This month we will focus on the importance of high-quality, reliable data to drive quality improvement and decision-making in afterschool systems and programs. Collecting and using reliable information is critical for communities to answer simple questions about the scope and impact of afterschool programs in their community. To improve access to important information for city leaders, funders, program directors and front-line staff, cities need the technology to both track and correlate information on youth participation across dozens of organizations, as well as networks of skilled professionals to share, analyze and act on that information. This month’s newsletter, particularly the City Spotlight and Resources sections, are meant to help communities learn how to collect, share, analyze and communicate data to show the positive impact of afterschool programs in their community.
In an effort to close the achievement gap in his city, Nashville, Tenn. Mayor Karl Dean launched the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) in 2010. This high-quality afterschool program network serves middle school students (grades 5-8) and uses a citywide management information system to track the city’s afterschool enrollment and participation and facilitate analysis of the effectiveness of afterschool programs on student achievement.
The Forum for Youth Investment hosts its 3rd annual Ready by 21 National Meeting in Northern Kentucky this month. Local leaders will gather to share experiences and new ideas about improving the odds for children and youth and getting all young people ready by 21 – for college, work and life. The three-day meeting, held April 22-24, 2014 will address pivotal issues in engaging sessions on topics such as Integrating Data Systems: How & Why, Moving the Needle: Performance-Based Accountability Systems and Bringing a Data-Driven Culture to Collective Impact.
Research and experience help us to understand the importance of coordinated data-sharing between schools and OST partners, and how this practice can provide better learning outcomes for the students they serve. However, some school systems have expressed concerns about Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal policy that protects the security and confidentiality of student information and data-sharing practices. The Partnership for Children and Youth, with support from other partners, released a policy brief on how FERPA can allow for data-sharing between schools and OST partners and specifically how communities can benefit.
New research from Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell, founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine, on the value of afterschool programs shows that sustained participation in afterschool activities during kindergarten through fifth grades is linked to higher math scores, with low-income students reaping especially large gains. Participation in high-quality programs was also correlated with higher overall grades, increased attendance and improved work habits.
The report, “Taking a Deeper Dive into Afterschool: Positive Outcomes and Promising Practices” is the Afterschool Alliance’s in-depth look at high-quality evaluations of the afterschool field—examining both outcomes associated with participation in an afterschool program and practices associated with a quality program. The report looks at outcomes associated with school engagement, student behavior and academic performance. It also summarizes best practices, including intentional programming and strong program design, staff quality, effective partnerships and program evaluations.
Looking to expand your knowledge on afterschool and summer learning opportunities? Does strengthening community-family-school collaborations sound like something your city could benefit from? If the answer is yes, you will benefit from The Central Valley Afterschool Foundation’s new publication, The Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO). Building upon the work of Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, the peer-reviewed journal will increase public awareness of the field of expanded learning, but also support empirical research. THE JELO’s mission is “to foster the dissemination of scholarly research and deeper learning from a variety of disciplines related to out-of-school or expanded learning time.”