There are many studies that show afterschool programs are successful at driving positive results for students. However, it can be difficult for program leaders to demonstrate the same level of success in their programs without extensive resources.

The Importance of Measuring Success

Although the task may seem tedious, there are benefits to measuring program success. It helps to identify what’s working and what areas need attention. Thus, sparking continuous quality improvement, which leads to positive outcomes for students in your program. Additionally, it helps to draw support from the community, potential funders and policymakers by demonstrating that afterschool programs do, in fact, make a difference in students’ lives.

3 Tools and Strategies for Measuring Success

  • Goal setting. The best way to start measuring success in afterschool programs is by setting and tracking goals. Setting goals provides a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished, why it should be accomplished and how to accomplish it. Do you want to launch a new program offering? Enroll twice as many students than previous years? Decrease staff turnover? Be specific, make sure the goals are realistic and set a timeframe. Then, use these goals to guide your efforts in improving or maintaining program quality.
  • Data collection and evaluation. A 2014 issue brief from the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation suggests data is critical to ensuring program quality. It helps to measure goals, assess outcomes and make adjustments to better serve students, families and staff. Data collection methods range from surveys and questionnaires to focus groups and in-depth interviews. Choose the method that best fits your budget and resources. After collecting the data, be sure to review and analyze the feedback to take the necessary steps to address any issues or concerns.
  • Skill-based assessments. Students attending afterschool programs develop a range of skills through engaging learning experiences. But, without test scores and grades to measure students’ skills and knowledge, program leaders must create unique opportunities to measure student achievement. Have students sing a song in Spanish to demonstrate foreign-language learning or run a mile to test their fitness level. To track success, use tools like digital badges or apps such as AdotME, which keep records of student achievements and milestones.

Measuring success in afterschool programs is a great way to garner support and drive positive results for students. For more information on improving program quality, check out “4 Things You Should Know About Program Quality Improvement” and “5-Step Process for Incorporating Quality Improvement into Afterschool Programs.”