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August 9, 2019

Experts agree that heeding student voice can help out-of-school time programs engage students and help them grow academically, socially and emotionally. Sometimes, though, when the defining characteristic of your program seems to be noise, you might think you have more student voice than you can handle! How can you be sure you get it right? Here are some quick tips and Y4Y tools.

Engage Students in Program Decisions

Consider these questions. If you can’t answer “yes,” decide what actions you need to take:

  • Are students represented on your program planning team?
  • When your team starts to plan for the next program term, are all students included in a goal-setting activity or discussion?
  • When your team reflects on results at the end of a program term, are students included, too?

Also consider this:

  • Who thinks about program culture and climate, and sets norms for behavior — staff alone, or do students contribute?

Involving students in decisions helps give them a sense of ownership in program activities and supports engagement. Equally important, it equips young people with important skills like collaboration, communication, caring and reflection.

Do Formal and Informal Observations

The next time you’re surrounded by students in your program space, conduct an informal observation: Close your eyes and listen.

  • Maybe you’ll hear comments like this: Wow! I get it! Cool! Can we do that again? I want to try that, too.
  • Or, maybe you’ll hear this: Go away, I’m doing this. Get somebody else to hang with. Do I have to do that now?

This type of quick, informal check can tell you how things are going in the moment, so you can act immediately if students and colleagues need help to find their focus.

To capture information for designing an effective schedule and engaging activities, use a formal observation tool. Y4Y’s Observation Checklist will help you consider staff and student engagement, fidelity of implementation, and the status of the physical environment. The data you gather can help with intentional design of student activities and staff professional learning events.

Conduct Surveys and Use the Results

Want to know how students and families feel about your program, and how you can do things differently or better? Surveys offer a quick, anonymous way for audiences to tell you what they think. Here are some Y4Y survey tools you can use:

When you ask others to respond to a survey, be prepared to react in turn. You won’t get future feedback if you ignore what respondents tell you now. After you analyze the combined data, be sure to share the results. You can post charts on the wall, include numbers in the electronic newsletter, or announce results through social media. Present the data beside plans for future activities to demonstrate how audience input helps to shape your program.


July 16, 2019

This quote is often attributed to former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was known for her commitment to human and civil rights, and she often advocated for the youth of this country. Parents and out-of-school time professionals share the beautiful dream of giving young people a thriving future. Working toward that goal together can improve the chances for success.

Since the 1960s, research has shown that students can reap significant benefits from family involvement in their education. This is especially true for disadvantaged students. Among 21st CCLC families, only 50 percent of parents have completed high school, and 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs. What does this mean for your family engagement efforts? First, it means it’s important and worth doing! Second, it means you may need to challenge any assumptions that low levels of family engagement mean disinterest or “lack of commitment” on their part. You’ll need to consider and address such issues as the transportation and scheduling difficulties families at lower socioeconomic levels may face as they work to put food on the table.

Your program staff can build their knowledge with Understanding and Overcoming Challenges to Family Engagement, a tool in the updated Y4Y Family Engagement course. A helpful tool for making a creative plan is Y4Y’s Supporting and Engaging Families. If your family engagement efforts fall short of your expectations, take heart. Emerging wisdom surrounding success cites the importance of learning from failure, whether your own or someone else’s. In fact, “automatic success” doesn’t necessarily give you layers of information you can use to advance your expertise. It sounds like a cliché, but failures truly are learning opportunities. You and your staff can adopt this positive approach by conducting the Family Engagement Training to Go with a critical eye toward learning opportunities.

As Mrs. Roosevelt’s contemporary, Humphrey Bogart, might say, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

For additional information on the benefits of family engagement, and ways you and your staff can forge family partnerships, visit the updated Y4Y course on Family Engagement.



