Afterschool Quality Matters
Afterschool and summer learning programs possess great potential to make a positive impact on youth, families, and communities. Research shows that these programs increase positive outcomes for youth such as gains in reading and math, improved work habits, strong social skills, and reduced risky behaviors. However, the afterschool field cannot achieve these outcomes without quality programs staffed by highly qualified professionals. To ensure that afterschool programs help meet the needs of youth and families, program providers must understand and implement the best practices that have been shown to support positive outcomes.
West Virginia Afterschool Program Quality Standards
The West Virginia Afterschool Program Quality Standards are set of guidelines backed by research and best practices from the fields of youth development and education. They unite the diverse afterschool field by providing a common language to define what quality looks like in the many places that youth programming happens outside of the school day. The West Virginia Statewide Afterschool Network, in collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Early Care and Education, the West Virginia Department of Education Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and a host of stakeholders from various organizations across the state, fully revised the West Virginia Afterschool Program Quality Standards between May 2022 and March 2023.
The Quality Standards are broken down into eight domains representing key areas of quality. These domains include:
Leadership & Professionalism
Indoor & Outdoor Environments
Youth Development & Program Design
Family, School, & Community Engagement
Health, Safety, & Nutrition
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
The Quality Standards are a low-stakes, voluntary tool afterschool and summer learning programs can use to assess program quality, plan continuous quality improvement efforts, and identify relevant staff professional development topics. The Quality Standards are also a valuable tool for afterschool stakeholders.
Parents and Families: Understand the key elements of a high-quality program and be able to advocate for quality programs for their children and within their own communities.
Funders and Policymakers: Link funding to research-based practices that lead to measurable outcomes and evaluate and improve programs.
K-12 Educators: Understand the key elements of high-quality programs, provide a common language for partnership, and provide a guide to reinforce and advance key priorities.
Higher Education: Assist in designing content for courses related to youth development providers and in choosing strategic partners for research initiatives.