City-wide Coordination of After-School Programs Helps Kids

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Hours of Opportunity
The RAND Corporation

Coordination among institutions that provide after-school activities to youths might be the key to better and more accessible programming, this new study says.

The Wallace Foundation granted funds to Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence and Washington, D.C., tasking each with coordinating institutions involved with after-school programs in an effort to curb the fragmentation of services. The idea: More coordination will improve quality and expand opportunities.

In a fragmented system, the report says, cities rarely provide programming in neighborhoods where it is most needed, and the programming that is provided is of a poor quality. It says the key to high-quality programs is the coordination of resources in those cities, “strong leadership from their mayors … and rich data systems to assess and deliver their programs.”

The study indicates that cities that apply quality standards to all after-school programs, along with staff training and incentives to meet attendance targets, often have better out-of-school-time activities. The computerized collection of data about these programs is an important element, the study says.

While cities that employed these overarching system-building strategies were able to increase participation in out-of-school-time programs, the report cautions that such efforts and their results were “too new to have withstood the test of time.” 

What’s more, the Wallace funding has ended, at a time when state and local governments are making budget cuts across-the-board. Whether comprehensive coordination is financially possible as governments are tightening their belts has yet to be answered.

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  • Daniel Bassill

    Now that thousands of dollars have been spent to create program locators, it’s time that community, business and philanthropy leaders learn to use this information to assess the availability of different types of youth serving organizations in their communities, as well as where such services are most needed, based on poverty information, or locations of poorly performing schools.

    The Tutor/Mentor Connection has created a list of links to Program Locators that we’ve found, including the one we created starting in 1993 and have to build with the help of volunteers and a trickle of donor dollars.

    We use the Tutor/Mentor Connection’s Chicago Program Locator as part of a marketing effort, aimed to draw more attention to all of the tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, so people who want the same goals as the leaders of these programs will take some of the responsibility for mobilizing the volunteers and operating dollars each program needs.

    It is more narrowly focused than the City of Chicago Program Locator, since an organization would need to be providing some form of volunteer based tutoring and/or mentoring to be included. However, it offers some features, such as sorting by age group, and type of program, as well as including a section of asset and government maps that can be used by community leaders to build local support for programs in different zip codes.

    As with the more expensive model of program locator, we have much that we can do to make this service better, and there is an on-going cost to maintain the data. Thus, we hope there will be others like the Wallace Foundation who step forward to provide the dollars for constant improvement and maintenance.

    As community resources these portals have tremendous potential. That won’t be realized unless more leaders begin learning from what each other is doing, and more dollars remain consistently available for innovation, information collection/sharing, and advertising/marketing.

    Thanks to the Wallace Foundation for launching this initiative. Now we need a few billionaires to put their muscle behind this for the next decade or more.