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October 22, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

After School Education

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence is proposing quality standards for out-of-school-time programs. The standards, “School’s Out, Make It Count: Arizona Quality Standards for Out-of-School Programs,” were produced in partnership with the Valley of the Sun United Way. They were based on statewide input from out-of-school time providers, educators, families, business leaders and policymakers. Melanie McClintock, executive director of the Center, will discuss the standards.
  • Melanie McClintock - Executive Director, The Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, program, standard,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Arizona Center for After-School Excellence is proposing quality standards for out-of-school-time programs. The standards are based on input from educators, families and business leaders. Melanie McClintock is the executive director of the Arizona Center for After-School Excellence. Good to have you here.

Melanie McClintock: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Out-of-school-time programs. What the heck is that?

Melanie McClintock: That is a new term. Rather than after-school, which has been used for years and refers to the hours of 3 to 6 when after-school programming first came into vogue because mothers were going back to work, we now realize that children are in the classroom only six hours a day, so our question is where are they all those other hours of the day? What kind of programs are either available to them or what kind of programs are they in? So this is before school, after school, weekends, during school breaks, and especially during the long summer vacation.

Ted Simons: Vacations. Indeed. What kind of programs are there out there for them right now?

Melanie McClintock: There are really a wide variety. When we discuss out-of-school-time you're talking about the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, but increasingly you're also talking about more long term daily after-school, out-of-school-time programs run by school districts, by churches, by nonprofits.

Ted Simons: are there quality standards in place now for the programs or are you saying there need to be more or just some to begin with?

Melanie McClintock: In Arizona, our State Department of Health licenses after-school programs but only a fraction of the programs in the state are licensed programs. There are 33 states that have preceded us in quality standards for out-of-school-time programs. Arizona is the 34th.

Ted Simons: What standards are we talking about here?

Melanie McClintock: The state, as you can imagine, is worried about the health and safety of the child, so when they go in to license an after-school program they are looking at is this a safe place for the child to be and for the program to operate. We take our standards much further because we're really looking at the social and emotional foundation of the child and what they need to be able to have secure emotional foundation on which to then learn.

Ted Simons: Give me an example of what they would need to get that foundation.

Melanie McClintock: they need engagement and enrichment. These programs are first of all meant to engage children so they want to be in these programs, and that they are learning but having so much fun learning, when you ask what did you learn today, they go, we just had fun building a rocket.

Ted Simons: They don't realize what they're learning.

Melanie McClintock: That means it's a good program.

Ted Simons: Providers, educators, families, business leaders helping come up with the standards?

Melanie McClintock: Absolutely. Six years ago this effort was made and it was after-school providers trying to come up with the standards. You know that group has not the leverage to move the needle, so when we created this committee a year ago we wanted to have the people who could move the needle that's going to impact the outcomes for children in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Do these programs necessarily coincide with what's happening in the school day or with their school classrooms?

Melanie McClintock: That is a great question. Some do, some do not. But we talk about building a bridge between formal learning that occurs in the classroom and the informal learning that should occur in a quality after-school program.

Ted Simons: give me an example of that bridge.

Melanie McClintock: Major school districts all run after-school programs. In some districts that will go unnamed Johnny belongs to the school up to 3:00. He belongs to that after school program after 3:00, but the teachers don't talk to the after school-providers and vice versa. Honestly, the parents tend to have more interaction with the after-school provider than they do the classroom teacher. Wouldn't it be fabulous if we had the after-school program as another leg on the stool supporting that child?

Ted Simons: Everyone wants to find a measurement for that leg on all stools and accountability is a big thing now in all aspects of education. Is there a way to quantify, qualify what's going on here?

Melanie McClintock: There is and these standards are the first in a three-step process that we're calling continuous quality improvement. The first was the development and adoption of the standards. The second will be the development and adoption of an assessment tool that programs can use to measure their own strengths and then the third step will be the development of a comprehensive professional development system so that people caring for your child after school will have the core competency they need to impact your child.

Ted Simons: What kind of costs are we talking about here?

Melanie McClintock: Well, as you know these things are operating on a shoestring.

Ted Simons: I do.

Melanie McClintock: We're trying to find a lean and mean way to do it because we know there's not a lot of money to pay for it. That's another reason why to reach out to the business community. If these programs can actually help prepare the children to graduate from school and enter the work force, then we see them as work force readiness programs and shouldn't the business community be helping us fund them so that they are then getting the caliber of new employees that they so desperately need?

