Illinois Quality Afterschool Resource Bulletin

Summer 2021

The Illinois Quality Afterschool team at the American Institutes for Research has compiled this list of resources to help you and your staff provide high-quality 21st CCLC programming. This Resource Bulletin brings you the latest information on afterschool research, best practices, tools, conference proceedings, policy briefs, professional development tools, and activities. We hope you will share this list of resources with your staff.

Program Management

Volunteers: Engaging, Training, Managing and Retaining (Two-Part Series)

Volunteers can strengthen a 21st CCLC by expanding a program’s offerings, increasing adult-to-student ratios, increasing student access to experts, and more. This two-part webinar series from the U.S. Department of Education’s You for Youth (Y4Y) team shows 21st CCLC professionals how to engage, train, manage, and retain fantastic volunteers in every type of geographic location. Throughout the series, participants hear from experts and program leaders on strategies for maximizing the power of volunteers.

Recruiting and Retaining High School Students

The adage about adolescents and 21st CCLC programs is that youth will vote with their feet by leaving if they are not engaged in an afterschool program’s offerings. This Click & Go training from Y4Y outlines ways that 21st CCLC programs can develop a recruitment and retention plan that resonates with older teens.

Afterschool Matters

The Spring 2021 issue of Afterschool Matters, produced by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, includes the latest ideas and research from professionals who work in expanded learning. Topics include healthy social media use; collective impact; and engaging various student groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Teacher-Student Relationships Matter

Teacher-student relationships are always crucial to student outcomes, but they can be exceptionally challenging after months of remote learning and the emotional challenges accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. This article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge project outlines ways educators can foster relationships in person and online.

Diverse Learners

Supporting English Learners (Two-Part Series)

English learners are as diverse as the languages that they speak. A new two-part webinar series from Y4Y outlines ways that 21st CCLC practitioners can support English learners in their programs. Part one outlines ways that 21st CCLC staff can better understand students’ linguistic experiences to take a strengths-based approach and address the areas of greatest need. Part two provides activities and strategies for implementation.

Strategies for Supporting LGBTQ Youth

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report showing that LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied than their straight, cisgender classmates. A new article from School’s Out Washington lists ways that professionals in youth-serving organizations can support LGBTQ youth. Although the organization published the article in June for LGBTQ Pride Month, advocates can use the strategies year-round.

How to Introduce Lessons on Disability

As conversations about equity, access, and anti-bias work continue in schools and afterschool programs, educators are encouraged to include lessons on disability in this work. A new article from Edutopia outlines ways that educators can include disability in their anti-bias work. Strategies include taking a student-centered approach, using disability as a springboard for discussion, building a supportive classroom community, and choosing a strong curriculum partner.

Where Do We Go Next? Youth Insights on the High School Experience During a Year of Upheaval

The COVID-19 pandemic, calls for racial justice, and the shift to virtual learning during the 2020–21 school year have highlighted the challenges and inequities that many young people face. A new report from America’s Promise Alliance shares findings from a national survey of more than 2,400 high school students. Recommendations for schools and districts include addressing student well-being through partnerships with mental health service providers, supporting inclusive classroom discussions about the history of race and racism in the United States, and strengthening students’ connections with their peers and teachers.

Social and Emotional Learning

Helping Students Make Good Decisions

Responsible decision-making is one of the five social and emotional learning competencies identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). This blog post from Edutopia identifies ways that educators can help young learners reflect on and improve their decision-making process. The blog post also introduces readers to the responsible decision-making matrix, a resource that guides youth through the process.

Academic Enrichment


What do Olympic athletes and objects in space have in common? Both involve matter in motion. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has created AstrOlympics, a learning resource that explores the range of science found in Olympic Games and space. The tool engages learners in measuring speed, mass, time, pressure, rotation, distance, and more so that they can learn about the world around them and the universe.

American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum connects visitors with more than five centuries of their favorite American writers and their works, including literature spanning multiple genres. Although the museum is in Chicago, it offers online resources such as a blog, podcasts, videos, and virtual exhibits. Virtual exhibits include Ray Bradbury and Frederick Douglas and topics like immigrant and refugee writers. There is also a virtual exhibit on writing tools and how they have changed over time.

Moving Towards Reading on Grade Level by Third Grade

When students do not master reading by the end of third grade, they are at greater risk of struggling as their education progresses and ultimately dropping out of school. To help more students reach the critical milestone of reading by third grade, Illinois Literacy in Action has created Moving Towards Reading on Grade Level by Third Grade, a professional development series to support educators in helping young learners master reading. The professional development series includes a facilitator guide, PowerPoint presentation, handouts, assessments, and optional activities.


The website howtosmile offers nearly 3,500 STEM activities that young learners can complete at home, school, or afterschool programs. Educators can sort activities by topic, age, material costs, and activity duration.

Family Engagement

Post-Pandemic Shifts in Family Engagement

Family engagement is one of many aspects of education that changed during prolonged online learning that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Out of a Crisis, Districts Look to Post-Pandemic Shifts in Family Engagement,” a blog post by the Global Family Research Project, examines these changes. The authors found that family engagement strategies during COVID-19 often emphasized listening to families and providing greater flexibility in how educators and families communicate. Many educators expect these practices to continue after students return to in-person learning.

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Copyright ©2021 by American Institutes for Research. This publication was developed by AIR in 2021 and was funded by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) with support by the U.S. Department of Education. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the AIR or any other source. This publication is in the public domain. Authorization to reproduce and disseminate it in whole or in part is granted as long as appropriate acknowledgment is given.