Innovation & Improvement
21st Century Community Learning Centers
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 made several significant changes to the program. These changes ensure that the program focuses on helping children in high-needs schools succeed academically through the use of scientifically based practice and extended learning time. The new statute also provides additional State and local flexibility in how funds can be used to support higher academic achievement, and dramatically expands eligibility for 21st CCLC funding to public and private educational and youth-serving organizations.
The specific changes to the program’s authorizing statute include:
- Implementing activities based on rigorous scientific research.
For the first time, the new authorizing statute provides
principles of effectiveness to guide local grantees to identify
and implement programs and activities that can directly
enhance student learning. These activities must address
the needs of the schools and communities, be continuously
evaluated using performance measures, and – if appropriate
– be based on scientific research.
- Focusing services on academic enrichment opportunities.
Under the new legislation, grantees must provide academic
enrichment activities to students in low-performing schools
to help the students meet State and local standards in the
core content areas, such as reading, math, and science.
In addition, applicants may provide services to the families
of children who are served in the program. Under the previous
statute, grantees provide a broad array of services to children
and community members. The new legislation allows community
learning centers to serve adult family members of students
but not community members at large.
- Transferring program administration from the Federal
to the State level. The new legislation turns over responsibility
for managing the 21st CCLC program to the State educational
agency (SEA) in each State. The U.S. Department of Education
(the Department) will allocate funds to the SEAs by formula.
The SEA will manage grant competitions and award grants
to eligible organizations for local programs. States now
will be accountable to the Department for ensuring that
all statutory requirements are met. Under the previous legislation,
the Department administered the 21st Century Community Learning
Centers program, managed a nationwide competition, and directly
awarded over 1,600 grants to public schools and school districts
that worked in collaboration with other public and nonprofit
organizations, agencies, and educational entities.
- Expanding eligibility to additional organizations. The
new legislation allows, in addition to local educational
agencies (LEAs), community-based organizations (CBOs), including
faith-based organizations and other public or private organizations,
to directly receive funds from the State under this program.
Under the previous authority, only public schools or local
educational agencies could directly receive grants, although
schools and districts applying for the grants were encouraged
to collaborate with other public and nonprofit agencies.
- Targeting services to poor and low-performing schools.
The new legislation requires States to make awards only
to applicants that will primarily serve students that attend
schools with a high concentration of poor students, giving
priority to applicants serving children in low-performing
schools. Funds granted under the previous authority were
targeted more broadly to inner-city and rural public elementary,
middle, or secondary schools or consortia of public schools.
- Requiring States to set funding priorities. As noted
above, States must give priority to applications for projects
that will serve children in schools designated as in need
of improvement under Title I and that are submitted jointly
by school districts receiving Title I funds and community-based
organizations. This priority is new. The previous legislation
did not mandate priorities but strongly encouraged schools
to collaborate with community-based organizations.
- Extending the duration of grant awards. States now have
the discretion to award grants to local organizations for
a period of three to five years. The previous law limited
the duration of the grants to three years.
- Increasing accountability at the State and local levels.
The new legislation requires States to develop performance
indicators and performance measures that it can use to evaluate
programs and activities. States must require local grantees
to implement programs that meet specific principles of effectiveness.
In addition, grantees must periodically evaluate their programs
to assess progress toward achieving the goal of providing
high-quality opportunities for academic enrichment.
- Expanding the range of locations in which local programs
may take place. The new legislation provides support for
services for children and their families in elementary or
secondary schools or in any other location that it is at
least as available and accessible as the school. The previous
legislation allowed for community learning centers to be
located only in public elementary or secondary schools.
- Requiring funds to supplement and not supplant. Grantees
must use program funds to supplement and not supplant other
Federal, State, and local funds. This “supplement
not supplant” provision was not included in the previous
- Allowing States to require a local match. States may
now require local grantees to match funds. Under the previous
law no match was required.
- Requiring consultation and coordination. States must, in their State application, provide an assurance that the State application was developed in consultation and coordination with appropriate State officials, including the chief State school officer, other State agencies administering before- and after-school (or summer school) programs, the heads of the State health and mental health agencies or their designees, and representatives of teachers, parents, students, the business community, and community-based organizations, including faith-based organizations.