, Volume 45, Issue 3-4, pp 350-357

Inside the Black Box: Assessing and Improving Quality in Youth Programs

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Abstract

Over the past decade, structured programming for children and youth during the non-school hours has expanded exponentially. A confluence of recent research studies and program evaluations backs the publicly perceived notion that after-school programs can positively influence important developmental and learning outcomes. The rapid expansion of the field and the potential of programs to contribute to child and youth development have made defining what high quality programs look like and learning how to improve program quality key challenges facing the field. This paper describes what is known about the relation between youth program quality and youth developmental outcomes, summarizes different quality assessment tools being used in the field, and discusses how such tools are being used to drive systemic quality improvement efforts.