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DPS & Denver Afterschool Alliance Receive Wallace Foundation Planning Grant

Denver Public Schools (DPS) will share a $400,000 grant with the Denver Afterschool Alliance (DAA), which works to build the capacity of afterschool providers by providing them with tools, resources and supports to improve quality and measure outcomes using a data-driven process.

Together, both organizations will devise a plan to help children in Denver develop positive social and emotional skills that are linked to success in school, careers and life. These skills include abilities and traits such as teamwork, persistence, goal setting, self-control and getting along with others.

“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with the Denver Afterschool Alliance as we learn from each other and enhance our focus on social and emotional learning for our students,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “This support from the Wallace Foundation will allow us to propel our Denver Plan 2020 support for the Whole Child goal as we think deeply about how every adult in our schools — whether DPS staff or one of our many afterschool program partners — can support our students in developing the skills they need to be successful while they are students and long after they walk across the graduation stage.”

DPS and DAA are one of nine community-partner pairs nationwide to receive a planning grant. The grants are the first phase in the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning initiative, a new, multi-year effort by The Wallace Foundation. This initiative will help communities better understand how schools and afterschool partners can improve and align experiences to foster children’s’ social and emotional learning.

“Our partnership with Denver Public Schools is deep-rooted and continues to grow and evolve around the shared value and understanding that social emotional health has a significant impact on the future success of our youth, both in school and life,” said Erin Brown, executive director of the Office of Children’s Affairs and co-chair of DAA. “Our collective efforts also allow us to better provide social and emotional learning opportunities in neighborhoods were children are at a cumulative disadvantage. We want to improve the outcomes for all Denver youth in every neighborhood.”

A growing body of research, including the Wallace-commissioned University of Chicago study Foundations for Young Adult Success, has linked social and emotional learning to success in school, careers and life. It is not yet known, however, how school and afterschool experiences can be aligned and delivered in real-world, urban settings to help develop these skills.

“There’s tremendous interest in helping children develop the positive attributes and skills that are associated with well-being in and out of school and many models are being tested,” said Nancy Devine, the director of Learning and Enrichment at The Wallace Foundation. “We’re interested in exploring how an intentional partnership between school districts and organizations that provide programming during out-of-school hours can benefit young students.”

Through the planning grant period, school districts and afterschool intermediaries will collaborate to improve adult practices that support the development of students’ social and emotional skills. Technical assistance and guidance will be provided to each pair of partners from national experts affiliated with the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, the Forum for Youth Investment and the Center for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

DPS and DAA were among 24 school districts with high proportions of disadvantaged students that were invited to apply for the planning grant last spring. The foundation drew candidates from a pool of 145, which were identified by scans and nominations from the field. The initiative builds on the Wallace Foundation’s years of work in youth development, including an effort to encourage citywide coordination for afterschool that yielded more than 40 publications, as well as work with urban school districts. For more information, visit wallacefoundation.org.