Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gap
Rochester Area Community Foundation’s board of directors has approved five grants totaling $465,000 that together comprise a comprehensive approach to improving and evaluating before-school, after-school, expanded learning, and summer enrichment programs for Rochester City School District students.
"National research indicates that significant, sustained participation in out-of-school-time programs contributes to youth success in school and in life. The initiatives supported by these grants will provide the data needed to determine how our strategic investments in youth programs are paying off,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.
These five grants will touch all aspects of after-school and out-of-school-time programs. Collectively, they will provide support and training for staff with an emphasis on quality, measure the interpersonal skills and emotional well-being of participating students, study four agencies’ programs more intensively, review program outcomes including in-school performance, and strengthen the informal committee that locally oversees out-of-school-time programming.
This investment, one of the two largest multi-faceted grant programs in the Foundation’s history, includes:
- A $160,000 grant — $40,000 each to four organizations providing out-of-school-time programming — will be used to conduct a deeper, more intensive review of programs for Rochester City School District students operated by Quad A for Kids, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Community Place, and the YMCA of Greater Rochester. Employees in these test programs will receive additional coaching and training and be connected with outside resources. Program data will be reviewed and compared to student performance in school to see if what is happening before or after school is influencing academic achievement.
- A $140,000 grant to the Greater Rochester After-School Alliance will strengthen this informal volunteer committee of funders, policymakers, researchers, and family and provider representatives who serve as the community's primary out-of-school-time organization by providing a dedicated staff. The group, established in 2001 by the Community Foundation, has benefited from a full-time contract consultant funded by the Ford Foundation since 2012. With a full-time director and part-time support staff, GRASA will now be able to coordinate the system-wide training, coaching and technical assistance that are linchpins of the other four grants, which will measure the success of after-school and out-of-school programs in helping students.
- With a $30,000 grant, GRASA will introduce the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) tool to all out-of-school-time programs to measure the social, emotional well-being and personal skills of their students. Research shows that student performance in reading and in school overall can be explained by their social and emotional competence, which includes responsible decision-making, ability to relate to peers, and social awareness.
- To help ensure that adults work effectively with students in out-of-school-time programs, a $100,000 grant will support implementation of the Youth Program Quality Improvement (YPQI) process to help program staff get the training and coaching they need to improve their own skills as well as the experience for participating youth. This coordinated approach will be supported locally by the Children's Institute and Coordinated Care Services and the national Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.
- A $35,000 grant to the American Institutes for Research will provide an independent, in-depth evaluation of the four programs (listed above) to review student data from the programs and the City School District on social and motional well-being, grade point averages, school attendance, and engagement in school. This will provide insight into whether the programs are helping young people to thrive, be successful, and have the capacity to continue to be effective in the future.
These grants represent the Community Foundation's shift to fewer, larger grants and recalibration of the kinds of projects that will be supported with discretionary funds. The focus of these grants also reflects the Foundation's two broad goals for grantmaking and leadership — create an equitable community and strengthen regional vitality.