OCF Staff Author a Book Chapter, ‘From Quantity to Quality: How and Why the K-12 Student Success: Out-of-School Time Initiative has Evolved Over Time’

High-quality out-of school time programs provide important opportunities to students while they are not in school (e.g., afterschool or during summer break). These programs benefit students in many ways, bolstering academic engagement and attendance, sense of belonging, and social and emotional learning.

Book cover imageThe K-12 Student Success: Out-of-School Time Initiative is an ongoing partnership between Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) and The Ford Family Foundation (TFFF) that aims to support student success by narrowing the opportunity and subsequent achievement gaps experienced by students of color, low-income students and students from rural communities. To do so, the Initiative has supported over 50 community organizations and schools to strengthen out-of-school (OST) programming for thousands of middle school students throughout Oregon over the last seven years.

To share what the partners have learned through implementing the Initiative, and how the Initiative has evolved over time as a result, staff from OCF and the Institute for Youth Success at EducationNW (who manage the Initiative’s robust learning community), authored a chapter in the new book, “Measure, Use, Improve! Data Use in Out-of-School Time.”

In the chapter, the authors reflect on the importance of relationship building between the partners and the programs funded through the Initiative, of positioning foundation staff as learners alongside participating program staff, and of an openness to change that fostered improvement for everyone involved. This allowed foundation and IYS staff to continually adapt the Initiative in response to the needs of participating programs, ultimately benefiting the students they serve.

A central example of Initiative adaptation through learning is in its increasing emphasis on program quality. At the outset of the Initiative, most programs were working to both expand programming – to serve more students, often in new ways, than they had previously – and improve quality. Within a couple of years, it was clear that it was difficult to do both, and that both programs and students could benefit greatly from more intensive quality improvement efforts. The foundations shifted the funding requirements and the supports offered through the Initiative’s learning community accordingly and have seen and heard the benefits of doing so.

“[Program quality work] is finally giving us something tangible, measurable… a way to accurately depict what's going on in the [program]. We have struggled with that for a while. I’m excited about displaying the impact we’re having with kids, how intentional we are about how we show up for kids in programs. This help others understand what we are doing.”

Out of School Time program staff

The chapter also delves into how the Initiative has been influenced by equity considerations, and the continued challenges around marrying national research on high quality youth development practices with local knowledge and culturally relevant practices. By learning with each other, the foundations and community-based programs are both utilizing continuous improvement processes, adopting nationally researched frameworks and honoring and valuing local and cultural knowledge to best serve youth and families.

“Equity also frames how we think about learning with and alongside programs: We work to center program expertise and to lift up what they know works, rather than assuming that existing research has it all figured out.”

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“Measure, Use, Improve! Data Use in Out-of-School Time” shares the experience and wisdom from a broad cross-section of OST professionals, ranging from internal evaluators, to funders, to researchers, to policy advocates. The book’s chapters touch on a range of topics, including how to build support for learning and evaluation within OST programs, creating and sustaining continuous quality improvement efforts, authentically engaging young people in evaluation, and securing funder support for learning and evaluation.

“Measure, Use, Improve!” makes the case for investing in building systems of evaluation and continuous quality improvement to deepen the impact of OST programs. The book’s authors share conceptual frameworks that have helped inform their thinking, walk through practical examples of how data in OST has strengthened their organizations, and offer advice to colleagues.