Archive by Author

State to Crack Down on Private Tutors 2013

27 Feb

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is to be applauded for his quick response to allegations of widespread fraud by private, for-profit providers of supplemental educational services in Florida. These services, which can also be provided by nonprofits, school districts, faith-based organizations and others, are intended to provide low-income students in poorly-performing schools with additional educational support to help meet minimum academic performance standards.

Ensuring every child has access to quality educational opportunities is essential to Florida’s economic stability and future growth; however, I believe the tens of millions of dollars in education funding being steered to private tutoring firms could be better spent. While the Commissioner has outlined a series of steps his department will take to rein in fraud and ensure that private tutoring companies hire qualified instructors and provide tutoring services at a reasonable cost, whether these services will improve student outcomes remains to be seen.

While tutoring can be a powerful tool for many children, quality afterschool programs provide opportunities that not only support children’s cognitive development, but their physical, social and emotional development as well. Directing families and resources to providers of proven, high-quality services, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, Communities In Schools and accredited quality afterschool providers, is a solution worthy of consideration.

Children attending quality afterschool programs attend school more regularly, perform better on tests, have fewer behavioral problems and are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Quality afterschool programs also provide a safe, nurturing environment that decreases the likelihood that children will become victims or perpetrators of criminal activity.

Here is just some of the research:

  • The Legislative Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability found that elementary and middle school participants in the Boys and Girls Clubs performed better on the FCAT in reading (elementary school only) and math at grade level versus a comparison group of students who were not in quality afterschool programs
  • A Florida TaxWatch study of Boys and Girls Clubs found gains on reading and math standardized test scores.
  • The Ounce Prevention Fund of Florida’s evaluation of YMCA Reads found reading improvement across the board regardless of grade level, gender, or race.
  • The National Institute on Out of School Time’s (NIOST) evaluation of Jacksonville TEAM UP found gains on standardized tests of reading and math.

Supplemental education services provided as part of a high-quality afterschool program help bridge the gap for disadvantaged children, which is crucial to Florida’s ultimate economic success. Let’s be smarter about how we spend our limited dollars by investing in providers that have demonstrated success in improving student outcomes.

Larry Pintacuda, CEO

The Florida Afterschool Network

School Readiness in 2013 is a Birth to 8-year-old Issue

17 Dec

School readiness is birth to eight-year-old issue. The following are some staggering facts: If a child cannot read by the third grade, that child has little or no chance to succeed. Forty four percent of all Florida 3rd graders are not reading at grade level. This shortfall is most pronounced with low-income children. Failure to read proficiently by the end of third grade is linked to higher rates of school dropouts, suppressing individual earning potential as well as the state’s competitiveness and general productivity.

Unfortunately, School Readiness Funding has remained level for more than a decade, while over the past four years, state and federal funding allocations for afterschool services have decreased by 46%.  Studies by the Legislative Office of Program Policy Analysis & Governmental Analysis (OPPAGA), the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and Florida TaxWatch have found elementary and middle school students in quality afterschool programs performed better on standardized reading and math assessments at grade level. What does this mean? We need more afterschool programs.

The Florida Afterschool Network, along with their partners, is asking the Florida Legislator to consider the above facts and amend Chapter 411.01, F.S. the School Readiness Act, to include reading by third grade as a priority for readiness. FAN is also asking to maintain eligibility for children ages 5-12 for the School Readiness Program, fully fund the School Readiness program and ensure that any program receiving public funding is of the high quality.

FAN is asking everyone to call, write or email their representative and let them know you support the efforts of FAN and that you want them to amend the School Readiness Act.
FAN is joined in their fight by the Children’s Movement of Florida, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, the United Way of Florida, FCTA, Florida’s First CCLC, Bright House, the Children’s Forum, the Children’s Trust, First Baptist Leesburg, Florida Afterschool Alliance, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Primetime Palm Beach County, St. Lucie Public Schools, The Family Café, Casper, Computer Mentors Group, Children Services Council, United Way, Communities in School and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.

