How Global Afterschool Programs Can Support Common Core State Standards


Afterschool and expanded learning programs that adopt a global learning agenda can meet their own mission of youth development—and the objectives outlined in the Common Core.

Education is meant to provide the next generation with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a global innovation age. In order to do it, educators have to make sense of the growing list of outcomes essential for success in a changing world: the Common Core State Standards for college and career readiness, 21st century skills, social and emotional development, civic skills, and the list goes on. 

That’s a tall order. But there’s a simple way to go about it.

The global competence framework is a singular approach towards all of these outcomes. It works in classrooms—and it works in afterschool, expanded learning, and summer learning programs.

There are two important facts to keep in mind: 1) global competence and the Common Core are already closely aligned in their missions and the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they require, and 2) the outcomes that the Common Core and global competence call for can be developed anytime, anywhere.

Here’s how to meet all objectives at once.

Global Competence Is Common Core—and More

First, let’s examine how the Common Core and global competence overlap. It's especially important to consider long-term outcomes.

The mission statement of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) calls for global competence. The standards are designed “to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

When we drill deeper to look at the Common Core “habits of mind” that describe the profile of a successful graduate prepared for college, career, and citizenship, we see clear alignment across several of the domains of global competence. 

Where the Common Core calls for students to build strong content knowledge, it is the same set of skills youth use to "investigate the world," a global competence domain. Likewise, when students "come to understand other perspectives and cultures," a Common Core outcome, it is no different from a globally competent student "weighing perspectives."

In fact, looking at the overall purpose of the standards and global competence outcomes side by side is an informative exercise for any education community to undertake together. (And if you want to drill even deeper, the Common Core State Standards include both literacy and math Anchor Standards that give focus and coherence to the set of knowledge and skills that students need to be college and career ready. Learn more.) 

However, global competence goes a step further to help students take action. Students who work to make a change in the world apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions acquired through the Common Core. The action they catalyze can address either the complex challenges or unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century.

An ideal setting to accomplish the Common Core and more? Afterschool and summer programs. The co-author of the CCSS, the Council of Chief State School Officers, agrees. But CCSSO also urges out-of-school programs to make implicit connections very explicit.

Addressing the Common Core through Global Competence

Educators can start by identifying the standards they want to focus on, and then think about how students will use the particular knowledge and skills in real-world situations outside of school. 

In their recent book, Educating for Global Competence (free download), Veronica Boix Mansilla and Tony Jackson provide several strategies, including:

  • Engage students by addressing global challenges, such as migration and urbanization, climate change, food security, and others.
  • Globalize the context for learning by viewing content from international perspectives on history as well as current events
  • Connect with universal themes, such as the search for identity, the impact of oppression, or the power of the individual to change the course of history.
  • Learn through international collaboration via videoconferencing, social networking, and other communication technologies.

Next, educators can use desired learning outcomes (try the global leadership outcomes) and link them to Common Core standards. For example, a globally competent youth will use communication strategies and collaboration techniques to “meet the needs and expectations of diverse individuals and groups.”

A learning experience that addresses this outcome can simultaneously address the Common Core Writing Anchor Standards:

  • Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

This is just one example. Educators will find many more connections by considering standards from a global learning perspective.

The key to meeting both the CCSS and global competence is to focus on the big-picture outcome. In this example, youth can successfully communicate relevant ideas appropriate to a specific audienceand pick up the technical mechanics of research and writing along the way.

The Role of Afterschool, Expanded Learning, and Summer Programs

Complying with CCSS doesn’t mean that afterschool and expanded learning programs need to operate like English language arts or math classrooms.

As Elizabeth Devaney and Nicole Yohalem wrote in a commentary for the Forum for Youth Investment, “The good news is that the Common Core defines college and career readiness in a way that pushes beyond traditional academic competence and reflects some skills that youth organizations have long championed (e.g., problem-solving, perseverance, independence, understanding other cultures). This reinforces the importance of developing these kinds of skills and creates more room for recognizing the value that out-of-school learning experiences can have.” 

In summary, expanded learning programs that incorporate global learning can be engaging to youth, relevant to the real-world, and—by simultaneously meeting and exceeding the Common Core State Standards—prepare students for life and work in the global innovation age.