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What is Quality

Our work is guided by a growing body of research that shows quality matters when it comes to delivering programming that results in positive outcomes for children and youth. When we say quality, we mean the skills, knowledge and tools necessary to better engage and interact with youth. 

By defining what quality looks like, assessing programs to better understand where they are at in terms of the continuum of improvement, and supporting programs through training and coaching, we will together reach our goal of improving youth outcomes in school and in life.

Research Shows Positive Results for Quality Expanded Learning Opportunities 

Supported by the Early Start Act, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative brought together the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families, OSPI, School's Out Washington, University of Washington's Cultivate Learning, Child Care Aware of WA, and Raikes Foundation to explore how the state can best support ELO programs with the training and resources needed to encourage high-quality environments and to connect these programs with early learning and K-12.

Hundreds of programs across the state have participated in a quality assessment and improvement process already used by some of Washington’s top youth development programs. Participating programs included licensed family homes and child care centers (who serve school-age children and families) already rated in Early Achievers, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and both licensed and unlicensed expanded learning programs serving youth between the ages of 5-18 years.

Conducted by the University of Washington’s Cultivate Learning in 2017, the evaluation examined ELO program quality and the impact of improvement efforts. It also examined the experiences of participating coaches and providers to hear their perspectives on improvement interventions.

Key findings include:

Additionally, you can find current updates by reading the 2020 ELO Quality Report.

Download the ELO Quality Initiative Executive Summary

Download the full ELO Quality Initiative Report

Download the Appendix, including the University of Washington’s Cultivate Learning Evaluation Summary

Quality Youth Programs Level the Playing Field

Especially for low-income youth and youth of color, research has shown that program quality is a game changer and can help level the playing field and provide equitable opportunities to achieve school and life success.

Students participating in high-quality afterschool programs went to school more, behaved better, received better grades and performed better on tests than their peers, according to a survey of 68 studies of afterschool programs.


Achieving Better Grades

81% of students at New York’s Beacon Community Centers said the program helped them finish their homework more often and 78% said it helped them get better grades.


Keeping Kids Out of Trouble

94% of parents with children in the Fort Worth After School program said it helped keep their kids from getting in trouble.



Improving Graduation Rates

91% of high school students attending California’s EduCare afterschool program graduated from high school, compared to just 61% of peers with similar backgrounds.

Program Leaders Agree: Quality Makes a Difference

Hear from the leaders of afterschool and youth development programs who have been through the quality improvement cycle with School's Out Washington.



How We Define Quality

Quality Standards for Programs

The Washington State Quality Standards for Afterschool & Youth Development Programs are based on national research. They define what quality looks like in a program setting and apply to all programs for youth ages five to young adult across our state. School's Out Washington helps programs use these standards to make their programs better through a step-by-step quality improvement process.

Learn More | Download the Standards (pdf)

Competencies for Professionals Serving Youth

The Washington State Core Competencies for Child and Youth Development Professionals define what professionals need to know and be able to do in order to provide quality programming. Core competencies serve as the foundation for decisions carried out by professionals in all settings and programs and establish a set of standards that support the professionalization of the child and youth development field.

Learn More | Download the Core Competencies (pdf)


Do you have questions about the Quality Improvement System? You can contact Ka’ohe Wong, Program Quality Division Director, for more information.