By Ben Trentelman | 

It’s clear to all of us that your program is great. You’ve got kids coming every day. They know you, you know them, your enrichment activities are on point, and you can make it through your homework time with only a handful of kids insisting that they don’t know what homework is. You feel good, your team feels good, and the kids don’t cause too much trouble for you. All is well! Why fix what isn’t broken? Why stir the pot? Well… as good as things seem now, they could be better… As good as things can get, they can STILL BE BETTER. 

That’s why the Quality Self-Assessment Tool exists; to help things continue to get better, no matter how good they may seem right now. 

We hear a good deal from programs why they don’t feel like they should complete the Quality Tool; they’ve done it a bunch and don’t think they need to do it anymore… Alright, that’s just about all we hear from people about why they don’t think they should complete a quality self-assessment. They’ve done it, they know it, nuff said. Well, that’s not all there is to increasing program quality, and here is why:

The Quality Tool is only part of a continuous improvement cycle.

Improving your program quality isn’t just about reviewing best practices to see what you are doing and what you aren’t doing. It’s all about identifying what you are doing well along with the areas in which you can improve. Once you identify areas for growth, you set goals in order to improve where you can. You work on those goals and regularly assess how well you are doing. Once you feel like you’ve improved, you reassess your goals and objectives and either continue to work on improving more in certain areas or you can choose to focus on another area. Completing the tool on an annual basis gives you a nice window to reassess how you’ve progressed from the previous year’s goals and to look at other areas that you didn’t focus on before.   

We understand that this may seem like a lot to keep track of, but if you work as a team, focus your efforts, are accountable to one another, and follow-through, this process becomes part of your day-to-day ritual and can drive the entire program.

You may have been around for a while, but the odds are that your team has changed.

IMG 1182We are lucky to have so many seasoned coordinators and staff working in afterschool programs around Utah, but the reality is that those seasoned employees are the minority in this field. We see an unfortunate amount of turnaround in afterschool programs, which means a lot of people aren’t aware of best practices, your goals, or your mission. The Quality Tool is a nice way to communicate all of that to your team, no matter how long they’ve been around.

Two years ago UAN completed a Quality Study where we evaluated different strategies to support quality improvement in afterschool programs. The programs where we saw the greatest growth were those where staff had working knowledge of their program’s quality improvement efforts and mission. To best utilize the Quality Tool, it should be completed by your team collaboratively. You want to give your team an opportunity to discuss and review each area of the tool and to help in your evaluation process. Once everyone has had a chance to review the areas and rate your program, have a discussion about how you scored in each area, why you scored what you did, and how you can improve. This discussion helps to increase the buy-in your team has in your program, increases their knowledge of best practices, and helps them to align those ideas with your overall programming, philosophy, and mission. The more informed and participatory your staff are in decision making, the more ownership they have, and the less likely they are to move on to something else. If you include, inform, and listen to your team, you are more likely to keep them. 

Reviewing the Quality Tool with new team members is also an excellent onboarding resource to bring them up to speed with the rest of the team. 

The Quality Tool Makes You Look So Good! 

One of the struggles we face in the afterschool world is that some may think we’re all basket-weaving, camp songs, and dodge-ball. While we love all of those, we all know that afterschool is so much more! Including your partners, families, schools, and youth in your quality improvement efforts lets them see first-hand that you are focused on maintaining the safest program possible and are willing to evaluate the safety of your program to make sure it is up to snuff on an annual basis. You show them that you are determined to create an atmosphere that supports academic success, enrichment, and social and emotional learning. You show them that you want to support healthy relationships and interactions among youth, adults, and in the community, and you show them that you closely collect and evaluate data, including attendance, measures for academic growth, and other areas to constantly understand the community you serve and to improve your program. You are demonstrating your commitment to academic rigor, understanding of development, and intentionality of your practices. You are showing them that you are an informal educator and that what you do is methodical and greatly beneficial to youth, families, and the community.

So, with that being said, I have to ask one question: why aren’t you looking at the Quality Tool right now? Here it is! 

As you engage your team in the self-assessment process, remember that you can always reach out to our team of Out-of-School Time Specialists for support.

Published in Utah Afterschool Blog