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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Exploring the Utility of Quality Assessment

quality assessment

As funders, partners, and education departments require out-of-school time programs do some type of quality assessment, I thought it would be timely to discuss successful strategies for implementing a quality assessment process.

The last thing we want is to do the work to conduct an assessment and then have the results just sit on a shelf until a report is due…but we all know that can happen if we don’t have a plan for how to use the information to inform practice. Below are some approaches that have been effective for us over the years in bringing assessment to life in our programs.

Determine a Process.

There is a lot of information available on the different types of assessment tools, along with comparative analyses that allow you to see how comprehensively each tool addresses the standards. In my opinion, most of these tools provide a similar service. It is more about how you use the tool and the process you create around its use than the tool itself. If it is something you do just once and don’t spend much time following up, it will have little positive impact on your program. It is the creation of a timeline for both the initial process and waypoints to monitor implementation of next steps that drives the improvement process.

Be Inclusive.

When you invite people from a diverse cross-section of your program to participate, it increases buy-in and produces the most useful information. This means having all levels of the program participate in the assessment process (managers, line staff, fiscal staff, principals, and other stakeholders). It can be enlightening to see the differences in perception depending on someone’s role in the program and can point to specific areas that may warrant additional dialog and role-specific training.

Create Focus.

Sometimes the assessments can feel very daunting in their length and scope. They are generally lengthy in order to be comprehensive but so much data can lead to inertia by overwhelm. Use the assessment to select one or two key areas to really focus on. This doesn’t mean the other areas aren’t important but it can be demoralizing to attempt to tackle too much all at once. This strategy will enable you to develop a long term plan that divides up the work into manageable chunks.

Align Your Tools.

One approach that has worked well is aligning program surveys and rubrics (observation forms, evaluations, teacher/parent surveys, student focus groups, etc.) to use the language of the assessment. This gives you a built-in ongoing measure of progress across constituent groups and further invites program staff and stakeholders to work together on issue areas identified in the assessment.

Start a New Language.

With your entire staff and stakeholders involved in the assessment process, you can begin to create your own language of improvement. To get there, you have to spend time discussing your definition of the quality elements and the action steps that are agreed upon to achieve improvement. Improvement can be more rapid and comprehensive if everyone is moving towards a common goal, helping each other and holding each other accountable along the way.

For breakfast I had a burrito and coffee this morning.

Author Profile: @juliemcclure

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