The hallmark of a good after school program is its ability to educate the whole child. The best programs are designed to ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

This is possible through thoughtful, engaging activities that not only support academic achievement but also foster physical, emotional and social development.  

But while it’s easy to measure academic skills through grades and test scores, it can be difficult to assess non-academic skills like problem-solving, collaboration and persistence.

So how can program leaders measure students’ overall growth and development in after school?


3 Ways to Assess Student Growth and Development in After School Programs

Providing a more complete look at student development helps program leaders tailor activities to focus on individual student’s needs. It also supports continuous quality improvement, which is critical to program success.

But test scores and A-F grades don’t always paint a clear picture of students’ skills and competencies. In fact, public schools are even looking for ways to modernize these old methods of student assessment, according to Edutopia.

The goal is to build a framework that “provides more comprehensive, qualitative feedback on students” and captures hard-to-measure skills. And after school programs are positioned to revolutionize the way we measure student achievement.

First, begin by setting targeted outcomes for students. Be sure to provide activities that are designed to help them achieve those set outcomes. Then use one or a combination of the strategies below to effectively assess student development in your program:


Use digital badges.

Digital badges are great tools for assessing students’ skills and achievements outside of the classroom. They provide online records of accomplishments, skills, qualities, and interests earned in the after school space. Badges can be earned for a variety of skills like communication, teamwork and critical thinking.

Program leaders can issue and manage badges through a third-party platform, like Open Badges or Class Badges. They also have the ability to share badges with students, parents, colleges and even employers. See how Boston After School & Beyond uses digital badges to demonstrate student progress and skill mastery.

Conduct pre- and post-program assessments.

Distribute assessments to both parents and students at the beginning and towards the end of the program. To gain better insight, focus on open-ended questions that are centered around your targeted outcomes for students.

For parents, ask about their child’s greatest strengths and skills, areas where she may need improvement and their expectations for the year. Students can also share their greatest strengths and skills as well as their feelings about school and goals for the year.

Towards the end of the school year, distribute another assessment based on initial questions. You may ask:

  • Did parents see progress?
  • Did the program meet their expectations for their child?
  • Did students reach their goals?
  • Has their feelings about school changed or remained the same?

Evaluate the assessments to build a comprehensive report for each student. These reports can give parents and students a high-level view of the year while providing details on specific skills and competencies.

Build competency reports.

These reports focus on students’ mastery of individual skills and competencies rather than averaging out their performance across an entire unit or skill set. It promotes continuous learning and allows you to see exactly where students are succeeding or where they may need extra help.

That’s one reason why more schools are adopting a competency-based assessment. It provides a holistic view of the student instead of a single snapshot. Here are a few tips for building competency reports in after school:

  • Use fun and engaging assessment strategies to measure understanding and identify weaknesses. Strategies include four corners, think-pair-share and peer instruction.
  • Provide reports to parents, staff, school teachers and other stakeholders on a regular basis (i.e. bi-weekly, month or quarterly). Check out this competency report and template to get started.
  • Include student self-assessment and reflection to involve them in the reporting process.

Students gain valuable skills, knowledge and experiences in after school that can’t be measured by grades and test scores. Use these strategies to assess student development and to provide a more detailed look at achievement in after school programs.