Guest Blogger 2013: Judy Rice, Executive Director of Fly to Learn

13 Nov

I was delighted to have received a call from Larry Pintacuda, FAN CEO!  Larry shared with me Florida Afterschool Network’s (FAN)  two major focus for the promotion of STEM curricula and activities into afterschool programs.  Visiting the FAN web site exudes the ‘ah-ah’ moments of excitement produced by afterschool programs.

Perfect!  Fly To Learn, Powered by X-Plane, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) education through aviation!

Students learn STEM skills through the design, construction, flight, and performance evaluation of their own realistic virtual airplanes, engaging in academically rigorous material that is not only fun to learn, but easy for educators to impart.  Fly To Learn is an inquiry-based, flexible afterschool educational instrument that enriches the learning environment for educators and students at all levels.

The program provides instructors and students a unique, cost-effective, results-driven tool designed to increase dedication to STEM education and to improve effective implementation of STEM concepts.  Fly to Learn meets and exceeds the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) curriculum of standards for science education.

In addition, participating educators and students are eligible to enter an exciting annual virtual event where Fly To Learn teams use what they learn in the program to design, build and fly an aircraft delivering the maximum payload as quickly and efficiently as possible.  The winning team will receive international recognition as the 2013 Fly To Learn inaugural Team.  The educator will be award an engraved iPad with X-Plane 10 and a beautiful engraved plaque; and each student will receive a trophy recognizing their accomplishments

FAN staff and audience know, there is no greater time for our Nation to focus on STEM education, especially before, after, and out of school.  For exciting, STEM, real world application visit  or contact Fly To Learn Executive Director, Judy Rice at


Guest Blogger 2012: Shelley Puckett from the Science Center of Pinellas

1 Nov

As you know, one of the two areas of major focus for the Florida Afterschool Network is the promotion of STEM curricula and activities into afterschool programs. We believe that quality afterschool programs offer a perfect setting for kids to get excited about science, math, engineering and technology.

On Monday October 29th, I (Larry Pintacuda, FAN CEO) had the good fortune to visit the Science Center of Pinellas County. I was astounded by the breath and knowledge of the staff and their commitment to helping kids get an appreciation for the sciences. So impressed that I asked Shelly Puckett, Director of Business Development for the Center to do a guest blog. It is my pleasure to introduce Shelly Puckett.

“There has never been a greater time for our Nation to focus on STEM education especially before/after/out of school.  The Science Center of Pinellas has been educating, exciting and engaging students with hands on programs for over 53 years.

Students in grades K-12 experience the “ah ha” moment of excitement with programs that include:  Rocketry, Lego Robotics, CSI Forensics, Mouse Trap Mechanics, Weather, Petrology and much more.  After school and during the summer, students participate in programs that provide a real world application in science, technology, engineering and math.  The center has also built relationships with local organizations who provide industry experts as guest speakers to our students in the fields of engineering, technology, medical, forensics, manufacturing and more.

Giving these students an opportunity to apply STEM in real world environments will encourage confidence in these disciplines, creating that “ah ha” moment.”

For more information on the Science Center of Pinellas County, please visit


Lights on Afterschool 2012- A Success!

25 Oct

On October 18th, 792 afterschool programs in Florida participated in Lights on Afterschool – a 58% increase from 2011. Organizations across the nation hosted programs to shine a light on the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. After all the programs were counted, Florida finished an impressive third in total programs, only California and Texas hosted more events.

The Florida Afterschool Network would like to thank all the organizations that participated in Lights on Afterschool. By putting focus on the benefits of afterschool programs, we hope to receive more funding in order to serve more school age children. Mark your calendars for next year as we plan for Florida to finish first in total number of programs!

Celebrate Lights on Afterschool October 18th 2012

26 Sep

Each October more than one million Americans and thousands of communities nationwide celebrate Lights on Afterschool to shine a light on the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. By hosting a program, organizations are celebrating the good works of afterschool programs. This year’s Lights on Afterschool will occur on October 18th. In Florida, more than 400 afterschool programs plan to participate and have registered celebrations with the Afterschool Alliance.

