Lesson 4: Student Assessment and Tracking
Evaluation tools and techniques help after-school programs run smoothly and effectively.
Download Lesson 4 (68KB)
In the previous lesson, you learned about standards for building high-quality after-school programs. In this lesson, find ways to assess these standards and run well-oiled after-school programs through quality-assurance assessments, data tracking, and continued professional development.
Quality-assurance assessments help document the progress of programs in action. Put a quality-assurance team in place to make routine checks on programs in each community campus -- using the quality standards created in Lesson 3 as the baseline -- so providers and partners are more informed and more readily able to make program-enhancing decisions. For example, members of the Providence After School Alliance staff and quality advisers observe each after-school program for an hour once a year and rate the program on quality standards using a self-assessment tool. Thereafter, the team meets with the instructors to discuss strengths and areas for improvement, and to develop an action plan.
The self-assessment tool PASA uses for monitoring programs, the Rhode Island Program Quality Assessment (RIPQA), is based on the High/Scope Education Foundation's nationally valid Youth Program Quality Assessment Tool (YPQA). PASA has customized the tool to fit the Rhode Island quality standards, with an emphasis on self-assessment rather than evaluation or judgment. PASA has found that providers are much more willing to engage in a continuous improvement process if the stakes are low (that is, not tied to funding) and evaluations are focused on self-improvement.
Click to download a summary of the Rhode Island Program Quality Assessment Tool (RIPQA) (217KB)
A data-tracking tool is important for knowing where young people are at all times and for short-term and long-term program evaluation. A tracking tool is key for day-to-day program management, from printing attendance sheets and bus lists to tracking down students in an emergency. For assessment purposes, a tracking tool can provide incisive data about student attendance, program popularity, and student participation -- from a programwide to citywide level. This data can be culled to help make adjustments to overall program quality. In addition, a tracking tool can be used to see student trends so you’ll know strategically which programs to fund and how to engage students more fully in the future.
Information from the data-tracking tool can be used in longitudinal studies. By comparing grades, test scores, attendance, participation, retention, and social and emotional variables periodically, you can see the impact of the program over time.
PASA uses Web-based data management and tracking software through YouthServices.net, which was developed by Cityspan Technologies. The tool has the capability to track data across the entire city, providing a valuable resource for the City of Providence, Rhode Island, in presenting systemwide data to advocate for increased after-school funding and support.
Click to download a sample data-tracking report from YouthServices.net (364KB)
Workshops and Continued Professional Development
Monthly workshops and continued professional development also help ensure that staff and after-school providers stay informed about youth. PASA and its affiliates offer monthly professional-development workshops for after-school providers statewide on a range of topics, including creating a safe and supportive after-school environment, providing youth with leadership opportunities, and integrating academic standards into after-school enrichment programs.
In addition to monthly workshops, PASA offers an 8-week, 32-hour Building Exemplary Systems for Training Youth Workers (BEST) certificate program, which is based on the nationally recognized Advancing Youth Development curriculum.
We use these terms throughout this and other PASA lessons:
Quality-assessment tool: An applied tool (usually in paper form) used to assess certain aspects of an after-school activity or program. It can be used by after-school program staff as part of their ongoing quality improvement or by an outside observer. Participants may also use self-assessment tools to assess their own growth or progress.
Data-tracking tool: A computer-based data-collection program that can be used to store data on program participants, track attendance and participation, and generate reports.
- Make routine quality-assurance assessments by observing after-school programs and rating them against your list of quality standards using a standardized tool.
- Track student and program information, including student trends and program attendance, to help make short-term and long-term improvements.
- Partner with software companies to put together efficient tracking tools.
- Use data from assessments to work with instructors and staff on areas that may need improvement.
- Offer continued professional-development workshops to keep everyone up to speed on best practices.