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Why Quality is Important

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:

  • Physical and psychological safety
  • Appropriate program structure
  • Supportive relationships
  • Opportunities for youth to belong
  • Positive social norms
  • Opportunities for skill building
  • Integration of family, school and community efforts

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:

  • Measuring Youth Program Quality: A Guide to Assessment Tools, 2nd Edition
    Program quality assessment and improvement continue to be central themes in the afterschool and youth development fields. This guide compares the purpose, history, structure, methodology, content and technical properties of different program observation tools. 

  • A Practitioner's Guide: Building and Managing Quality Afterschool Programs
    SEDL's National Center for Quality Afterschool offers a practitioner's guide that includes practices for building and managing quality afterschool programs. The practices included in the guide focus not only on improving student performance and motivation, but also on how to oversee daily operations, support staff and sustain stakeholder relationships.

  • Putting It All Together: Guiding Principles for Quality Afterschool Programs Serving Preteens
    Based on the latest research and experiences in the field, this publication identifies the characteristics of quality afterschool programs that are linked to positive outcomes for preteens. This resource was developed along with a companion resource guide that includes links to research and tools to strengthen programs.

  • Embracing YPQA
    This inspiring 13-minute video documents how the Georgetown Divide, a small community in the Sierra foothills of Northern California has embraced a positive youth development approach across the settings where youth spend time and has anchored that commitment through widespread use of the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA). 

  • Afterschool Toolkit: Tips, Techniques and Templates for Improving Program Quality 
    Public/Private Ventures developed this toolkit to help afterschool managers create and sustain quality academic programs. It is based on lessons learned during a three-year study of the Communities Organizing Resources to Advance Learning (CORAL) initiative funded by The James Irvine Foundation in five California cities. While the toolkit draws on many CORAL lessons and examples, the structures, processes and tools it offers are broadly applicable to the work of program providers who seek to enhance program quality.

  • The David P. Weikert Center of Youth Program Quality
    The core mission of the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality is to position point-of-service quality as a powerful public idea that drives the out-of-school time field towards higher levels of understanding, expectation and action about the quality of experiences available to youth. As the developers of the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA), the Weikert Center helps youth programs set meaningful improvement goals based on data, enact new practices and create powerful developmental environments for youth.

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Denver Afterschool Alliance
Maxine Quintana