For the seventh year, the Florida Afterschool Network in partnership with Bright House Networks has provided $10,000 in funding grants to eight deserving afterschool programs. Awarded through a competitive RFP process, each organizations was asked to provide details on the event and why they were deserving of the grant.

Recipients of the grants include the Boys and Girls Club of Citrus County, the Science Center of Pinellas County, Brevard Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Martin County, the City of Hialeah, Pasco County Schools, Prime Time Palm Beach County and the YMCA of Northwest Florida.

Why are these events important? In Florida, 750,000 kids in grades K-12 are responsible for taking care of themselves after school. By shining light on the benefits of afterschool programs, we hope to receive more funding in order to serve more school age children. The Florida Afterschool Network and Bright House Networks encourage all afterschool providers to help celebrate Lights on Afterschool on October 18th.

Florida Afterschool Network (FAN)

The mission of the Florida Afterschool Network is to provide unified leadership to advocate for the development, enhancement and sustainability of innovative, high quality afterschool programs and policies statewide. The Florida Afterschool Network joined a national initiative dedicated to afterschool programs with funding in 2005 by the Charles S. Mott Foundation.

Bright House Network

Bright House Networks has long been a supporter of organizations that provide services to children and families, and recognized as being a good corporate citizen. Bright House employees take great pride in working, mentoring and serving the needs of others in their communities. Bright House is privileged to partner with FAN in celebrating Lights on Afterschool.

Lights on Afterschool

Lights On Afterschool is a nationwide event that recognizes the critical importance of quality afterschool programs in the lives of children, their families and communities. It is a project of the Afterschool Alliance, the only organization dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of afterschool programs and advocating for more afterschool investments. The Afterschool Alliance works with the Administration, the U.S. Congress, governors, mayors and advocates across the country. Today the Afterschool Alliance boasts more than 25,000 afterschool program partners and their publications reach more than 65,000 interested individuals every month. More information on the Alliance and Lights On Afterschool is available at

Mark Your Calendars for September 22, 2012: FAN to be featured on American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen

20 Sep

Please mark your calendars for September 22, 2012 and tune into your local public television station for the airing of a critically important program, titled American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen. The Florida Afterschool Network will be featured at 5:53 p.m.

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is a multi-year public media initiative, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. We know that Public Broadcasting has a long history improving educational outcomes for high-need students and communities. The dropout crisis demands attention now, and Public Broadcasting has risen to the challenge to address this national problem.

In Tallahassee, WFSU will showcase 10 local organizations and the work it is doing on a community level to help students stay in school until graduation. In addition to the Florida Afterschool Network, others in the include Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend, 211 Big Bend, 50 Large of Leon County, The United Way of the Big Bend, Communities in Schools, The Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend, Distinguished Young Gentlemen, The Boys and Girls Club of the Big Bend and Take Stock in Children program. Each of these organizations strives to engage children and families with the goal of helping them live successful productive lives. In order to do that, these organizations need ongoing community support whether it be financial or volunteer and mentoring.

Kim Kelling-Engstrom, Director of Educational Services, WFSU TV, and a Florida Afterschool Network Champion, was kind enough to include (FAN) as a partner agency. The FAN segment will air at 5:53. Please take some time out of your day to watch this important and timely program.

With special guests including Michael Powell, representing America’s Promise Alliance, and PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez, the national television broadcast will air live on public television stations from the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m. EST on Sept. 22 on WFSU-TV. The event will feature 20 national organizations that are working with local public media stations to help young people stay in school and on track for on-time graduation, segments about local community groups, compelling stories from students themselves, and highlights from PBS national and local content – from PBS NewsHour and Need to Know to Jim Glassman’s Ideas in Action and Tavis Smiley Reports: Too Important To Fail. The broadcast will also include the premiere of a new student film from Reel Works New York and a preview of the upcoming FRONTLINE documentary, Dropout Nation.