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Quality Standards

How We Define Quality

Every day we see youth in programs growing in confidence, skills and abilities. But how do we know programs are really working? How can we use research to improve our work and make an impact in youths' lives? 

Standards are conversation starters about what makes programs work, what quality programs look like, and why quality matters. They are benchmarks that make any program serving young people even better.

School's Out Washington and our partners have taken the best national work and created standards just for Washington State. Based upon those developed by dozens of other communities around the country, the Washington State Quality Standards for Afterschool and Youth Development Programs (PDF) support Washington programs in achieving positive youth outcomes by providing staff with guidelines for what quality looks like in a program setting.

The Standards: 9 Domains

The Washington State Quality Standards have 9 overarching domains. Together, they represent the key areas of quality for afterschool and youth development programs.

Safety and Wellness

Quality programs provide safe, healthy, and developmentally appropriate learning environments for all participants.

Cultural Competency and Responsiveness

Quality programs respect and are responsive to the diversity of program participants, their families, and community.


Quality programs develop, nurture, and maintain positive relationships and interactions among staff and participants.

Youth Leadership and Engagement

Quality programs promote a sense of purpose and individual empowerment in youth through opportunities to engage in a rich variety of experiences, participate in planning, and exercise choice and leadership.

Program and Activities

Quality programs offer a variety of activities that are active, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive and enrich the physical, social, emotional, and creative development of all participants.

Assessment, Planning and Improvement

Quality programs have policies and procedures in place that promote continuous improvement.

Ongoing Staff and Volunteer Development

Quality programs ensure competent, motivated, youth-centered staff and volunteers through effective orientation, training, and a philosophy that views professional development as a journey rather than a destination.

Leadership and Management

Effective organizations have a coherent mission, well-developed systems, and sound fiscal management to support and enhance quality programming and activities for all participants.

Family, School & Community Connection

Quality programs establish and maintain strong, working partnerships with families, schools, and community stakeholders.


Do you have questions about the Washington State Quality Standards for Afterschool and Youth Development Programs?

Contact us for more information.