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Design, manage & evaluate youth programs


Quality does matter and directly affects the development of youth. View the latest quality studies and learn how to assess and increase the quality of your program.


Reports & articles

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

Even More! Building Your Programs 20 Minutes at a Time: Leadership & Reflection Activities You Can Use - Book 2 (PDF)
Anne Stevenson, Anita Harris, 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. 2011

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes
Forum for Youth Investment
Out-of-school time programs can help youth develop skills and attributes they need to be ready for college, work and life, but few have the tools to effectively measure those outcomes. This guide reviews eight youth outcome measurement tools appropriate for use in after-school and other settings. 2011

Preliminary findings from the Minnesota 4-H Quality Improvement Study (PDF)
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. 2011

A Meta-Analysis of After-School Programs That Seek to Promote Personal and Social Skills in Children and Adolescents
Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg, Molly Pachan
A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to enhance the personal and social skills of children and adolescents indicated that, compared to controls, participants demonstrated significant increases in their self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, school grades and levels of academic achievement, and significant reductions in problem behaviors. 2010

Building Your Programs 20 Minutes at a Time: Leadership & Reflection Activities You Can Use (PDF)
Anne Stevenson, Anita Harris, 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. 2010

Developing and Improving After-School Programs to Enhance Youth’s Personal Growth and Adjustment: A Special Issue of AJCP
Joseph Durlak, Joseph, Mahoney, Amy Bohnert, Maria Parente
This introductory article overviews the historical and current context of ASPs and then describes a developmental ecological model to guide research in this area. 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

Does the Amount of Participation in Afterschool Programs Relate to Developmental Outcomes? A Review of the Literature
Jodie Roth, Lizabeth Malone, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn
Contrary to the findings from previous reviews we found little support for the general notion that greater amounts of participation in afterschool programs was related to academic, behavioral, or socio-emotional outcomes. 2010

Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance
David Shernoff
Using the experience sampling method, this study examined two questions related to outcomes associated with after-school programming. First, does the quality of experience in after-school programs mediate the effect of program participation on social competence and academic performance? Second, among program participants, is the difference in quality of experience when in programs versus other settings after school related to higher social competence and academic performance?  2010

Hours of Opportunity Volume I, Lessons from Five Cities(PDF) Volume II, The Power of Data(PDF) Volume III, Profiles of Five Cities (PDF)
Susan J. Bodilly, Jennifer Sloan McCombs et al.
This three-volume report examines Wallace-supported efforts in five cities to build systems to improve the quality and accessibility of after-school, summer and other out-of-school time (OST) programs. The study concludes that the fledgling systems, which seek to coordinate the work of major OST players like schools, parks departments, and nonprofit after-school programs, hold some promise. 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

Investing in Success: Key Strategies for Building Quality in After-School Programs
Jessica Sheldon, Amy Arbreton, Leigh Hopkins, Jean Baldwin Grossman
This paper examines the relation between the implementation quality of after-school literacy activities and student reading gains. 2010

More Than Attendance: The Importance of After-School Program Quality
Barton Hirsch, Megan Mekinda, JulieAnn Stawicki
In this commentary, we discuss why student engagement, program characteristics and implementation, staff training, and citywide policy are key considerations in the effort to define and achieve high quality programs for youth. 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

Specific Features of After-School Program Quality: Associations with Children’s Functioning in Middle Childhood
Kim Pierce, Daniel Bolt, Deborah Lowe Vandell
This longitudinal study examined associations between three after-school program quality features (positive staff–child relations, available activities, programming flexibility) and child developmental outcomes (reading and math grades, work habits, and social skills with peers) in Grade 2 and then Grade 3. 2010

Understanding and Improving the Effectiveness of After-School Practice
Robert Granger
This article draws on the work in this volume and related studies to suggest that there is an emerging consensus on the importance of staff-youth interactions as a determinant of program effectiveness. 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 (PDF) Summary version (PDF)
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. 2009

Afterschool programs in the 21st century: Their potential and what it takes to achieve it.
Priscilla M.D. Little, Christopher Wimer, Heather B. Weiss
This research brief draws on seminal research and evaluation studies to address two primary questions: (a) Does participation in after school programs make a difference, and, if so (b) what conditions appear to be necessary to achieve positive results? 2008

Quality Matters in Afterschool Programs (PDF)
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. 2008

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

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

Building an Effective After-school Program (PDF)
HighScope Youth
An article on point-of-service quality matters where most young people feel safe, want to show up, and genuine learning occurs. 2007

Quality time after school: What instructors can do to enhance learning (PDF)
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. 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

Keys to Quality Youth Development
Produced by Extension: Patricia Almquist, Barbara Brekke, Sara R. Croymans, Kari Fruechte, Mary Matlack, Betty McAndrews, Patricia Morreim, Jolie Ogg-Graybill, Barbara Piehl, Joyce Walker, and Tom Zurcher
This guide is a working tool to stimulate, challenge, and encourage youth and adults as they work together to plan, conduct, and evaluate quality experiences. 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

Understanding prevention effectiveness in real-world settings: The national cross-site evaluation of high risk youth programs
M. R. Mueller, et. al.
A report on a large multisite evaluation (MSE) of 48 substance abuse prevention programs, 5,934 youth participating in programs, and 4,539 comparison youth programs. 2005

Promoting quality through professional development: A framework for evaluation
S. Bouffard and P. Little
A journal article recognizing the critical role that staffs play in promoting quality out-of-school time (OST) programs. 2004

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

Related organizations

Ready by 21 initiative
Ready by 21 provides leaders with proven tools and resources based on the knowledge and experience of top thinkers from across the country. Take advantage of blueprints, surveys, how-to guides, Webinars, in-depth coaching and technical assistance to ensure the success of your initiative.

A database of research-based youth development materials, particularly for at-risk audiences. Includes curricula, new and seminal research, technology and program evaluation resources.

David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality empowers education and human service leaders to adapt, implement, and scale best-in-class, research validated quality improvement systems to advance child and youth development.

Harvard Family Research Project
Research on more effective youth development practices, programs, and policies.

Search Institute
Research-based solutions to challenges facing young people.

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