June 18, 2019

Every dream — saving for a rainy day or a special event, getting a higher education, taking a trip to the moon — starts with a sound plan and a realistic budget. To help the students and families in your 21st CCLC program reach their dreams, you can introduce the basic concepts and tools that make up the foundation of financial literacy. By providing the right knowledge and skills, you’ll help young people and their families deal with financial realities that can get in the way of achieving their dreams.

It’s easy when you use the free financial literacy tools on Y4Y. Check out the new Click & Go: Building Financial Literacy to learn about financial concepts and how to embed them into activities. This learning experience will fuel your rockets as you explore the financial literacy universe.

The Facts

Fewer than half of Americans have a budget and track their spending, and nearly half don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency such as repairing a car so they can get to work. One third of adults have no retirement savings. Many young people and adults don’t understand debt well enough to borrow wisely, and may find they have astronomical interest payments. Because out-of-school time programs help students make connections between academics and the real world, supporting financial literacy is a natural fit with 21st CCLC activities.

The Learning

The good news is, you don’t need to become an accountant or banker to help students and families learn about finances. The financial literacy Click & Go includes two mini-lessons, three focused podcasts, tools and external resources. The video mini-lessons and the podcasts introduce and explore five concept categories: earning income, spending, credit and debt, saving and investing, and protecting and insuring.

The Implementation

What you learn about the five concept categories will help you use the Click & Go tools and external resources to start building financial literacy into program activities right away. For example, Financial Literacy Knowledge and Activities Across Age Groups has ideas to use with very young learners up through adults.

The Next Level

To go to a higher altitude of financial literacy, find one or more community partners to help. You might connect with accountants, bankers, representatives of consumer credit agencies, economics teachers or professors, or other financially savvy professionals. To start recruiting them, use the Financial Literacy Partnership Planner.

The Launch

With the Building Financial Literacy Click & Go, you and your crew are just 60 minutes from takeoff. Start the countdown now!



June 18, 2019

Could a few minutes of forethought now prevent hours of stress later? When it comes to planning the start-up of a new program year, the answer is YES! These quick tips will help you prepare now for a smooth re-entry this fall.

To avoid the last-minute hiring scramble:

  • Prepare job descriptions. Have job descriptions ready in advance — especially if you’re looking for certain skills or expertise. Y4Y’s Sample Human Resources Packet has sample job descriptions and templates for inspiration.
  • Keep a list of potential candidates. Maybe you’ve encountered an enthusiastic summer intern from the local college, a community volunteer with a knack for teaching young children, or a retired grandparent with experience in youth development. Keep a list of names and contact information. You can also ask program staff, school personnel and others for recommendations.

To avoid the “oops-I-wish-I’d-planned-a-staff-training-on-that” syndrome:

  • Look back. What training topics would have benefitted staff last year? What topics should be repeated? Put those on the list for this year.
  • Look forward. Will you have several staff members who are new to the 21st CCLC program? Do you plan to use project-based learning or another strategy for the first time? Add essential topics to your list, then check on available training, resources, and expertise from the school and community, and from Y4Y. If you’re a new 21st CCLC grantee, take a look at Y4Y’s virtual professional development series for new grantees.

To avoid starting the fall without the partnerships you want and need:

  • Make new friends. Piggyback on community events to connect with potential partners who have the right kind of expertise, skills and resources to fill gaps or support new initiatives. Be ready to “make your ask” by clearly stating how partnering can benefit the partner as well as the students and families your program serves.
  • Keep old friends. Strengthen current partnerships by expressing appreciation, providing support, and refocusing time and effort as necessary to make sure all parties are satisfied with the partnership arrangement. See Y4Y’s Strengthening Partnerships course for ideas.

To avoid the letdown of targeted students not enrolling:

  • Include success stories in outreach materials. Name potential benefits to students and their families, and include real-life examples whenever possible. Feature recent activities and successes, with quotes and photos from students’ families (with their permission, of course). Let your program’s inclusive culture, areas of expertise and concern for individual growth shine through! See Y4Y’s recent Showcase webinar for ideas and tools for effective communications and outreach.
  • Team with the school to personalize invitations. If you know certain students would benefit from your program, enlist help from the school staff. Teachers and counselors who’ve established trust with students and their families can help recruit students and steer them in your direction.

