Statewide Afterschool Quality Standards

ACT Now is a statewide coalition that works to ensure that young people in Illinois have access to quality, affordable afterschool and youth development programs.  ACT Now has undertaken an initiative to develop Quality Standards in order to improve afterschool programming around the state. Our Quality Standards capture practices that have been demonstrated, through research, to lead to quality programs and positive outcomes for children. 

Research shows that quality afterschool programs increase positive outcomes for youth. 

  • Quality afterschool programming provides enrichment activities, opportunities that increase self-esteem and prevent risky behaviors, time for recreational activities that promote healthy development and team building, and a chance to build on school day learning by explaining academic concepts through hands-on activities.
  • It is not enough for communities to just have access to afterschool programs. Communities need access to consistent and high-quality programs that benefit youth socially, emotionally, and academically.

The Standards are broken into seven overarching categories or Core Areas that represent the key areas of quality for programs. The seven Core Areas are:

  • Indoor and Outdoor Environments
  • Safety, Health, and Nutrition
  • Administration
  • Professional Development and Qualifications
  • Family and Community Partnerships
  • Youth Development, Programming, and Activities
  • Partnerships with Schools

The Standards were written for use by various groups.  The following is a list of ways different stakeholders can use the Standards:

  • Afterschool Providers: Develop a quality improvement plan, determine areas of strengths and weaknesses, and decide on areas of professional development to pursue for staff
  • Parents and Families: Understand the key elements of a high-quality program and be able to advocate for quality programs for their children and within their own communities
  • Funders and Policymakers: Link funding to research-based practices that lead to measurable outcomes and evaluate and improve programs
  • K-12 Educators: Understand the key elements of high-quality programs, provide a common language for partnership, and provide a guide to reinforce and advance key priorities
  • Higher Education: Assist in designing content for courses related to youth development providers and in choosing strategic partners for research initiatives

Click on the links below to access the following electronic resources:

Talking to Funders

For hundreds of providers around the state, the Illinois Statewide Afterschool Quality Standards serve as a common language for quality and a tool for helping them highlight the quality aspects of their programs. To expand this work, it is important that program funders also know about and understand the importance of the Afterschool Standards. To learn how to reach out to funders about the Standards, check out the resources below:


To view ACT Now’s previously recorded provider webinars, click on the icons below.








  Implementation Webinar