Promoting program quality through statewide afterschool quality standards

Research demonstrates that children and youth participating in afterschool programs experience positive outcomes in all areas of development, and decreases in high risk behaviors. However, programs must be high-quality in order for children and youth to benefit from them.

The ACT Now Coalition has created statewide afterschool quality standards to offer a framework for afterschool providers to use in their efforts to provide quality programs, based on research and best practices in the education and youth development field. The Illinois standards will be recommended, voluntary guidelines for:

  • Afterschool providers – to measure quality and plan for improvement, and to provide a shared framework for collaboration with others.
  • Policy Leaders – to make informed decisions according research-based, measurable outcomes
  • Parents and Families – to understand essential elements of high-quality programs and to be able to advocate on behalf of their children and youth.
  • Schools – to understand essential elements of high-quality programs and provide a common language for collaboration.

Standards may be used by programs and local communities to stimulate conversation about quality, what it looks like, and why it matters. Quality standards provide afterschool programs with a common language for describing quality, as well as a “high bar” for individual programs to hold themselves accountable to. They also serve to assure funders, policymakers, and families that a given program is committed to quality and on-going improvement. The Standards will complement professional development and evaluation systems already in place.

Process for development of standards
The ACT Now Coalition partnered with representatives of state agencies, afterschool, child care, philanthropy, education, and research to develop standards. Multiple committees collaborated to create draft standards informed by existing quality and evaluation tools in Illinois and across the country. The draft standards were then shared at nearly 20 events across Illinois to get feedback on the draft. Based on this feedback, a final draft was developed for programs to use as part of their program quality efforts.

You can view the Quality Standards here.

You can view the comprehensive resource guide here.

View upcoming trainings on the Standards here.


For more information, contact Susan Stanton.