Quality Improvement Process
Great afterschool programs create safe, supportive, and productive environments for young people. The Quality Improvement Process is based on the belief that program staff and organizational practices are key to ensuring young people’s needs are met and learning is encouraged—creating spaces where youth can thrive.
How We Get There: Assess, Plan, Improve
Washington’s quality improvement cycle is a continuous Assess, Plan, Improve process, a process pioneered by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, shown to improve quality in program settings where youth, adults and resources come together.
First, programs undergo self and external assessments to discover their strengths and identify areas for improvement. With that information, programs develop a plan for how they want to improve. Program staff receive training and coaching from School's Out Washington and put what they learn into practice. The cycle doesn't end there: programs re-assess their needs, develop a new plan, and further develop staff knowledge and skills to achieve the highest level of quality.
We use a research-validated program observation tool developed by the Weikart Center called the Program Quality Assessment, and a management interview. This allows managers and staff to observe what goes on in their youth program in order to discover strengths and areas for improvement. The management interview provides a structured framework for tracking progress on organization-level standards. Both tools are content neutral: it doesn't matter whether a program is a youth theatre or a robot building team. Training is available to staff to support self-assessment. External assessors are extensively trained to be reliable, allowing the tools to be used to compare differences in a program over time.
Assessment can supply a wealth of valuable data about the quality of a youth program. To learn from the data and use it effectively is what drives a quality improvement system. An important support component of the quality improvement process is training and coaching that helps organizations develop improvement plans. These plans define the steps that will strengthen the way staff and programs interact with youth.
Lasting quality improvement requires more than what you get in a typical training. The quality improvement process consists of many different kinds of professional development for program staff:
Our coaches follow the Quality Coaching method, based on the concepts of respect, observe, and support. They maximize productivity by starting with a foundation of respect, observing staff during program time, then supporting staff and managers to develop professionally. Our coaches are highly trained in supporting staff teams through all quality improvement system components and have deep experience with youth programs.
School’s Out offers a variety of trainings to help program managers and staff improve their programs. Trainings include the Youth Work Method series of ten workshops designed by the Weikart Center to support frontline staff in quality program delivery, and workshops focused on organizational standards such as cultural competency, leadership and management, and content-focused training.
Peer Learning Community Meetings
Managers and staff participating in the quality improvement process have opportunities to connect with a community of their peers to share successes and challenges, practice new skills, and foster collaboration. Peer learning community meetings may be available in your community or through online gatherings.
Do you have questions about the Quality Improvement Process? Contact us for more information.