Resources and Tools for Programs │ Building Quality in Afterschool

We share a wide variety of tools and resources to help you build, sustain, and expand quality afterschool systems in your state. The tools and resources include formalized systems for assessment against a quality framework, research-to-practice briefs on quality programming, tools for program staff to apply best practices in their own afterschool programs, and much more!

If you have quality-related resources, either ones that you developed on your own or adopted from another source, please be sure to share them with us via e-mail ( We will post links and descriptions of these additional resources on this page.

Quality Standards

You can use the resources here as you embark on planning, designing, disseminating, and refining your statewide quality standards.

Planning for Quality Standards

Afterschool Quality Matters: A Call to Action (PDF)This succinct call to action by the National AfterSchool Association can be used as is or modified to educate stakeholders about the importance of quality in afterschool programs. These talking points also provide a strong example of what to keep in mind when crafting your own talking points about quality in afterschool programming: Be specific, clear, and concise.

Guiding Questions for Planning Convenings (PDF): In this resource, AIR provides a set of questions to guide the beginning stages of a quality committee design process. You can use these questions during any phase of the development of quality standards, but they will be particularly helpful during the planning phase.

Quality Standards in Afterschool: Talking Points (PDF): AIR developed this resource to complement Afterschool Quality Matters: A Call to Action by offering specific talking points that focus on the merits of quality standards. These talking points can be used in discussions with potential partners.

Designing Quality Standards

Building Quality in Out-of-School Time (Book Chapter): In this chapter from The Growing Out-of-School Time Field: Past, Present, and Future, AIR experts Jessica Newman, Jaime Singer, and Deborah Moroney discuss the key elements of afterschool program quality that networks can use to guide the development of quality standards.

A Crosswalk Between the Quality Standards for Expanded Learning and Program Quality Assessment Tools (PDF): The After School Division at the California Department of Education and the California AfterSchool Network developed a crosswalk of quality standards with quality measurement tools. This crosswalk serves as an example to other networks interested in developing or selecting an assessment tool that supports statewide quality standards.

Disseminating Quality Standards

Believe It. Build It. Minnesota’s Guide to Effective Afterschool Practices (PDF): Minnesota’s Ignite Afterschool network developed the Believe It. Build It. guide and toolkit for practitioners, funders, and system builders to learn more about effective afterschool practices and continuous quality improvement.

Communications Resources (Website): The Afterschool Alliance and Burness developed this online toolkit to help practitioners make the case for afterschool programs to a variety of audiences by using multiple platforms.

Messages Made Simple: Communications Toolkit for Expanded Learning (PDF): In this toolkit, Every Hour Counts explains how to use clear and consistent language when communicating the value of expanded learning.

Examples from the Field

The NAA Standards for Quality School-Age Care (PDF): The National AfterSchool Alliance published a suggested set of quality standards for programs serving school-age youth. The standards are divided into the following categories: human relationships; indoor environment; outdoor environment; activities; safety, health, and nutrition; and administration.

50 State Afterschool Network: Landscape of Quality (Interactive report): In December 2020, the AIR team updated our landscape scan of the 50 afterschool networks related to quality standards, school-age assessment tools, core competences for afterschool program staff, credential systems, quality rating and improvement systems, and skill-building initiatives. This resource contains links to websites and electronic documents where applicable.

Quality Improvement Systems

Continuous quality improvement is the process by which program staff ensure that youth in afterschool programs experience developmentally enriching activities. Networks can support programs in designing and implementing quality improvement processes that work for them.

ASQ: A Guide to After-School Quality (Download for purchase): The National Institute on Out-of-School Time presents a step-by-step guide for improving the quality of afterschool programs. Available for purchase

Beyond the Bell Toolkit (Website): This comprehensive toolkit, which is available in both print and an online interactive form, was developed by AIR and features an in-depth section on program improvement that includes ready-to-use tools. Available for purchase

Building Citywide Systems for Quality (Downloadable PDF): This report from the Forum for Youth Investment explains the elements of a quality improvement system. It includes detailed case studies that offer lessons from the field.

Voices From the Field: Combining Resources to Support Quality Out-of-School Time Programs (PDF): This practice brief from the National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment describes how out-of-school time programs are funded and outlines funding strategies that programs can use.

Quality Afterschool Programs Maximize Positive Outcomes (PDF): The National Conference of State Legislatures briefly presents research on the importance of afterschool program quality for positive youth outcomes and describes how state and federal governments are supporting quality.

Why Afterschool Quality Matters (PDF): This brief by the National AfterSchool Association outlines the elements of an afterschool quality improvement system for community leaders and funders so that they can develop strategies to ensure that the afterschool programs serving their communities are high-quality programs.

Examples from the Field

About the Networks: 50 State Afterschool Network (Website): Funded by the C. S. Mott Foundation, the 50 State Afterschool Network website offers state profiles, most of which contain a link to the individual state network websites.

Cambridge Agenda for Children (Website): The out-of-school time programs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, provide an overview of the quality improvement process that they have honed for more than a decade.

State Quality Standards Profiles (Website): The AIR team worked with network leads to compile 12 profiles (to date) that describe the planning and design processes for quality standards for the profiled states. The profiles include contact information for the network leads.

Assessing Quality and Youth Outcomes

Quality afterschool programs and positive youth outcomes go hand in hand. Regular, low-stakes assessment ensures that afterschool systems and programs are supporting both quality and positive youth outcomes.

Measuring OST Success (Website): A research-based system for evaluating program quality, youth engagement, and youth outcomes developed by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time.

Every Hour Counts Measurement Framework: How to Measure Success in Expanded Learning Systems (PDF): Every Hour Counts, a coalition of local expanded learning networks, created a measurement framework that includes a set of clear outcomes at the system, program, and youth levels for practitioners, policymakers, funders, and system builders.

The Quick CASP: A Summer Program Quality Assessment Tool (PDF): This program quality assessment tool, developed by the National Summer Learning Association in partnership with the Summer Matters Campaign, is designed for summer programs and includes a planning and management assessment, an observation tool, and a quality improvement plan template.

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes (PDF): In this report, researchers from the Forum for Youth Investment, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Adler School of Professional Psychology, and the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality describe the key characteristics of tools used to assess youth outcomes associated with involvement in afterschool programs.

Measuring Youth Program Quality: A Guide to Assessment Tools, 2nd Edition (Downloadable PDF): The Forum for Youth Investments partnered with researchers to provide a guide that compares multiple quality assessment tools.

Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI) (PDF): This comprehensive quality improvement system, which was developed by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, includes system-level supports such as the Leading Indicators for Quality Programs, a suite of program quality assessments, and technical assistance.

Examples from the Field

Recommendations for Program- and Site-Level Data Collection to Support the Evaluation of the Missouri AfterSchool Network, Missouri AfterSchool Resource Center, and Program Outcomes (PDF): The Missouri AfterSchool Network partnered with the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis ((OSEDA) to analyze data and prepare recommendations for AfterSchool programs. This brief focuses on their AfterSchool Program quality data collection.

Skill-Building Initiatives

AIR is building a set of resources for skill-building initiatives related to social and emotional learning, youth development, workforce development, and college and career readiness. We start with recent resources that address social and emotional learning. Additional resources on workforce development and college and career readiness are forthcoming. Stay tuned!

Science of Learning and Development

The Science of Learning and Development in Afterschool Systems and Settings: This brief includes findings from the Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) Alliance’s experts in the field of youth development related to afterschool systems and settings. The document includes efforts, actionable takeaways, suggestions, and an outline of the developmental elements and contexts that foster learning and healthy development.

Social and Emotional Learning

Beyond the Bell: Turning Research Into Action in Afterschool and Expanded Learning (Website): This series of briefs and tools released by AIR focuses on how afterschool programs can support the social and emotional development of young people. The briefs and tools are designed to be accessible, easy to read, and useful in practice.

Preparing Youth to Thrive (Website): The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, supported by the Susan Crowne Exchange, offers a wide variety of tools—lessons from the field, curriculum features, standards, and more—to help staff embed social and emotional learning into any program.

Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources, 2nd Edition (Downloadable PDF): This toolkit by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development describes strategies for supporting social and emotional learning and provides activities, tools, and templates to support the use of each strategy in programs.

Building Partnerships in Support of Where, When, & How Learning Happens (PDF): In this brief, the Youth Development Work Group of the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development presents a framework that deepens our understanding of how youth learn. It recommends ways that youth development organizations can partner with other stakeholders, including policymakers, funders, and schools, to support youth.

Youth Development

The Promise of Adolescence (Downloadable PDF): This report describes the science behind adolescent social and neurobiological development and how this knowledge can be used to support adolescent well-being, resilience, and development. It also describes ways in which U.S. policies and practices can be leveraged to ameliorate structural barriers and inequalities in adolescent populations.

Shaping Summertime Experiences (Downloadable PDF): This report provides information and recommendations about the impact of summertime experiences on the developmental trajectories of school-age children and youth. Specifically, this report highlights the four areas of well-being, including academic learning, social and emotional development, physical and mental health, and health-promoting and safety behaviors.