"A commitment to quality has to begin with an understanding of program characteristics likely to benefit children." -The Wallace Foundation

With the recent spotlight on quality improvement, it’s helpful to know that a range of tools and resources is available to support communities, schools and organizations aiming to improve the quality of their after school programming.

After School Quality: The Process of Program Improvement (ASQ) is a five-step assessment process that helps teams of after school professionals examine the quality of their program and make changes that will improve practices. By developing a program mission and practical action plan, after school programs can be confident they will address the needs of the youth and families they serve.

The cornerstone of ASQ is the team approach. ASQ relies on the ideas, contributions and energy of all the individuals who care about a program’s success: staff, families, youth, program directors, board members and others. Everyone involved is invested, has an important voice and can help discover solutions.

ASQ is designed to assist an after school program in becoming the best it can be through gradual change and a consistent five-step process:

Step 1: Prepare the program community. Introduce stakeholders to the ASQ process, and clarify what you want children and youth to gain from your program.

Step 2: Prepare the ASQ team. Select the team; determine which tools, questionnaires and surveys to implement; and train the team for observation and data collection.

Step 3: Gather information. Learn how your program is functioning through qualitative and quantitative data. Summarize the data to determine the big picture.

Step 4: Create the action plan. Identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement, set priorities and determine strategies for improvement.

Step 5: Take action. Coordinate the tasks identified in the action plan, and monitor progress toward making improvements.

To learn more, visit the ASQ portal on the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) website. After school professionals can find materials to support each step of the process; customizable forms, letters, and questionnaires; and the ASQ observational tool.