Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Study of Program Quality and Youth Outcomes

By Cathie Mostovoy, guest blogger  

In May 2011, Woodcraft Rangers, the Los Angeles based afterschool program, published the results of an in-depth study of its Nvision afterschool programs, covering 43 elementary and 14 middle school sites.

The study, entitled Assessment of Program Quality and Youth Outcomes: A Study of the Woodcraft Rangers’ Nvision Afterschool Program is one of the few ever conducted to directly measure program quality and its impact on student academic and behavioral outcomes.  While past studies conducted by the afterschool community have shown that regular attendance in high quality afterschool programs is associated with positive development outcomes for school-age youth, rarely have they directly tested the relationships between afterschool program quality and student outcomes.  Using quality and outcome data from the Nvision 2008/2009 program year, the Woodcraft study primarily sought to explore the implementation of the Nvision afterschool program model at various sites, and to examine whether and how quality is associated with student outcomes. Areas used for assessing quality fell into five general categories: Activities, Collaboration, Staffing, School partnership, and Youth involvement.

Using a unique and sophisticated algorithm, study findings were able to define the meaning of “quality” while producing measureable results and program improvement information that can be implemented by management.  Significantly, the study confirmed that afterschool program quality impacts youth outcomes even beyond demographics and participation level, especially at the middle-school level. The findings further show that youth leadership in the program is critical to changing outcomes at the middle-school level, while additional adult involvement in club activities is more important at elementary sites.  

The importance of this study is the confirmation that afterschool program quality needs to be understood and defined in terms of outcomes. Results show that quality is not a one-size fits all proposition, and that expectations differ between elementary and middle school outcomes.  This study has given Woodcraft a foundation for assessing quality in a way that will help maximize the effectiveness of the Nvision program, making each site truly responsive to the needs of its students and helping them to explore pathways to purposeful lives.  It also provides a roadmap for other organizations to follow in evaluating their programs, using the results to guide their quality measures (and related action steps) and improve their own outcomes.

Woodcraft Rangers’ Chief Executive Officer Cathie Mostovoy has more than 20 years of experience delivering, administering and advocating for after school and educational services for young people in need. Cathie received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned her Masters of Education in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University.

Woodcraft Rangers serves more than 18,000 students from 70 locations in high-need neighborhoods of Los Angeles County.

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