessary for administering this program effectively 
and efficiently.
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative 
and qualitative--of this notice of final priorities, the Secretary has 
determined that the benefits of the priorities justify the costs.
    To assist the Department in complying with the specific 
requirements of Executive Order 12866, the Secretary invites comment on 
whether there may be further opportunities to reduce any potential 
costs or increase potential benefits resulting from these final 
priorities without impeding the effective and efficient administration 
of the program.
    Summary of potential costs and benefits: There are no identified 
costs associated with this notice of final priorities. Announcement of 
these priorities will not result in costs to State and local 
governments or to recipients of grant funds.
    Intergovernmental Review: This program is subject to the 
requirements of Executive Order 12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR 
Part 79. The objective of the Executive order is to foster an 
intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened federalism by relying 
on processes developed by State and local governments for coordination 
and review of proposed Federal financial assistance.
    In accordance with the order, this document is intended to provide 
early notification of the Department's specific plans and actions for 
this program. Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in 
an alternate format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in the preceding 
paragraph.

Electronic Access to This Document

    Anyone may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or 
portable document format (pdf) on the World Wide Web at either of the 
following sites:

http://ocfo.ed.gov/fedreg.htm
http://www.ed.gov/news.html

To use the pdf you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader Program with 
Search, which is available free at either of the previous sites. If you 
have questions about using the pdf, call the U.S. Government Printing 
Office toll free at 1-888-293-6498.
    Anyone may also view these documents in text copy only on an 
electronic bulletin board of the Department. Telephone: (202) 219-1511 
or, toll free, 1-800-222-4922. The documents are located under Option 
G--Files/Announcements, Bulletins and Press Releases.

    Note: The official version of a document is the document 
published in the Federal Register.

    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 8241-8247.

    Dated: November 25, 1997.
Ricky T. Takai,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and Improvement.
(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.287, 21st Century 
Community Learning Centers Program)

[FR Doc. 97-31567 Filed 12-1-97; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P