Creating High-Quality Afterschool Programs
For many children in neighborhoods across Missouri, afterschool programs provide a structured, safe, supervised place to be – whether before or after school – for learning, fun, and friendship with adults and peers alike.
From school to school, neighborhood to neighborhood, and community to community, every program is different. Successful programs respond to community needs: their creation is the result of a community effort to evaluate the needs of its school-age children when school is not in session.
Characteristics Indicative of Successful Programs
Realistic Goals and Strong Leadership
First and foremost, good programs set realistic goals and have strong leadership and effective managers who carry them forward.
Adequate Numbers of Skilled, Qualified and Well Compensated Staff and Low Staff/Student Ratios
Quality programs hire skilled, qualified staff, and provide them with ongoing professional development. They provide strong salaries and benefits. Keeping adult-to-child ratios low and group sizes manageable, lends itself to higher quality and better outcomes for youth.
Attention to Safety, Health and Nutritious Issues
Programs should be safe, close to home and accessible to all youth who want to participate. There should be adequate space for a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. Quality programs provide a nutritious snack and other meals when appropriate for relaxation and socializing and to promote sound nutrition for participants.
Effective Communication and Other Linkages Between School-Day and After-School Personnel
Quality programs support and coordinate their activities with the school in a way that supports true partnership. Planning time is available between both staffs and coordinated use of facilities and resources is maximized.
Diverse Program, Well Balanced Between Academic-Linked, Enrichment and Leisure/Recreation Activities, Strong Linkages Between School and Afterschool Experiences
While many programs offer homework support and tutoring, successful programs ensure that academic-linked activities are fun and engaging. Parents often want computer, art, and music classes as well as opportunities for their children to do community service. Linking the program with children's learning experiences in the classroom improves children's academic achievement. Toward this end, there are a number of strategies that can be incorporated into a school age community/afterschool program. Coordinating what is learned during the regular school day with afterschool activities and establishing linkages between school-day teachers and afterschool personnel can go a long way towards helping students learn.
Solid Parent/Family and Community Involvement and Feedback
Good programs reach out to the families of children in the program, keeping them informed of their children's activities and providing opportunities to volunteer. Building partnerships with the community only serves to strengthen the partnerships with families and the program as a whole. Afterschool programming includes the entire community. Communities that are involved in afterschool programs provide volunteers, establish supporting networks of community-based and youth-serving organizations, offer expertise in management and youth development, and secure needed resources and funding for programs. These partnerships share a common goal--helping children grow up safe and smart.
Well Planned, Continuous Evaluation
From the very start, effective programs use well-planned, continuous evaluations to judge the efficacy of their efforts based on established, accepted goals for the program. Evaluations typically gather information from students, parents, teachers, school administrators, staff, and volunteers that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as measuring students' academic progress, making improvements in program services, and identifying the need for additional resources.