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Youth Program Quality Implications for Policy and Practice

Issue Brief
March 27, 2012
A substantial and growing evidence base confirms that afterschool programs can make a positive difference for youth in the critical domains of achievement, social and civic skills, and risk reduction. However, many programs do not realize this potential, and a primary reason for this may be the quality of experiences available to youth in these settings. Improving quality is therefore a priority for the afterschool field. Evidence suggests that the predominant form of professional development—staff training without follow-up—rarely produces sustained change in practice.

The Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI) offers a continuous improvement approach that flips traditional professional development upside-down: the intervention leads with performance assessment, and then engages staff in a multi-month cycle of planning and improvement. The YPQI study, the first experimental investigation of a data-driven, continuous improvement intervention in the after-school field, occurred from 2006-2008. We set out to understand if the YPQI could improve the quality of youth experiences in afterschool programs. This brief focuses on the implications of these findings for policy and practice.