The After-School Activity Advantage

In Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, Hilary Levey Friedman states that children who participate in after school activities, like competitive chess, dance, and soccer, build a skill set that distinguish them from their peers in the tournament of life.  The skill set, referred to as Competitive Kid Capital, is comprised of five components:

1)      Learning from Loss

2)      Importance of Winning

3)      Time Management

4)      Adaptability

5)      Grace Under Pressure

Although the five components can influence a child’s success in college and in life, Friedman points out that the advantage clearly lies with those from more affluent families:

The group of 95 families I met almost all belong to the broadly defined “middle class,” although a few were lower-income and many were upper-middle class. Training a lens on more affluent families helps us understand how and why the professionalization of children’s competitive after-school activities has become an important way that the middle class has institutionalized its advantage over others.


Growth Recognized In Low Income Student Population In Public Schools



For the first time in four decades, a majority of public school students from 17 states in the South and West were considered low income students by the end of 2011.

With the exception of states in the Northeast, the number of low income students in public schools increased by 32%, between 2001 and 2011, while per pupil spend only increased by 14% and the nation’s achievement gap between low income and high income students remained relatively stagnant.

Source: Southern Education Foundation

Early Childhood Education Legislation Introduced In Congress

The Strong Start for America’s Children Act is a 10-year federal-state partnership to expand and to improve early childhood education for children from birth through age five.

The bill has four components that would:

  • Accelerate states’ efforts to provide high-quality preschool to low and moderate income families
  • Increase the quality of infant and toddler care in center-based and family child care settings
  • Support quality improvements in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)
  • Encourage continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program

Source: US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension

Two non-profit organizations, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), developed simple, straightforward templates which you can utilize to inform your members of Congress of your support of the legislation.


Nation’s Report Card Indicates Achievement Gap Progress

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), considered the “nation’s report card” in education circles, indicated significant gains in the effort to close the achievement gap in Minnesota.

The greatest gains were achieved at the fourth-grade level where the black-white performance gap decreased by 10-points between 2009 and 2013.  The report also noted that Minnesota was the only state to close the black-white achievement gap in fourth-grader reading during the same time period but that the performance gap in 2013 was not significantly different from the gap in 1992.

Additional Statistics for Student Groups

  • In 2013, female students in Minnesota had an average score that was higher than male students by 8 points.
  • In 2013, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch, an indicator of low family income, had an average score that was 28 points lower than students who were not eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch.

Why Do American’s Vote on Tuesday?

Today, the day after the first Monday in November, is Election Day in the United States.  The US ranks 138th out of 172 nations in voter turnout with an average of 47.7% of the voting population casting a vote.  Make your vote count by familiarizing yourself with the ballot issues and candidates in your local election before heading to the polls.

A Place at the Table: Discussion about food insecurity.


The Junior League of Minneapolis hosted a viewing of the documentary A Place at the Table and panel discussion about food insecurity in the Twin Cities. Here is a video of the panel discussion. (Note, you may need to turn up the volume)

Moderated by Jane Hopkins Gould, CFO Second Harvest Hartland

Jon Emerson Kramer, Second Harvest Hartland
Stephanie Hogenson, Children’s Defense Fund
Amy Maheswaran Lopez, Greater Twin Cities United Way
LaDonna Redmond, Campaign for Food Justice Now

How Food Insecurity contributes to the Achievement Gap.

  • Food insecurity adversely impacts one-fifth of all US households with children, according to the USDA. Which means they sometimes don’t get enough to eat. Whole meals may be missed. Many of these people are children who are often dazed and unfocused at school because of hunger.
  • Food insecurity – described as deliberately eating less and disrupting normal meal patterns due to inadequate resources.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Support) helps families purchase nutritious food each month so that their children experience healthy growth and development and do not go hungry.
  • Families with children are the fastest growing group receiving SNAP in Minnesota.
  • 22% of children in the Twin Cities Metro are part of the SNAP program.
  • 37% of children in the Twin Cities metro receive free or reduced-priced lunch.

The Impact of the SNAP & SNAP-Ed Cuts

The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ends today which means a benefit cut for nearly 48 million SNAP recipients.  For a household of four, this cut equates to a $36 reduction in SNAP benefits per month.  Congressional work on the Farm Bill, which funds SNAP and SNAP-Ed, commenced this week with both the House and Senate proposing further cuts over the next ten years.  The House proposal would cut the $80 billion program by an additional $4 billion per year while the Senate proposal would cut the program by $400 million per year.

The lesser recognized component of the SNAP program, SNAP-Ed, is a federal / state partnership that supports nutrition education for persons eligible for the SNAP.

State agencies who conduct nutrition education are eligible for reimbursement up to 50% of their SNAP-Ed costs by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.  In Minnesota, SNAP-Ed is delivered by community educators from the University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Chippewa Tribe; these two agencies serve all counties in the state and six tribal reservations.

Snap Ed