For a Great OST Program, Build in Quality & Accountability
During a visit to Hilton Elementary School (a Community School), I watched 4th grade scholars participating in an out-of-school-time (OST) program operated by one of our lead agencies, Child First Authority, Inc., practice their skills in forensic science by dissecting owl pellets. Using their previous knowledge about owls, students made predictions about what they might find. Armed with their investigative tools, students carefully broke apart the owl pellets to reveal small bones, claws, fur, feathers, and skull fragments. All students were hard at work and were excited to share each new discovery.
It was a real hoot! But this isn’t child’s play.
This program is one of 44 Community School-based OST programs supported by Family League that has recently undergone an external assessment. External assessments provide OST programs with an unbiased evaluation of programming focusing on the point-of-service – the opportunities that staff are creating for youth. Developed through the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, the Youth and School-Age Program Quality Assessment tool identifies 70 specific elements of best practice relating to safe environment, supportive environment, interaction, engagement, youth-centered policies and practices, high expectations for youth and staff, and access.
We saw gains this year in the average instructional score for Family League’s 44 OST programs. The score is the unweighted average of three of the four domains: supportive environment; interaction; and engagement. This score represents quality of the instructional experience between staff and youth.
This is a win for everyone: Kids engage in fun learning activities, while the school, the OST operator, and Family League obtain a clear-eyed, data-driven view of what’s working and how to build on success.