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Program quality

Quality does matter and directly affects the development of youth. Our center is a leader in youth program quality assessment and improvement.

Comments on this page? Curator: Karen Beranek, Extension educator

Youth Development Insight

Our faculty blog about research, issues and trends in the field. Join the conversation!


See all program quality blog posts

Reports & journal articles

Growing Together, Learning Together: What Cities Have Discovered About Building Afterschool Systems

Daniel Browne, The Wallace Foundation
This report focuses on the four elements that the most current evidence and experience suggest are essential to a successful system: strong leadership from major players, coordination that fits the local context, effective use of data and a comprehensive approach to quality. 2015.

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes

The Forum for Youth Investment
This guide reviews ten youth outcome measurement tools that are appropriate for use in after-school and other settings. For each tool, it provides sample items and crucial information about usability, cost, and evidence of reliability and validity. The guide can help providers select conceptually grounded, psychometrically sound measures appropriate for programs that serve upper-elementary- through high school-aged youth. 2014.

Continuous Quality Improvement in Afterschool Settings: Impact findings from the Youth Program Quality Intervention Study

The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
This study, funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation, evaluates the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI), a data-driven continuous improvement model for afterschool systems. Using a rigorous, experimental design, the research finds that the YPQI produces a cascade of positive effects, resulting in improved program quality at the point of service. 2012.

Lessons for Youth Program Quality Improvement Initiatives: A Summary of the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s Initiative

Raikes Foundation
This case study follows one agency, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, as they began the process of expanding program quality assessment and improvement across their organization. 2012.

Preliminary findings from the Minnesota 4-H Quality Improvement Study

Produced by Extension: Deborah Moore, Samantha Grant, Colleen McLaughlin, Kate Walker and Brenda Shafer
This preliminary report reviews a model currently being field tested using the YPQA tool and innovative data collection methodologies, which use 4-H youth and adult volunteers for assessing and improving youth program quality. (PDF) 2011.

Building Your Programs 20 Minutes at a Time: Book 3

Produced by Extension: Anne Stevenson, Anita Harris Hering, Betsy Olson.
This is the third book in a collection of tools for building reflection into learning settings. This “sequel” offers 28 new activities that will help users intentionally plan for enhancing program quality through reflection, participatory evaluation, engagement and leadership skill building. Research on youth program quality, brain-based learning, and social-emotional learning all point to the importance of reflection as essential to the learning process. This resource book will help you build skills for facilitating reflection with youth and adult groups through an experiential learning model. It offers a brief overview of experiential learning and youth program quality research, along with facilitator tips and additional resources. (PDF) 2014.

Even More! Building Your Programs 20 Minutes at a Time: Leadership & Reflection Activities You Can Use - Book 2

Produced by Extension: Anne Stevenson, Anita Harris Hering, Carol Skelly, Anna Gilbertson, Anne Moore
This “sequel” offers 22 additional activities to use with groups. Research on youth program quality and brain-based learning give us scientific proof that time for reflection and the use of a variety of reflective techniques facilitate learning. This resource booklet will help you build skills for facilitating reflection with youth or adult groups. It offers a brief overview of experiential learning and youth program quality research, facilitator tips, and 22 short reflection tools to help create quality experiential learning. (PDF) 2011.

Building Your Programs 20 Minutes at a Time: Leadership & Reflection Activities You Can Use

Produced by Extension: Anne Stevenson, Anita Harris Hering, Barb Piehl, Carol Skelly
Research on youth program quality and brain-based learning give us scientific proof that time for reflection and the use of a variety of reflective techniques facilitate learning. This resource booklet will help you build skills for facilitating reflection and building leadership skills with youth or adult groups. It offers a brief overview of experiential learning and youth program quality research, facilitator tips, and 27 short activities to help create quality experiential learning. (PDF) 2010.

Dilemmas of Practice: Challenges to Program Quality Encountered by Youth Program Leaders

Produced by Extension: Reed Larson and Kate Walker
To create and sustain high quality youth development programs it is important to understand the challenging situations and dilemmas that emerge in program leaders’ daily work with youth. In this research the experiences of leaders in 12 programs were followed over a 2–9 month period, which led to the identification of 250 dilemma situations. 2010.

Implementation Quality and Positive Experiences in After-School Programs

Amanda Brown Cross, Denise Gottfredson, Denise Wilson, Melissa Rorie, Nadine Connell
Data collected during an evaluation of a multi-site trial of an enhanced after-school program were used to relate quality of program implementation to student experiences after school. 2010.

