By Y-USA Achievement Gap Programs Evaluation Team.
The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the fourth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the first, second, and third posts of the series.
|Photo courtesy of Lori Humphreys, VP of Child Care, YMCA Of East Tennessee.|
At YMCA of the USA, our Achievement Gap Programs evaluation team provides a comprehensive evaluation strategy, training, tools, and support to hundreds of local Ys doing the important work of delivering Achievement Gap Signature Programs to thousands of children. The Achievement Gap Afterschool Program has expanded to over 130 sites since it began in the 2012-2013 school year and is currently serving over 7,000 children across the nation.
Organization leadership, funders, and community partners are often eager to see the data that comes out of program evaluation, and it is not uncommon for organizations to need additional guidance and resources to start the data collection process. We'd like to share what we think are data collection essentials for this important and possibly overwhelming part of the evaluation process.
The first step is for the program’s primary stakeholders to define program goals and benchmarks. Identifying the questions that should be answered about the program helps to focus on what matters most for the program.
Before you start
- Be organized: Develop a plan from start to finish before diving into the data collection process. How will data be collected? What tools will be used to collect data? Who will do the data collection, entry, and analyses? How will the data be reported? Include a general timeline for each activity in the plan.
- Be realistic: As a data collection plan is developed, be realistic about the resources you can dedicate to the project and plan accordingly. When you can, simplify.
- Be clear: All data collection processes should include a clear explanation for why the data is being collected and how the data will be protected and reported. Clarity of purpose ensures that staff, parents, and participants are fully informed on the program’s data collection practices.
- Be concise: When developing tools to collect data, stay focused on only gathering essential information that relates to goals or the questions stakeholders have agreed upon. Collecting information that you don’t plan to use takes up precious time when creating data collection tools, when users fill out the tools, and when the data is analyzed.
A new national Quinnipiac University poll released late last week finds that American voters overwhelmingly oppose the proposed federal budget cuts to afterschool and summer learning programs. With 83 percent of voters saying that cutting funding for afterschool and summer programs is a bad idea, Tim Mallory, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll includes afterschool as one of the programs where, “it’s a stern ‘hands off’ from voters,” when it comes to cutting funding.
Funding for afterschool and summer learning programs has bipartisan support, with majorities from all parties—97 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Independents, and 63 percent of Republicans—saying that cutting funding is a bad idea. It also has widespread support across communities, with 78 percent of voters in rural communities and 87 percent of voters in cities agreeing that it is a bad idea.
This poll reinforces previous findings on the broad support for public funding of afterschool and summer learning programs. Our 2014 America After 3PM national household survey found that 84 percent of parents were in support of public funding for afterschool programs, including 91 percent of Democrat, 86 percent of Independent, and 80 percent of Republican parents.
If you also believe that federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs is critical and you want to show your support, you can add your voice to the chorus of voices standing up and speaking out for afterschool.
Affordable and accessible high-quality child care is a critical issue for working families across the U.S. Although the benefits of quality child care for both children and their parents are numerous, many families struggle to afford and find child care that meets their needs. The 10th edition of Child Care Aware of America’s report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, reveals the ongoing challenges families have faced regarding child care over the past decade. The report also discusses the impact the high cost of child care has on the child care workforce, what some states are doing to better support the families in their community, and steps we can take as a country to make sure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care.
Below are a few highlights from the report:
Child care costs are high.
- Examining the cost of child care in the U.S., the report found that the cost of center-based infant care was unaffordable for parents in all but one state. Although the cost of child care should not be more than 7 percent of a families’ median income (based on standards from the Department of Health and Human Services), in some states it was more than two times as high, accounting for 14 percent of a families’ median income.
- In 19 states, the annual average cost of center-based care for a four-year-old is higher than the cost of college tuition.
- Another startling finding from the report is that in all 50 states, a child care worker who has two children would spend more than half of their income on child care if they wanted to enroll their children in center-based care. In 14 states, this cost would be more than 100 percent of a child care worker’s income.
Certain communities are more heavily impacted.
- The report found that child care deserts, or areas where families have either limited or no access to quality child care, are especially prevalent in, “low-income communities, rural communities, among families of color, and among families with irregular or nontraditional work schedules.”
- Among low-income families, paying for child care is especially challenging, where the average cost of center-based care for an infant is between 17 and 43 percent of a families’ income.
Where do we go from here?
- The report outlines a number of recommendations to help ease the cost burden of child care for families, including those in the child care workforce, such as increasing federal investments in child care funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, creating public-private partnerships that will invest in child care at the local level, and prioritizing professional development and a living wage for child care workers.
To learn more, visit Child Care Aware of America’s website where you can download a copy of the full report, as well as find out what the cost of child care looks like in your state through Child Care Aware of America’s new interactive map.
After two years of reading nominations for the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award, the staff at the Afterschool Alliance has learned a lot about the work accomplished by the afterschool field. We’ve seen students becoming reporters and editors in a Dane County, Wisconsin, afterschool program that focuses on publishing student-run newspapers for the area. We’ve discovered an afterschool program in Atlanta, Georgia, that works with the area’s immigrant and refugee population, providing one-on-one support and a literacy curriculum designed for English language learners to ensure that students are academically prepared to enter high school.
We’ve also learned the qualities shared by strong nomination forms, and the mistakes commonly made by nominators. For these reasons, as well as to help answer frequently asked questions about the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award (still accepting nominations!), we hosted a webinar on Nov. 10. In the webinar, we shared insights on the award process, answered audience questions, and offered tips to filling out the nomination form.
