On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan bill to revise and replace No Child Left Behind and overhaul K-12 education. Read the entire text of the law. The American Camp Association and many partners in the out-of-school time community have been advocating for change to the country's K-12 education policy so that it recognizes the critical role out-of-school time programs play in the year-round education of the whole child.
"For the countless Americans whose lives have been positively shaped by the camp experience, the ESSA serves to validate and reinforce the positive impact of this out-of-school time experience. With the enactment of this new education policy law, we are encouraged that many more children will be able to have camp experiences that will define their educational growth." ― Tom Holland, CEO, American Camp Association
The new law contains a number of exciting opportunities for camps and other out-of-school time providers to be welcomed and recognized as active participants in K-12 education — including the potential to receive grant funding. Both grant and partnership opportunities are detailed in the new law. While much work needs to be done to understand and implement the new law, upon early review, we have identified the following opportunities:
- New opportunities for community-based organizations to partner with schools that are identified as “targeted assistance schools” to “strengthen the academic program of the school though activities which may include expanded learning time, before- and after-school programs, and summer programs and opportunities.” (Title I, Sec. 1009)
- Expands the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and provides more opportunities for community-based organizations to partner during “summer recess." (Note that for some programs in Part B, only nonprofit organizations are eligible.) (Title IV, Part B)
- Funding to develop and implement programs and activities that support access to STEM activities including “hands-on learning” and “field-based or service learning” to enhance understanding of STEM subjects. (Title IV)
- Allowance for use of funds to support “well-rounded” educational opportunities, including the addition of environmental education programs. (Title IV, Part A Sec 4107)
- Environmental literacy programs are now also included among eligible programs for funding through 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. (Title IV)
- Opportunities for community-based organizations to partner to provide programs for "Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native" children that focus on problem solving and cognitive skills development, career preparation, and many other areas. (Title VI)
- Unique opportunities for community-based organizations to provide innovative programs and strategies for identifying and educating students who may not be served by traditional gifted and talented programs. (Title IV, Sec. 4644)
- Opportunities for community-based organizations to assist states in supporting high-quality and comprehensive educational programs and services during the summer that address the unique educational needs of migratory children. (Title I, Part C)
- Provisions for student support and academic enrichment grants. (Title IV, Part A, Sec 4101)
As we celebrate the advances in this new law, there is much work to be done for it to come to fruition. Next steps include:
- ACA and our out-of-school time partners will carefully review the law and provide education to camps regarding impact and opportunities.
- The U.S. Department of Education will begin the process of receiving input on the design of the grant programs described in Title IV.
This bill represents a major step forward, giving schools new opportunities to partner with camps and other out-of-school time organizations to ensure the best year-round education for our nation’s children.