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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Revising Beyond the Bell – A Few Takeaways

beyond the bell

I began my career as a consultant and trainer for afterschool and expanded learning programs at PlusTime New Hampshire.

While I was there, I had one resource I would turn to time and time again to support the programs I was working with: the Beyond the Bell Toolkit. As a consultant dealing with a variety of program needs and questions, the Toolkit was a great resource for me because there were so many tools available on topics ranging from management to evaluation to program design and delivery. I recommended the Toolkit to the programs I was working with and often (only semi-jokingly) referred to it as “the Holy Grail of afterschool” because it focused on the organizational processes and procedures of developing and maintaining an afterschool program.

Fast forward to today. My team at American Institutes for Research is in the midst of updating and revising the Beyond the Bell Toolkit (Third Edition), which was last updated in 2005. Going through the information in the toolkit has been an interesting process. In many ways, the field has grown and changed over the last eight years but most of the content that is included still applies today.

As we work to identify gaps and begin writing new content, there are a few new or different areas of focus that are worth noting:

  • Evaluation alone is not enough. It is what you do with the data collected through evaluation that really matters. We have added an entirely new chapter to the updated version of Beyond the Bell that focuses on the continuous improvement of afterschool and expanded learning programs through data-driven decisions. In fact, the new version of Beyond the Bell is reorganized and based on a continuous improvement cycle: Develop → Implement → Evaluate.
  • Youth development is not a discrete activity. Rather youth development is the philosophy by which a program operates and these principles are woven into all activities, regardless of content.
  • Partnerships extend beyond the school and youth-serving organizations. Partnerships exist among young people, their families, schools, and the community. Involving each of these key stakeholders is important for the long-term success of an afterschool and expanded learning program.
  • Programs are placing a greater emphasis on hands-on activities, service learning, and STEM. We are looking to afterschool and expanded learning programs now more than ever to offer these kinds of activities because these programs have the additional time, space, and flexibility for activities that may not fit into the traditional school day.

Personally, I am very excited about the new edition but I think one of the best things about the Toolkit

This is something we are really focusing on in the revised edition – is that it can be a great resource for both new and seasoned staff. For those just starting out (like me, back at PlusTime NH), there are tools on defining your mission and setting goals. For those who have been operating a program for years, there are tools on growing family and community partnerships and involving staff in data-driven decision-making. And just like the editions that came before, the new Toolkit will continue to offer tools in Word format for easy editing and personalizing that staff of all levels can use every day.

We are all hard at work and look forward to releasing what we hope will continue to be a great resource for the field. We can’t wait to share it with all of you!

And for breakfast this morning I had Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Flakes and Blueberry Clusters and almond milk, topped with fresh blueberries. Yum!

Author Profile: @jaimesinger

Follow the Afterschool and Expanded Learning team at AIR on Twitter @explearningAIR.

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