Setting Standards for Out-of-School Time

Originally Posted at on 7/17/15

Children fan out across the tennis courts at the MaliVai Washington Youth Center in Jacksonville, Fla. Founded by tennis star MaliVai Washington, the center offers an after-school program called TnT (Tennis-n-Tutoring) where kids learn the sport. Not only do they hone their athletic skills, they also gain life skills and get academic support.

On the court, kids toss the ball upward and take a swing. Then they look to see if their serve landed where they intended. They’re measuring their actual performance against what they’d like it to be.

Something similar is happening among after-school providers. They’re honing their skills, too, and measuring their programs against carefully devised standards to be as effective as possible. Tennis-n-Tutoring, for example, adheres to the Florida Afterschool Network’s quality standards, a requirement for gaining funding from the city of Jacksonville.

Pushed by statewide after-school networks and some funders, the creation of standards is part of a broad movement toward making the quality of after-school programs consistently high. Some cities are also adopting standards.

The Wallace Foundation has supported 14 cities in developing citywide after-school systems, starting in 2003 with Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington and Providence, R.I. In 2012, Wallace provided grants to nine more: Jacksonville; Baltimore; Denver; Fort Worth, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minn.; Grand Rapids, Mich., and Louisville, Ky.

“All nine have now adopted citywide quality standards, and eight are assessing program quality using a common citywide assessment tool,” said Priscilla Little, initiative manager for learning and enrichment at The Wallace Foundation.

“We believe after-school programs are the perfect opportunity to practice and refine social and emotional learning skills, and that only will happen when you have really deep program quality in place,” Little said.

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