The call for nominations doesn’t close until Dec. 16, so you still have time to nominate a program! Here are three tips to consider from the webinar before getting started:
1. Be an advocate for your program.
How can you differentiate your program from the other programs that are being nominated? Think about how your program is helping meet the needs of your students, parents and/or community. Is there something about the community the program serves that should be highlighted? Is there strong data that demonstrates the positive impact of the program? There are a number of open-ended questions in the nomination form; use each question as an opportunity to highlight for reviewers the role that the program is playing to help its students. Be an advocate for your program and make the strongest case possible to help reviewers recognize its value.
We are so excited to announce the return of the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award! With the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance is once again looking for stellar afterschool programs that provide students with integral literacy learning opportunities to develop their reading, writing and critical thinking skills. This year, the focus of the award is on English language learners and the ways afterschool programs ensure that these students have the reading and writing abilities they need to thrive.
Nominations for the $10,000 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award are now open. Here are three tips to help you get started:
Download a PDF version of the nomination form to review the questions ahead of time and see what information you need gather on the program you are nominating.
Send us any questions you have about the award and/or nomination form that we can answer during our upcoming webinar on Nov. 10, "What Reviewers Want: Insights on Nominations for the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award."
Tune in for the webinar on Nov. 10, where we’ll cover the qualities of a promising nomination form and common critiques of past nomination submissions from people who have been involved in the review process.
Nominations are due by December 16, 2016
Be sure to share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues! We’re looking forward to reading about the great work supporting English language learner students that is taking place in afterschool programs across the country.
Following the release of our latest America After 3PM report, Afterschool in Communities of Concentrated Poverty, which looks at the role of afterschool programs in areas where there is a high concentration of families living below the poverty line, our interactive web dashboard has been updated to feature data on the state of afterschool in these high poverty areas. On the communities of concentrated poverty dashboard page, you can find out what parents in these high poverty areas are looking for in their child’s afterschool program, how long children participate in afterschool programs, and how satisfied parents are with the activities in their child’s afterschool program. The dashboard also includes data on the barriers parents living in communities of concentrated poverty face enrolling their child in an afterschool program.
The primary goal of this dashboard is to create an easy way to navigate through the large amount of data collected through the America After 3PM survey. In addition to finding afterschool-related information on specific populations, such as communities of concentrated poverty and rural communities, you can see what afterschool looks like in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as learn about key subject areas, including STEM and health and wellness.
This latest update is the fifth in a series of updates we have made to the dashboard to make sure that it is able to provide you with as comprehensive a look at afterschool as possible. Take some time to explore all that the dashboard has to offer!
Where you live has direct and indirect impacts on the fundamental resources and opportunities you count on, and which many people may take for granted. Your location affects the quality of schools available to you, your access to healthy and affordable food, and your overall wellbeing and future economic success.
This is why the Afterschool Alliance believed it was critical to examine the role that afterschool programs are playing (or not playing) in communities of concentrated poverty. These are neighborhoods, or groupings of neighborhoods, where there is a high concentration of families living below the poverty line. This is the first time that America After 3PM data has been used to look at high-poverty communities that research has found are struggling when looking at economic, academic and health indicators.
In our new America After 3PM special report, Afterschool in Communities of Concentrated Poverty, we take a closer look at the afterschool program experience of children and families living in communities of concentrated poverty, including participation in afterschool programs, barriers preventing participation, activities and services provided by programs, and satisfaction with programs.
Key findings from the report include:
- The demand for afterschool school and summer learning programs in communities of concentrated poverty is high. Both participation in and the demand for afterschool and summer learning programs is higher in communities of concentrated poverty compared to the national average.
- Close to 1 in 4 children living in communities of concentrated poverty (24 percent) participate in an afterschool program, compared to less than 1 in 5 nationally (18 percent). More than half of children in communities of concentrated poverty not in an afterschool program would be enrolled if one were available (56 percent), compared to the national average of 41 percent.
- When asked about participation in summer learning programs, 41 percent of parents living in communities of concentrated poverty reported that their child participated in a summer learning program and 66 percent would like their child to take part in a summer learning program, higher than the national average of 33 percent and 51 percent, respectively.
If you have ever wondered what a successful data sharing partnership looks like, or wished that there was a resource available to help you make the case for data partnerships in afterschool, look no further. A new video released by the National League of Cities—in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) and the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA)—showcases the power of data in afterschool programming. This three-minute video, made possible with support from The Wallace Foundation, takes a look at the city of Nashville, TN and highlights the successful data sharing partnership between Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and NAZA, a network of high-quality afterschool programming serving the city’s middle school students.
Adam Yockey, Northeast Zone Director of NAZA, summarizes the value of data sharing partnerships, stating, “I believe that the afterschool providers want to be seen as a partner and a support for what is going on in the school day. If you only get data at the end of the school year, you’ve lost an entire year that you could have been working intentionally with that student. It helps the afterschool providers focus more on what the students actually need instead of just a program that they offer.”
This video is a great example of why partnerships like the one in Nashville are so critical if we are serious about making sure that all students have the supports in place both in and out of school that will set them up for success. If you are interested in learning more about what steps can be taken to promote data sharing among partners, you can take a look at a blog I wrote earlier this summer on four policy priorities released by the DQC outlining how district leaders can take the initiative to make data work for students.