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Making Quality Count: Lessons Learned from the Ready by 21 Quality Counts Initiative

August 4, 2011
The Ready by 21 Quality Counts initiative engaged leaders and intermediaries from 12 cities and states around the country with a bold challenge – improving the quality and reach of out-of-school time programming. This report provides an overview of key lessons learned and recommendations.

The out-of-school time sector – the range of agencies offering services, supports and opportunities to children and youth during the non-school hours – can be a strategic resource in efforts to ensure all young people are ready for college, work and life. However in most places, out-of-school time (OST) efforts are more fragmented than they are connected. Leaders lack basic information about the contributions such agencies can and do make, and the quality of programming varies significantly. As a result, OST programming does not always have a clear place on the leadership agenda, and efforts to build the capacity of the sector come and go.

Quality Counts was based on three key assumptions. First, that high-quality OST programs can influence important social and academic outcomes for children and youth. Second, that instructional quality in these settings can be improved. And third, that effective leadership is critical. Communities and funders can buy pilots, but getting to a scalable, sustainable system requires building on existing policies and programs.

In response to these assumptions, Quality Counts helped communities assess their current capacity at several levels and then based on that assessment, do three things: introduce a strategy for improving program quality and workforce skills, increase available information about the OST sector, and support the emergence of a leadership agenda connecting quality to other key issues and partners.