Investments Made in Quality Summer Learning & After School Programs

Just like an attorney passes the Bar or a doctor is certified by a board examination, did you know many local after-school youth programs in our area hold themselves accountable to the same high standards of rigor and best practices as other professions?

Research has proven that the best after school programs create safe, supportive and productive environments for young people to thrive. In 2011, the Community Foundation partnered with The Raikes Foundation to invest in strengthening the quality of after school programs within Pierce County through the Youth Program Quality Initiative (YPQI).  To date, 18 nonprofits have participated within three cohorts.

YPQI is based on positive youth development research and is Washington State’s version of a nationally recognized quality improvement process developed by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. The 12-month process is grounded in the belief that program staff are key to ensuring young people’s needs are met and learning is encouraged–creating spaces where youth can thrive.

YPQI supports youth-serving organizations through a process facilitated by Schools Out Washington that includes program quality assessment, data-driven improvement planning, peer learning and intensive professional development that reflects best practices in youth development. The Initiative’s approach to fulfill goals is based on the 1.) assess, 2.) plan, and 3.) improve sequence of operation.

In 2014, the Community Foundation led efforts to continue expansion of YPQI in Pierce County by investing in quality summer learning programs for youth in low-income and rural communities. Just last month the Foundation invested another $105,000 in grant funding to support this issue with grants to eight Pierce County organization as they begin to plan and recruit for the summer 2016 programs. Those eight organizations take part in learning community meetings that focus on:

1.) Collecting consistent data in targeted areas.
2.) Focusing best practices on staff training and youth engagement.
3.) Maintaining support for a learning community that is centered on idea sharing.

Those organization’s receiving summer learning grants from the Foundation include: 1.) Communities in School Lakewood; 2.) Fab-5; 3.) Hilltop Artists; 4.) Northwest Leadership Foundation; 5.) Parents and Students in Action; 6.) Peace Community Center; and 7.) YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties.

When it comes to summer learning loss research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. In fact, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months, while low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement.