Initiative learning community

Impacts on the Out-of-School Time Field in Oregon

bob Maureen of Coaching Leaders, an Initiative learning community partner, talks about the Initiative's impacts on Oregon's out-of-school time field.

The Initiative is contributing to the development of the out-of-school time field in Oregon

The out-of-school time field is diffuse. Its many stakeholders include a diverse array of programs with varying contexts. Outside the Initiative, there are limited opportunities for coordination or collaboration between programs, as well as a lack of dedicated state funding to promote professional development, incentivize quality or support sectorwide collaboration or coordination.

The Initiative is strengthening the out-of-school time field through its long-term presence, leadership in defining and prioritizing program quality, and facilitation of a robust learning community made possible by developing the Institute for Youth Success as a valued intermediary.

The Initiative is raising the profile of high-quality out-of-school time opportunities, particularly for students facing the opportunity gap.

Self Enhancement, Inc.

The Initiative’s emphasis on middle school is increasing the presence, reach and quality of programs engaging middle school students throughout the state—effectively narrowing the opportunity gap for students of color, students from under-resourced rural communities, and students from low-income families.

The Initiative learning community is also a valuable venue for learning how to support middle school students and explore related equity issues, which prompts programs to think about who they want and need to serve to best address the opportunity gap. Program quality improvement work is also focusing attention on the quality of middle school programs specifically, as our version of the YPQ tools are designed for that age group.

Efforts to share what we have learned through the Initiative have also raised awareness with other funders and networks. Further, attention paid to social and emotional learning through the Initiative has positioned the foundations to participate in state-level conversations about promoting and measuring social and emotional learning in schools.

[Oregon Community Foundation] has really been a leader as the first foundation I’m aware of to really exercise and prioritize out-of-school time as a strategy and that is really drawing attention to the middle school years.
—Out-of-school time stakeholder

The learning community is an important, uncommon venue for networking, shared learning & collaboration.

Initiative learning community

The learning community is developing a shared culture of learning and a stronger out-of-school time professional network. Program staff can share advice about and troubleshoot challenges like navigating quality improvement. Because program staff are trained in the same program quality and youth development content, they build skills that are transferable to other programs. Thus, even as staff move around, they spread their knowledge of high-quality practices and become more knowledgeable as a group.

There is not a lot of opportunity for this type of thing—a dedicated learning community, dedicated funding and clarity as a system around the focus on program quality. I think it is really, really important for the field. 
—Out-of-school time stakeholder

Some participating programs have also developed or deepened collaborations with one another, which they directly attribute to participation in the learning community. For example, Bend Science Station and Gilchrist School are now working together to offer students in the Gilchrist community new learning opportunities.

[W]e’re all in this together. You know, when you change how you do things it can expose you to risk, and when you do things together it can mitigate that risk.
—Program staff

The Initiative’s long-term, substantial presence is a stabilizing & strengthening force.

Given the long and expansive nature of the Initiative, which comprises 50 programs statewide over seven years, many of the participation benefits cited by individual programs can also be considered benefits for Oregon’s entire out-of-school time field.

As the quality and capacity of individual programs grow, program practices spread from site to site, and staff bring knowledge with them as they move from one organization to another, the whole field strengthens. Program leaders and stakeholders have said that it feels like the field is “coalescing” or even “coming of age” through the Initiative.

[I]t's not just me and my small little corner of youth development world; it's a bigger community. So I have appreciated that aspect. There's real value in feeling you are part of something bigger that's going on.
—Program staff

Finally, the long-term, continued commitment of two of the state’s largest nongovernmental funders communicates that out-of-school time is valuable and worth supporting.

The Initiative’s leadership in developing & supporting the use of Oregon-specific YPQ tools has bolstered program quality statewide.

I am very excited that so many groups are interested in trying to think about quality; it's a struggle, but there are a lot of people who want to think about it and are trying or are doing their best to try to improve the quality of what they’re offering and to make sure there is grounding in youth development practice; that’s not something I thought 10 years ago.
—Out-of-school time stakeholder

By developing Oregon-specific YPQ tools through an inclusive process, supporting programs to use the tool over a sufficient period of time to learn what works and what support is needed, and making the tool and our learnings available statewide, the Initiative has paved the way for other networks and funders to better understand and support program quality improvement.

Programs and stakeholders have been pleased to see greater coordination and collaboration between funders. They note that as programs, networks and funders build a shared definition of program quality, it raises and aligns expectations across the state, pushing them to improve programs and mitigating the reporting burden.

Other local funders and initiatives—including Multnomah County's SUN Community Schools, Portland Children’s Levy and PGE Foundation—have supported YPQ use in some of their programs over the last several years, though they have not yet required programs to use the YPQ over the long term.

Out-of-school time program leaders and stakeholders appreciate the coordination and collaboration between funders, noting that as programs, networks and funders build a shared understanding of what program quality looks like, expectations rise across the state.

Getting people together to talk across organizations and looking statewide so that folks get perspectives from different regions is powerful and necessary; I think the [YPQ] work will go a long way for building shared expectations for what quality practice looks like across organizations, [which] is really important because a lot of folks move between organizations quite a bit.
—Out-of-school time stakeholder

The Institute for Youth Success is now an important part of Oregon’s out-of-school time ecosystem.

Over the course of the Initiative, Oregon Community Foundation and The Ford Family Foundation have increasingly shifted responsibility for managing the Initiative learning community to the Institute for Youth Success. The Institute for Youth Success team works hard to meet the needs of programs by tailoring regional training offerings and implementing various adaptations to better support program success (e.g., by increasing one-on-one coaching for program improvement planning).

The Initiative is also supporting the Institute for Youth Success in providing trainings for any program in Oregon, regardless of Initiative participation. As a result, the Institute for Youth Success has become an important part of the out-of-school time ecosystem in Oregon, providing vital training and coaching within and beyond the learning community.