Could a staff member or volunteer help with some of these tasks? Enlist their help right away. Taking time this summer to plan and prepare for fall can give your program (and your spirits) a rocket boost!



June 18, 2019

Do you feel like your 21st CCLC summer program is already in a good place, with funding secured, partners and stakeholders engaged, staff and students recruited, SMART goals set, activities planned, and logistics figured out? Congratulations!

Are you ready to take your program to the next level? Let’s talk data.

If you look at the Y4Y Continuous Improvement Process Diagram, you’ll see data collection plays a key role in helping you make improvements. As your summer program gets under way, think about data collection as a three-dimensional launch pad into the continuous improvement cosmos. Dimension one consists of qualitative and quantitative data, dimension two includes short- and long-term data, and dimension three includes formative and summative data.

Qualitative and Quantitative

Any good program design is going to look at quantitative data (“the numbers”) as well as qualitative data (important information that can’t be expressed in numbers). For example, your quantitative measure of attendance can tell you in concrete terms whether the program was successful in engaging the targeted number of students, but a parent survey question can help you understand why those students wanted to be there. Academic assessments can provide quantitative data on whether students are improving in a particular subject area, but student survey results can give you qualitative data on which methods or projects your students believe helped them improve. Be faithful about finalizing your end-of-program survey of staff and parents. Record your own recollections of projects or activities that seemed the most impactful. Use these data to help you make next year’s program even better!

Short and Long Term

Taking the program’s pulse at every opportunity is crucial to short-term improvements. Regular check-ins with parents at pick-up time give them a chance to share any concerns, and it’s also a way to solicit insights into their children’s interests, challenges and progress. You can use these insights to make adjustments where needed. Also, keep your finger on the pulse of everyday routines. Today’s observation that students left the room messy after an art activity might lead to tomorrow’s introduction of a new clean-up routine. A mid-program academic assessment might tell you that your students are ahead of the curve on math, but behind on reading comprehension. This discovery could prompt a change in your approach. Don’t scrap your ideas at the end of the summer — keeping notes on all successes and challenges, however small they may seem, will give you a head start in planning for the long term. “Future you” will be delighted with “past you” for providing such helpful information!

Formative and Summative   

You collected a lot of data to design your summer program: school-level data, student-level data, student voice data. These types of data are considered summative because they “summarize” students’ progress or results at the end of an extended period of instruction. The data you collect midway through your program, or at the end, are also summative. These data tell you whether your program is reaching its goals and help you decide if adjustments are needed. No doubt, your program design already incorporates opportunities to gather data to support program improvement (see the Y4Y Continuous Improvement Planner).

To make sure you and your students stay on course day-to-day or week-to-week, you’ll need to collect formative data. Formative data help you identify and understand problems as they occur so that you can “form” effective solutions. For example, let’s say when you designed a new summer math program, the students’ summative academic assessment results informed your program design, but a mid-summer check tells you that you’re not on target with your goals, and you’re not sure how to get back on track. You might decide to add a formative assessment tool, like journaling, where you ask students to show their work on a specific set of problems, reflect on their approach and raise questions. Even if journaling wasn’t part of your original design, using it to collect qualitative data can help you see where gaps in comprehension may be. This information can help you make adjustments that target the reasons behind students’ difficulties. That way, you can get your summer math program — and your students — back on track while there’s still time to make changes.

With data as your launch pad, the quality of your school year program as well as next summer’s will get a boost. It’s all part of the continuous improvement cycle.

For more ideas on continuous improvement, catch the replay of Y4Y’s Summer Learning Webinar installment, The Right Outcome: Ready for Summer. Also, visit the Continuous Improvement section of Y4Y’s Summer Learning Initiative page for survey and observation tools, sample focus group questions and more.