Inside the Black Box: Assessing and Improving Quality in Youth Programs

Nicole Yohalem and Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom
This paper describes what is known about the relation between youth program quality and youth developmental outcomes, summarizes different quality assessment tools being used in the field, and discusses how such tools are being used to drive systemic quality improvement efforts. 2010.

Quality at the Point of Service: Profiles of Practice in After-School Settings

Charles Smith, Stephen Peck, Anne-Sophie Denault, Juliane Blazevski, Tom Akiva
Staff practices in after-school settings were represented on a series of unidimensional scales closely indexed to staff behavior.  2010.

Defining and Measuring Quality in Youth Programs and Classrooms

New Directions for Youth Development Special Issue
In this volume of New Directions for Youth Development, scholars who study three different settings—classrooms, youth programs, and mentoring dyads—were asked to reflect on what constitutes quality in their setting and how to think about measuring it, focusing specifically on quality “at the point of service” and offering advice to practitioners about effective and manageable ways to incorporate assessment into their work in order to improve quality. 2009.

Measuring Youth Program Quality: A Guide to Youth Assessment Tools, 2nd Edition

N. Yohalem, A. Wilson-Ahlstrom, S. Fischer and M. Shinn
A guide designed to compare the purpose, structure, content and technical properties of several youth program quality assessment tools. 2009.

Once we know it, we can grow it
Summary version

Produced by Extension: Joyce Walker, Cecilia Gran, Deborah Moore
A white paper on how quality matters in multiple dimensions of nonformal learning in the nonschool hours. (PDF) 2009.

Quality Matters in Afterschool Programs

Produced by Extension: Ann Lochner and Deborah Moore
A short brief about how youth who participate in high-quality afterschool programs have positive outcomes. Increasing the impact of afterschool programs means increasing program quality and youth engagement. (PDF) 2008.

Quality time after school: What instructors can do to enhance learning

Jean Grossman, Margo Campbell and Becca Raley
A report about characteristics of after-school activities that are linked to youth engagement and learning across a rich diversity of out-of-school-time activity areas. (PDF) 2007.

Quality Toolkit - Voice and Engagement

Produced by Extension Center for Youth Development
Activities people can do with staff and young people for the Youth Program Quality Initiative. (PDF) 2007.

Quality Toolkit - Reflection

Produced by Extension Center for Youth Development
Activities people can do with staff and young people for the Youth Program Quality Initiative. (PDF) 2007.

Exploring Quality Standards for Middle School After School Programs: What we Know and What we Need to Know Summit

H. Westmoreland and P. Little
Various reports and articles about a quality summit. 2005.

The Massachusetts after-school research study (MARS)

B.M. Miller
A report examining the relationship between program characteristics and program quality. Identifies key quality indicators that predict positive outcomes for youth. 2005.

Forum Focus: Quality Counts

The Forum for Youth Investment
An article explaining the importance of quality. 2003.

Making Out-of-School Time Safe for All Youth

Pam Stevens
A journal article on how program quality and accessibility are essential to making school time safe. (PDF) 2001.

Our past presentations

Youth As Assessors: Engaging Youth in Program Improvement

Betsy Olson, Karyn Santl and Alneida Madrigal

This webinar explores how youth in programs could be the very resource needed to improve program quality! Presenters draw from an ongoing pilot project aimed at including youth in program evaluation and 4-H program improvement planning, and highlight current research regarding the impacts of participatory evaluation practices with young people.

The webinar outlines best practices, investigates the important elements of youth-adult partnerships to engage youth in evaluation and assessment projects, and will leave you with some strategies that can help build participatory evaluation practices into any youth program. 2016.

Increasing youth program retention through program quality

Becky Harrington & Trish Sheehan
The Minnesota 4-H Retention Study was commissioned to gather data to better understand how 4-H could improve its member retention rate. The study asked youth who left the program why they decided to join, stay, and ultimately leave 4-H. Learn about study results and be challenged to think about the implications for your youth organization. 2013.

Putting youth participatory evaluation into action: Lessons learned and innovations

Katie Richards-Schuster
March 14, 2013

Ensuring quality across out-of-school programs and systems

Dr. Heather Weiss
Fact sheets with information on high quality programming taking an expert touch, including aligning disparate resources, including program organization. 2007.
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