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Having a functioning Out-of-School Time program is not enough – OST programs must also achieve certain quality standards. In fact, poorly designed and implemented out-of-school programs have little to no positive impact on youth development and academic achievement. Given this, United Ways and other stakeholders can play a significant role in ensuring a return on the community's investment by focusing efforts on access to quality programs.

Quality Matters

Out-of-School Time (OST) initiatives are a proven way to support the academic success and overall development of young people. For OST programs to truly make a positive difference in children's lives, they must be high-quality. This quality impact can be measured in terms of academic, behavioral, socio-emotional, and relational benefits.

More than a decade of research links sustained participation in Out-of-School Time programs to positive outcomes that support student success including: improved work-study habits, increased interest and engagement in learning, and improved classroom grades and performance on standardized tests. In addition, Out-of-School Time programs have been credited with supporting social and emotional development, helping youth avoid risk-taking behaviors, and fostering stronger relationships with adults and peers.

It is especially important for middle and high school students who are at risk of academic failure and/or high school dropout to have access to high-quality OST programs. There is a growing number of programs focused on this demographic; these programs have been shown to positively impact:

In growing recognition of all of these benefits, United Ways are making considerable investments in out-of-school time as a strategy for supporting student success.  Click here to go to the High Quality Programs page to learn more about what makes a program "high-quality."


New Quality-Focused Movements in the Field

The Out-of-School Time context is constantly filled with creativity and innovation. New initiatives are developing that seek to strengthen and diversify the types of OST programs and their associated focuses. In order for these efforts to be effective, they must be high-quality— that is, they must have quality standards and measures to assess the attainment of those goals. Your United Way should stay up-to-date on the current out-of-school landscape, which can be done by going to our Featured Topics page.

Overall, this toolkit can help you understand the key elements of program quality, connect you to resources from other United Ways and from national organizations working to improve quality, and allow you to consider ways that your United Way can work to strengthen Out-of-School Time program quality in your community. To explore the topic of Quality in even more detail, head to the Learning Modules.

Learn More About Strengthening Program Quality!

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