Ted Simons: You're reaching out to the business community. Is the business community reaching back?

Melanie McClintock: Where they have the most interest is people are recognizing quality after-school programs are the perfect venue to introduce children to STEM. STEM is one of the hottest things going.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Melanie McClintock: so why not have children build rockets, design bridges, play with robots, and that does take a little more in resources, so why shouldn't businesses be contributing to help us do that with the children after school?

Ted Simons: Last question. What kind of response are you getting from educators, from the business and education community?

Melanie McClintock: Probably much -- very favorable from the education community. Teachers are asked to do the impossible with six hours a day, 180 days a year. So principals and superintendents are reaching out to us and saying, how does this after school thing work and how can we make it work? We just have to convince them this shouldn't look like the classroom. This should be hands-on, experiential learning where children are applying the concepts they learn in the classroom. Businesses are not yet as enthusiastic but we're sure when they hear the message and see firsthand the results they will get more enthusiastic.

Ted Simons: All right, school's out. Make it count. Sounds encouraging. Good to have you here.

Melanie McClintock: Thank you.

CPS Oversight Committee

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  • A committee that is looking at ways to improve Child Protective Services met for the first time last week, more than a year after it was created. Lawmakers failed to appoint members to the committee in time to send a report to the Governor, but a bill this year resurrected the committee. Committee Co-chair Nancy Barto will discuss the group and talk about its goals.
  • Nancy Barto - Co-chair, CPS Oversight Committee
Category: Community   |   Keywords: CPS, committee, children,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A committee looking at ways to improve Child Protective Services met for the first time last week, more than a year after the committee was created. Joining us is committee co-chair state Senator Nancy Barto. Good to have you here, thank you so much for joining us. Why did it take so long to get this committee up and in operation?

Nancy Barto: Lots of people have been asking that. We have been anxious to address the issues going on with CPS as well, but the idea was that since the governor's task force on CPS ended last year, most of the reforms that were meant to address the issues weren't even implemented yet. So we felt it was important to wait until some of those things were in place and then have a true oversight committee over the way those things were being implemented and the money spent.

Ted Simons: We have new members, new duties and a new deadline. When is that?

Nancy Barto: The first report isn't due out for more than another year from today. December 2014. So we have time to really dig in. We do have some important new members on the committee that will really help us do, I think, the yeoman's work that needs to be done with this oversight committee charge.

Ted Simons: What is the work that needs to be done?

Nancy Barto: Basically, we are looking at two big issues. Why are so many children being harmed in Arizona, and what is the response to that? What is the state response to that? How are they doing it? How well are they doing it? Or are they making it worse? So the charge of the committee is to evaluate the changes that are being implemented and making sure that all of those issues that have been brought up to legislators that have been advertised in the public, that true accountability is being implemented at the agency so kids are not doubly abused when they are in state care.

Ted Simons: Is there is accountability as it stands now?

Nancy Barto: Well, that's an open question. We -- the first meeting obviously was more like an oversight -- not an oversight, the committee is called an oversight committee, it was more of an overview of how CPS works. There were a lot of unanswered questions in that committee hearing.

Ted Simons: Too many for you?

Nancy Barto: Lots of frustrated committee members. We will need to dig a lot deeper to get the answers that we need in regards to both accountability and how the agency is using both their funding and their processes efficiently.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it there are about 10,000 or so inactive cases backlogged at CPS. First of all, does that number ring true, and secondly, why so many? What are you hearing?

Nancy Barto: Yes. That is true. And you have to ask questions. Is Arizona an outlier? Really it's not a simple answer. One of the facts that came out in the committee hearing last week is that since the governor's task force on CPS was finished, the investigation arm moved in, and because of the public awareness of what was happening in CPS, you can liken it to the public education on the awareness to terrorism. If you see something, say something. The same thing is happening with CPS and the hotline. More calls are coming into the hotline. Most of those calls are serious. A lot of them are serious. Now, we have to find out why so many calls are coming in and, you know, we have to look at that. It may be an outlier, but there may be good reasons for those calls coming in.

Ted Simons: I would imagine you also have to find out why so many of those calls wind up backlogged. From what you've seen so far and heard so far, is CPS properly funded? Is CPS properly equipped?

Nancy Barto: Well, those are all answers we have to find out. We have to know what they are actually doing with the funding that they have been provided. They were given massive amounts of money this past year and they hired 200 extra case managers. We need to know what we're getting for that money. How this new training system is actually working out. Is it effective? What are the outcomes?

Ted Simons: It would seem, though -- the argument can be made that, yes, with hotlines and public awareness you're going to get an increase in cases recorded. Sounds like you're getting those increases. It's a bad thing but not necessarily bad. At least light is being shown on some of these troubling cases, but if the resources are not there to take care of the cases that doubles down the bad, doesn't it?

Nancy Barto: What we need to know is, are kids being kept safe? That is the goal. We want to make sure that we're effectively using the resources that we have given the agency. We need to know not only the plans for those monies but the outcomes. That's an important -- an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.

Ted Simons: What about foster care? The increase in foster care in Arizona seems much higher than in other states. First of all, is that true, secondly, what do you hear as for why?

Nancy Barto: Foster care is a major part of the issue. We need to understand and hold accountable the agency's relationship with foster parents. How are they doing on that? How are they evaluating the money spent? You know, with their plan is to ask for a 4-E waiver of the great number of federal dollars and to use those in different ways we need to understand what those uses are. For example, current uses for 4-E monies go to the aging out children. We need to know if monies meant for that population are going to be supplanted or if the legislature is going to have to fill in the gap there.

Ted Simons: Indeed. It sounds as though I want to get to case worker turnover in a second, but back to properly funded and such. It sounds like CPS wants another $115 million for 400-some-odd million more workers. I understand the legislature and appropriations and the dynamics therein, but is this the situation where it's so bad, and if it's such a problem that something needs to be done along those lines, I know that Clarence Carter been on the show numerous times saying I'm going to make sure we're spending the money the right way before we ask for more. He's asking for more.

Nancy Barto: We'll be listening for a detailed reason for those extra monies if they are requested. But we do need to have answers about how the money is being spent now. Those are really important questions.

Ted Simons: I know the money spent for this new investigative unit seems like it's turning up interesting information. Do you consider that a success?

Nancy Barto: That remains to be seen. We need to have accountability tools in place to evaluate those things. As yet, I don't think we have gotten the answers to those questions.

Ted Simons: So when the investigative unit says a third of cases are involving kids that had previous contact with CPS, regardless of what happens from here on in, just that information alone raises all sorts of red flags and it's important information to know I would think.

Nancy Barto: And we need to know how many prosecutions are coming out of those investigations as well.

Ted Simons: We mentioned case worker turnover. How big a problem is that?

Nancy Barto: The numbers are not good so far. Even though 200 new case workers have been hired, the turnover rate is still almost the same. It's barely dipped. We need to know why.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing as far as why?

Nancy Barto: Well, we're hearing that the new training is better, but we need to know why so many are still leaving CPS. Why supervisors are still carrying cases rather than supervising. Why supervisors are basically new case managers who have only been on the job 18 months. There are a lot of questions. Why overtime isn't being paid to supplement some of these case managers that are not being paid what they should be being paid when maybe investigators are being paid more. We have a lot of questions as to where the money ought to be prioritized.

Ted Simons: Last question on this. We do thank you for being here tonight, I know your job is to do what I'm doing, ask questions and try to find answers, but is CPS such an unmanageable beast that these questions will be extremely difficult to get the kinds of answers that we're all striving for? I mean -- we have heard and dealt with CPS for so long, can you get a better grip on this agency or is it just the nature of the beast where you can only do so much?

Nancy Barto: You know, I ask myself that question a lot. I have been at the legislature now this will be my eighth session. Every year it seems like we're asking that question. I think there's a couple of answers to that. First, CPS isn't to blame for these children that are dying in some cases. Parents are inflicting this abuse on their children. So the abuse, the initial abuse is not their fault. We're reacting to a systemic cultural problem that's horrific. So you can't just wholesale blame anyone in state government for that. You have to put the blame on who is inflicting the damage on those children. On the other hand, you do have to evaluate how well an agency is responding to such a devastating issue and a problem. And why we can't do it better. I think you just have to keep on asking the relevant questions and pointing out where the failures are happening. When CPS has investigated a case and then months later we find that that child is dead, we need to know that there's accountability for what happened there. The same goes for when a child has been reunified to a family that isn't worthy of having that child back, and that child is harmed again. Somebody needs to be held accountable. Those are the things where I think legislators and the public can demand answers. And should expect them.

