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Studies have shown that well-designed summer programs that concentrate on broadening learning opportunities can offer significant advantages in math, reading, and social-emotional development, particularly for struggling youth. To guarantee that these programs are executed smoothly, it is essential to plan early and comprehensively. Success relies on having a clear vision, understanding the interests and developmental needs of the young people being served, committing to high-quality programming, assembling a team of skilled instructors and staff, and establishing a positive climate and culture that promotes learning and growth.

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In 2021, BellXcel commissioned the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI) to study the potential effects of its partnership model on its partners’ internal systems (for example, practices, policies, operations) and external community ecosystems (relationships, power dynamics, funding). While this exploratory study was on a small qualitative scale, the ultimate goal is to develop a multi-year research strategy to understand and capture the impact and influence BellXcel has on its partners. This longerterm study will include developing a robust logic model and rigorous measurement strategies.

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It Takes an Ecosystem, Understanding the People, Places, and Possibilities of Learning and Development Across Settings is the sixth book of the series, Current Issues in Out-of-School Time. The book explores the benefits of developing connections across the systems in which adults engage with young people. This book guides the reader through research and examples of initiatives that demonstrate the positive and negative ways that interactions with all adults in the lives of young people shape their learning and development. This book provides evidence as to why this shift in thinking about the learning and development landscape to an ecosystem perspective envisions a more connected and equitable world. SCRI spoke with the book’s editors, Thomas Akiva and Kimberly H. Robinson.

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In the fall of 2018, Sperling Center for Research & Innovation (SCRI) and Kamehameha Schools (KS) launched a collaborative partnership to support the capacity building and continuous improvement of local youth-serving organizations in Hawaii. Through strategic coaching, SCRI has supported four overlapping cohorts of programs (17 total) to set and achieve goals for their organization and strengthen the connection between KS community partners/intermediaries and the education and workforce systems they aspire to influence. After years of coaching, participating organizations report being more focused, sustainable, and effective.

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Teachers are experiencing more burnout and job dissatisfaction than ever before, and many are leaving the profession entirely. This is causing challenges for many out-of-school time (OST) providers when hiring staff for their programs. By planning in advance, OST providers can help alleviate stressors that educators have experienced over the past two years and attract new talent for their programs. To help OST providers implement evidence-based best practices when planning for hiring and retaining OST program staff, SCRI developed the Staff Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention Guide. This toolkit includes guidance, tip sheets, planning tools, and sample language for successful OST-program staffing.

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SCRI analyzed staff survey responses from the BellXcel 2021 Summer program and identified key strategies and recommendations for finding and retaining high quality staff: stressing the importance of strong relationships and collaboration, promoting a positive teaching environment and culture, ensuring flexibility and autonomy for staff, providing supportive leadership, prioritizing the opportunity for personal and professional growth, and having materials and resources readily available and accessible.

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