There is strong evidence that children and youth participating in afterschool programs experience positive outcomes in all areas of development along with decreases in high risk behaviors. In order for youth to experience the positive outcomes that afterschool programs can offer, the programs must be high quality.
High quality programming impacts the level of youth participation in a program, the satisfaction and retention of youth workers, and the impact programs have on youth, families and the community. These factors directly impact an afterschool program’s effectiveness and long-term viability. Surprisingly, research also shows that without an intentional focus on quality, programs may not benefit youth and in some cases youth may fail to achieve positive outcomes or even begin to perform worse than their peers. (Little, P.M. (2009). Harvard Family Research Project. Supporting student outcomes through expanded learning opportunities)
Quality afterschool programs don’t occur by accident. In order for youth to experience the positive outcomes that afterschool programs can provide, there must be an intentional focus on program quality.
The Denver Afterschool Alliance is committed to the creation of a common language that defines what quality means in Denver through the development of quality standards. The quality standards will be developed based on current research and best practices in the field of youth development and programming so that those who use them can feel confident that they are building and supporting afterschool experiences that support the developmental needs of the youth they serve.
Some of the key features that are essential to a quality program that will be addressed in the quality standards include:
In recent years, there has been a growing interest by afterschool programs to explore ways to measure the effectiveness of their programs. This allows programs to assess, reflect on and improve their program practices. In order to effectively measure program practices and ultimately link such practices to their impact on youth, it is important to engage programs in a formal means of assessment.
Youth Program Quality Assessment
Since 2010, the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) has been used by afterschool programs in Denver as a way to evaluate the quality of their programs. The practical use of this instrument includes both program assessment and program improvement, with its overall purpose to encourage individuals, programs and systems to focus on the quality of the experiences youth have in programs and the corresponding training needs of staff.
To learn more, visit Youth Program Quality Assessment.
Program providers need to be equipped with resources and tools that can aid them in improving the quality of their program. Below is a sampling of resources that can assist program providers in their quest for quality: