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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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SEP
8
2017

RESEARCH
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Evaluating afterschool: What my toddler taught me about evaluation

By Guest Blogger

By Allison Riley, PhD, MSW, Senior Vice President, Programming and Evaluation at Girls on the Run International. Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the seventh installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth posts of the series.

My two-year-old daughter and I like to take walks together when I get home from work. Whether we are headed to see the neighbor’s chickens or visit a friend, we always have some goal in mind when we walk out of the door, though my toddler typically doesn’t take the most direct path. Even if I try to rush her along so we can more quickly reach our destination, she is sure to pause when a good learning opportunity comes her way. When I follow my daughter’s lead, our walks are purposeful yet flexible, and I always learn more, too.

As it turns out, my daughter’s approach to a walk translates well to my workday world. As someone who’s spent my career evaluating youth programming, I have learned the importance of having a clear purpose and goals for a project while being flexible and responsive to information gathered during the evaluation process. Let’s look at a recent Girls on the Run study as an example.

AUG
29
2017

RESEARCH
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New poll finds 9 in 10 parents support schools providing afterschool programs

By Nikki Yamashiro

Last night, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) released the 2017 Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of Public's Attitudes Towards Public Schools. The overall takeaway from this report, which is PDK’s 49th annual report on Americans’ views toward public schools, is that there is strong agreement that public schools should provide supports outside of the typical school day. More than 9 in 10 Americans report that they support public schools providing afterschool programs, with 77 percent reporting that they strongly supported schools providing afterschool programs.

Support was also strong for schools providing mental health services (87 percent) and general health services (79 percent). Support was very high for schools seeking additional public funding to pay for these services, with 76 percent of Americans agreeing that schools are justified in seeking additional public funds.

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data
AUG
18
2017

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher, part II

By Guest Blogger

Welcome to part II of our Q&A with Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to oneof the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which establish that there is in fact clear evidence demonstrating that 21st CCLC work for students. To read part I, click here.

What changes would you like to see in terms of 21st CCLC data collection and evaluation?

This is a big question. First, I think we need to be clear around the purposes we’re trying to support through data collection and evaluation. Normally, we think about this work as falling within three primary categories:

  1. Data to support program staff in learning about quality practice and effective implementation
  2. Data to monitor the participation and progress of enrolled youth
  3. Data to assess the impact of the program on youth that participate regularly in the program

States have done an amazing job over the span of the past decade to develop quality improvement systems predicated on using quality data to improve practice (purpose #1). Effective afterschool quality improvement systems start with a shared definition of quality. In recent years, state 21st CCLC systems have come to rely upon formal assessment tools like the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) and the Assessment of Program Practices Tool (APT-O) to provide that definition, allowing 21st CCLC grantees to assess how well they are meeting these criteria and crafting action plans to intentionally improve the quality of programming. Use of these tools typically involves assigning a score to various program practices in order to quantify the program’s performance and establish a baseline against which to evaluate growth. A recent report completed by AIR indicates approximately 70 percent of states have adopted a quality assessment tool for use by their 21st CCLC grantees. Our sense is that these systems have been critical to enhancing the quality of 21st CCLC programs, and any efforts to modify the 21st CCLC data collection landscape should ensure program staff have the support and time necessary to participate in these important processes.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Evaluation and Data
JUL
28
2017

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: Q&A with an afterschool researcher

By Guest Blogger

In May, the proposed FY2018 budget eliminated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the only federal funding stream dedicated to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs. In the budget, a justification given for the elimination of funding was that there is no demonstrable evidence that 21st CCLC programs have a positive impact on the students attending the programs. Although we have highlighted the existing body of research underscoring the difference 21st CCLC programs are making in the lives of students participating in programs, we decided to go directly to the source, asking someone who has conducted evaluations on 21st CCLC programs for 14 years. 

We posed a few questions to Neil Naftzger, American Institutes for Research (AIR), about his evaluation work related to 21st CCLC programs specifically, and the afterschool field broadly. Below are answers to two of the questions we asked, with our emphasis added in bold, which establish that there is in fact clear evidence demonstrating that 21st CCLC work for students. 

What are the strongest findings across your research on 21st CCLC programs? Do you see any important non-academic benefits from afterschool and summer learning programs?

JUL
5
2017

RESEARCH
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Evaluating afterschool: Building an evaluation advisory board

By Guest Blogger

By Jason Spector, Senior Research & Evaluation Manager at After-School All-Stars

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the sixth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation and highlights program evaluation best practices. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthird, fourth, and fifth posts of the series.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) in 2014, I represented the sole member of our research and evaluation department. It was a great opportunity to craft a vision, and one that I greeted with excitement, but there was definitely anxiety as well. I was fresh out of grad school—learning how to operate in a national organization while also feeling siloed. To help break down the silos, our leadership encouraged me to develop a board of strategic advisors.

During the last few years, the National Evaluation Advisory Board has played a critical role in helping us grow our department, craft a vision for our work, develop a language and strategy around our program quality assessment, deepen our evidence base, and advance the intentionality of our program model. It’s a resource I highly recommend for organizations who are looking to become more strategic in their work.

If you decide to form your own evaluation advisory board, here are four key ideas to keep in mind:

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data Guest Blog
JUL
3
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Highlights from Policy Studies Associates’ afterschool report

By Elizabeth Tish

Policy Studies Associates (PSA) conducts research in education and youth development. This spring, PSA published a short report on afterschool program quality and effectiveness, reviewing more than 25 years of afterschool program evaluations they have completed.

The report further substantiates the benefits of afterschool for three specific stakeholders: students, families, and schools. The full details are available in the report, which covers the following topics in depth:

Afterschool programs work for students

  1. Increase school attendance and ease transitions into high school
  2. Offer students project-based learning opportunities
  3. Improve state language and math assessment scores while developing teamwork skills and personal confidence

Afterschool programs work for families

  1. Provide safe spaces for enriching activities and academic support
  2. Make it easier for parents to keep their job
  3. Provide an option for parents to miss less work

Afterschool programs work for schools

  1. Enhance the effectiveness of the school and reinforce school-day curriculum
  2. Create a college-going and career-inspiring culture in the school
  3. Foster a welcoming school environment

Want to find out which evaluations these statements came from? Visit the PSA brief, Afterschool Program Quality and Effectiveness: 25 Years of Results!!

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data
JUN
6
2017

RESEARCH
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Evaluating afterschool: Answering questions about quality

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Jocelyn Michelsen, Senior Research Associate at Public Profit, an Oakland, California-based evaluation consultancy focused on helping high-performing organizations do their best, data-driven work with children, youth, and families.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the fifth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which answers some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecondthirdand fourth posts of the series.

Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar: you keep up with new research on afterschool by reading articles and newsletters, following thought leaders, and attending conferences—but it is still hard to sort through all the information, let alone implement new strategies. Research often seems out of touch with the realities of programs on the ground, and while many anecdotal examples are offered, how-to guidelines are few and far between.

As an evaluator consulting with diverse afterschool programs across the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, I frequently hear this frustration from program leaders. There is a real gap between the research and the steps that staff, leadership, and boards can take to build quality in their own programs. Additionally, it can be hard to sift through the research to get to the ‘why’—why implement these recommendations, why invest time and resources, why change?

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learn more about: Evaluation and Data
APR
28
2017

RESEARCH
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What you need to know about the GAO's afterschool report

By Jen Rinehart

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers on April 26 highlighting the benefits of afterschool participation and calling on the U.S. Department of Education to update their performance measures and data collection. The report confirms that participation in afterschool programs improves student behavior and school attendance and that the broad range of benefits from afterschool is more evident among students who attend their afterschool program for more than 60 days than among those who do not. The report also highlights the essential role that Community Learning Center grants play in helping afterschool programs leverage much-needed support from a range of community partners.

Afterschool community is committed to quality

Many afterschool providers have demonstrated their dedication to continuously improving their programs by adopting quality standards and utilizing continuous improvement tools. An array of program evaluations clearly demonstrate that quality programs are making a difference for children and youth. In fact, had the GAO selected a larger body of research on which to base its conclusions, including a wider array of state Community Learning Centers evaluations and other large studies of afterschool, its conclusions about program effectiveness would have been even stronger.

Widespread agreement that 21st CCLC performance measures need an update

In the years leading up to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we spent a great deal of time convening the afterschool field to gather input about the vision of 21st CCLC in ESEA reauthorization. In that process, it became clear that there is broad consensus from the field around the need for updated 21st CCLC performance measures and data collection. That consensus is echoed in the GAO report, which recommends broadening the measures to include classroom behavior, school day attendance, and engagement. Improved alignment between Community Learning Centers program objectives and performance measures will help afterschool programs more effectively demonstrate their role in supporting student success, which is essential for ongoing public support.

Technical assistance should expand

The GAO report also calls for the department to update and expand the technical assistance offered to grantees. That’s another change that the afterschool community pushed hard for—and won—in the reauthorization of ESEA. By implementing the changes called for in the reauthorization of 21st CCLC, the department can bring improvements to professional development, data collection, and program evaluation as early as the school year that begins this fall.

Continued federal investment is vital

More than anything, this new report underscores the need to continue the federal investment in quality afterschool programs, which keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families. The Trump administration should abandon its indefensible proposal to defund Community Learning Centers—which would take afterschool and summer learning programs away from 1.6 million kids, devastating low-income families and communities—and instead implement the GAO’s recommendations.

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learn more about: Department of Education Evaluations