AfterWords March 2007
The learning that begins after the bell!
The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning
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Afterschool Curriculum Choice:
Literacy Resources

This free online resource helps practitioners locate and make informed choices about high-quality literacy resources to enrich their programs.


From Compliance to Quality: How to Make Evaluation Work for Your Program

Evaluation. If you work in afterschool, you probably hear the word with great frequency. Many afterschool programs are required to evaluate their program or bring in an external evaluator to review their work and determine if the program is in compliance with the terms of the grant.

Although it’s a start, simply completing an evaluation does not ensure a high-quality program. As we at the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning continue our research and training, we urge afterschool professionals to think beyond using an evaluation to show compliance to using it to build high-quality, sustainable afterschool programs. High-quality programs have clear program goals, undergo regular evaluations to determine if they are meeting program goals, and reset their goals based on these evaluations.

Program evaluation is too broad of a topic to cover in one newsletter (we’ll cover other aspects of this topic in April), but we hope to steer you toward some guidelines, resources, and examples that will change your view of program evaluation from a report completed every year to secure funding to an incredible tool that will set your program in a pattern of continuous improvement. The steps below will help ensure that you get the most out of a program evaluation.

  • Plan early
  • Decide what you want to know about your program
  • Get all of the stakeholders involved
  • Use what you learn

Learn more >>

What is the National Partnership of Quality Afterschool Learning?

Case Study

Colorado 21st Century Community Learning Centers

Even the process of developing evaluation tools can involve monitoring your work and using results for continuous improvement. Just ask the team that developed the evaluation tools for the Colorado 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLCs). The evaluation includes progress reports to determine continued funding, the 21st CCLC Profile and Performance Information Collection System that all 21st CCLC grantees are required to complete, a quality improvement/monitoring tool, and focus groups.

Launched this year, the quality improvement/monitoring section is the newest component of the evaluation structure. In developing the tool, the team sought input from afterschool staff, program evaluators, afterschool advisors, and outside experts. While they were working on the various drafts of the tool, evaluation leaders also presented it to grantees, giving them the opportunity to provide feedback and express any concerns they had. Finally, they pilot-tested the tool at three sites. According to Joy Fitzgerald, an external evaluator who helped develop the tool, “The feedback of those who participated in the pilot monitoring visits was invaluable in helping us fine-tune both the format of the . . . tool and the processes for its use by programs and monitoring teams.”

los angeles, CA

Photo courtesy of LA's BEST

When the word best is part of your name, people expect great things from your afterschool programs. To ensure that they are living up to their name, the staff at LA’s BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow), an afterschool enrichment program that offers out-of-school activities for elementary students at 180 sites across Los Angeles, California, have included evaluation in their program administration since the organization was created in 1988.

LA’s BEST has relied on external evaluations, such as a recently completed 4-year study, which found that students who participated in the program for 3 or more years were 20% less likely to drop out of school than their peers. Senior educational research analyst Jim Sass notes that the organization’s ability to provide evidence of effectiveness has helped it “grow, maintain funding and positive governmental relationships, and have constructive influence on afterschool policy and practice.”

In Your Words

What fun literacy activities have you done in your afterschool program that you might not be able to do during the regular school day?

"Our afterschool program at Avondale Middle School is composed entirely of students who are refugees. We use a digital storytelling activity called 'All About Me.' It is a PowerPoint lesson where students write about themselves and include pictures to improve their reading and writing skills and familiarize them with technology. The results of this program have been amazing."
Mindy DiSalvo
Assistant Director
Decatur, GA

"My staff and I take our students to the neighborhood park and read books to them there. Afterward we discuss the stories like in a book club. While there, we also encourage the students to pick something interesting from the environment (trees, clouds, etc.) for inspiration. They are then encouraged to write their thoughts or draw them out in their journals."
Afterschool Site Coordinator
Austin, TX

Next Month's Question

How have you used program evaluation to improve your afterschool program?
Send your answers to with “March survey” in the subject line.


Training Tip

Presenting Evaluation Results
If you are eager to show off results of an evaluation, remember not to limit your report to data. Include some narrative description of the program and its best practices, as well as quotes from students and photographs of some of your afterschool activities. Including this qualitative information will help you reach a broader audience.

Do you have a training tip you
would like to share? E-mail us at with “Training tip” in the subject line.

Events Calendar
April 16–17

SERVE Center 2007 Linkages to Learning Afterschool Institute
Myrtle Beach, SC

May 2–3

Success in Afterschool: Increase Your Odds
Las Vegas, NV

May 8-9

The After-School Institute's Eastern Regional Conference on After-School 2007
Baltimore, MD


There are only a few days left to register for the Southwest Regional Afterschool Conference, Success in Afterschool: Increase Your Odds. Registration ends on April 5. Enter today.

Questions or comments should be directed to:

Laura Shankland
211 E. 7th St., Suite 200
Austin, TX 78701-3253
Phone: 800-476-6861 ext. 237
Fax: 512-476-2286

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Copyright © 2007 by SEDL . This newsletter was produced in whole or in part with funds from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number ED-01-CO-0057/0001.

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National Partnership For Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL