August 06, 2021

Back to School with School Day and Afterschool Alignment

By Holly Phillips |  


Lisa Wisham |

Here in Utah we know that improved outcomes for youth can happen when afterschool programs complement and support concepts being taught during the school day. In afterschool programs and schools in which there is intentional alignment between the afterschool program and the school day, teachers have expressed noticeable improvements in students’ class participation, homework completion, and positive behaviors. As teachers continue to see these positive changes in their students, they will become more invested in the afterschool program, which opens the door for additional alignment opportunities.

The Afterschool Alliance (2011) suggested “Afterschool is at its best when it complements and coordinates with, but does not replicate, the learning that occurs during the formal school day.” Research on school day and afterschool alignment includes Gil Nom’s work (2003), in which he proposed various degrees of “bridging” to align these two worlds. The work of Nom and his associates provided the framework that future researchers have utilized and built upon. Bennett (2015), Anthony, Carmichael (2016) offered three school day/afterschool alignment practices: 1) sharing of resources; 2) sense of partnership; and 3) communication structures to further inform their work in this area. 

It can be tricky to know where to start school alignment conversations. We know that aligning with the school day isn’t always as easy as it sounds which is why we created the Align for Success Rubric, a self-evaluation tool that provides a roadmap for school alignment. The descriptions under the “integrated” column indicate best practices for each of the 5 key areas of alignment (relationships, program and school policy, shared resources, student needs, and academics). Each section offers examples of the degree of bridging within an afterschool program and school team partnership. This evaluation is to help you think through where you might have areas of weakness and how to create goals for improvement. UAN recommends completing the rubric individually or as a team both in the fall and the spring as a way to show and celebrate progress and successes. Check out the School Day & Afterschool Alignment Webinar for additional information and help on completing the rubric. 

In addition to the Align for Success Rubric, UAN has a variety of newly created or carefully curated resources on school alignment. Once your baseline assessment is complete and you’ve created goals for your semester or year, use these tools and resources to help you create a plan for success. Make sure to share your plan with your team and your Out-of-School Time Specialist/School Alignment and Data Specialistanna samoylova w55SpMmoPgE unsplash

Here are six recommended steps to take during the start of the school year. See if you can complete one or more of these before or during the first couple weeks of school. 

  1. Complete the Align for Success Rubric, create SMART goals and discuss your plan for the semester or year as a team then share your strategic plan with your school day administration welcoming feedback and suggestions. 
  2. Connect with your school administration to discuss their top goals and priorities for the semester and full year then go back to your plan and see how your program can reinforce and align. 
  3. Gather curriculum maps from teachers or the school administration then use this information to help map out your semester. They can also usually be found on the school district website.
  4. Introduce yourself to school day personnel. See if you can have 5 minutes during a staff meeting to talk about your team and your program or see if you can write a hello blurb for a newsletter or email announcement. 
  5. Highlight your summer successes and share them with school day personnel with in-person conversations or write a note to individual teachers who will have your students in the upcoming year. 
  6. Ask questions and take note on how the school plans to connect with families throughout the year. Are there ways you can collaborate or coordinate events that complement their plan? 

About the Authors

Meet your Utah School Alignment Team! Holly Phillips has been with UAN since 2019. She enjoys working with programs all over the state and is always just a phone call or email away. Lisa Wisham, from the Utah Education Policy Center, helps to round out this dynamic duo by providing a wealth of knowledge on school improvement and school day perspectives,