Ted Simons: We'll be looking for those answers. Thanks for joining us.

Nancy Barto: Thank you, Ted.

Sustainability: Sunnyslope Community Garden

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  • Community gardens are sprouting up across our state. Community gardens are any piece of land gardened by a group of people, but in one Phoenix neighborhood, the garden is about much more than vegetables. We’ll show you that community gardening effort.
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, gardening, phoenix,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A community garden is by definition any piece of land gardened by a group of people, but in one Phoenix neighborhood the community garden is about much more than plants and vegetables. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Steven Snow take us there.

Christina Estes: It's not on a list of official mountains in the nation's sixth largest city, but what the locals call S Mountain is just as iconic as Camelback and South Mountains.

Stacy Anderson: Sunnyslope has its own feel and movement, so to speak.

Christina Estes: About 8 miles north of Downtown Phoenix, you'll find Sunnyslope nestled in the foothills of the North mountain range.

Dean Howard: It's one of the best trail systems in the country, right on our back door.

Jeremy Vasquez: A couple years back in the New Times, Sunnyslope was on the front cover. It was called Sunnyslope-topia, and they compared it to the Beverly Hills of Phoenix basically.

Christina Estes: But look beyond the million-dollar homes and Sunnyslope residents admit there are some not-so-pretty, even ugly areas.

Jeremy Vasquez: Yes, this park did have a bad reputation throughout the last decade, at least, with the different drugs in the area and gangs in the area. People are afraid to come to the park and use it and to bring their kids here.

Christina Estes: Jeremy Vasquez is working to change the perception of Mountain View park one plant at a time.

Jeremy Vasquez: If everything goes well, if we get the right amount of sun, right amount of water, we should have tomatoes within about a month and a half.

Christina Estes: The Sunnyslope High School graduate had no idea what was coming when he showed up at the Sunnyslope Village Alliance.

Dean Howard: He walks into the SVA offices and said, I want to sign up my business. What do you do? I'm a gardener. Guess what, we're doing a garden here, and it just rolled.

Christina Estes: Thanks to a $66,000 grant, Sunnyslope business owners and residents convinced city leaders to let them transform a portion of the park into a community garden.

Jeremy Vasquez: We have 4 grow beds right now: two larger grow beds and two smaller grow beds. The smaller are typically for the residents, somebody that can't garden at home, they don’t have the space. So they can come out and rent a grow bed for the season or for the year and have their garden out here. Meet new people. Get advice from myself.

Christina Estes: As the garden takes root, the enthusiasm is spreading.

Stacy Anderson: Wow! Congratulations!

Bowler: Thank you.

Stacy Anderson: That was a great spare. Way to go. How is it going?

Christina Estes: Let it Roll Bowl is a couple miles away but general manager Stacy Anderson, who’s part of the group that pushed for the garden, says they are scoring points in Sunnyslope.

Stacy Anderson: I care about the people, the people that support the business, and I see the positive things that are going on within the community. It makes you want to be a part of it. I see it as a place that's going to start growing. Similar to the way Downtown was. Downtown Phoenix was an area that took time for growth, and now it's really evolving.

Christina Estes: The gardener also expects a lot of growth.

Jeremy Vasquez: Basil for your Italian and Asian foods. For dessert there's cinnamon basil, lemon basil. It's very cool to know how many different plants there is, if you know how to grow them and proper nutrition you can make anything possible in your garden.

Christina Estes: In addition to neighbors, Vasquez says Phoenix Police and Fire Departments have expressed interest in having their own garden beds.

Jeremy Vasquez: It brings everybody together. You work together, you learn from each other, from young and old, different races. Everybody can interact with each other and not be afraid to learn something different and meet new people.

Christina Estes: Once a permanent fence is installed they will add more beds, and supporters hope more activity at the park.

Dean Howard: Out of this community garden, what we would like to see is places for people to come meet. We came down one time had of our board meetings behind us at the cabanas there. As we were sitting there, we looked across the way and a guy is painting. He's literally painting the sunset. It was beautiful. He's like I come here every day and I paint. That just got the gears going. We want to see people playing chess. We want to see baseball, football, soccer, people playing out here.

Christina Estes: It seems they have plenty of passion, plans and plants to cultivate their dreams.

Ted Simons: That's it for now. You have a great evening.