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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

Learn from the past to improve the future. How many times have you heard this saying from historians, politicians and even your mother? It’s good advice for 21st CCLC programs as well!

As you plan your fall program, look back at data you gathered in the spring to pinpoint learning needs for current students and staff members. Learn about students who haven’t been in your program but could use the extra support you provide. School-day teachers can help you identify new prospects, and tell you about academic areas where they see students struggling.

Here are some data types and Y4Y tools that can help you learn from the past:

Program Performance Data

Identifying and Addressing Program Strengths and Weaknesses Training to Go: This ready-to-use presentation can be customized or used “as is.” It offers strategies that help you analyze program performance and build on strengths to improve effectiveness.

Sample Evaluation Guide: This tool describes program-level evaluation, which uses some of the same data you’ll want for fall planning. Look near the end of the guide to find sample focus group questions for parents, students and staff. These questions can also be used in interviews or surveys to help you discover stakeholder reactions to and ideas about your program.

Observation Checklist: This tool helps site leaders understand important areas of student engagement, teacher/facilitator engagement and the physical environment. If you used the checklist during spring or summer program sessions, you already have data to analyze. If you haven’t used this tool, it can guide reflections and discussions when you plan your next session. Be sure to add it to your continuous improvement process tool kit.

Student Needs Data

Three Types of Data: This tool explains school-level, student-level and student voice data.

Survey of Student Needs: Use this tool to check with school-day teachers about student needs in subject areas and specific skills. It also helps with setting priority levels for student needs.

Staff Learning Needs

Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities: As the title suggests, this tool helps staff put data into action. If your staff hasn’t used SMART goals before, introduce this tool when you use the Setting SMART Activity Goals Training Starter. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

The tools in this list come from three Y4Y courses: Continuous Education, Summer Learning and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program. To see more free learning resources, go to the Y4Y Learn Overview page and start exploring!



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. 



May 22, 2019

With initial design of your summer learning program complete, you’re ready to recruit staff and partners, then cultivate skills and knowledge so your gardeners can deliver activities that help students grow and prevent summer learning loss. You may have a core team in place but probably need to fill some gaps. Where do you start? Here are some tools and tips from Y4Y resources.

Select the Right Gardeners

To nurture strong, successful students, plan staff and partner recruitment to identify candidates with qualities you need.

  • Recruit staff. Some will be school-day teachers, who understand academics and know how to support student learning. Others will be school-day paraprofessionals, college students and community volunteers. You want candidates who reflect your students’ diversity, can support social and emotional learning, and bring skills and knowledge that will enrich the learning environment. Create a recruitment structure by developing job descriptions and preparing for interviews. See the Y4Y Sample Human Resources Packet and the Identifying and Recruiting High-Quality Staff tools for help with those processes.
  • Recruit partners. Use Y4Y tools to put two things in place: a community asset map that identifies potential resources, and an elevator pitch that explains your 21st CCLC program and its goals for summer learning. These resources help you prepare the soil for successful collaborations.

Fertilize and Water Frequently

Start by including everyone — your staff and appropriate partner staff — in orientation training, so everyone knows the garden design. As the summer session progresses, follow up with group and individual coaching. To ensure that everyone thrives, use the Y4Y Observation Checklist and Summer Learning Training Planner tools to focus ongoing coaching and professional learning activities. For ideas from 21st CCLC colleagues, listen to the podcasts on recruiting staff and leading your organization in the Organizational Culture Click & Go.

A Little Weeding and a Lot of Joy

Your summer learning garden can produce glorious blooms — just be sure to use your continuous improvement process to weed out ineffective practices. See the Y4Y Continuous Improvement Planner and the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram for more information. At the end of the summer session, bring everyone together to celebrate your garden’s bounty!

Other Y4Y Resources

Summer Learning Initiative. Get inspiration, ideas and tools from this two-year Department project.

Summer Learning Course: Implementation Strategies. See Step 4: Logistics, Planning Professional Development.

Managing Your 21st CCLC Program Course. Find the information and tools every program director needs.



May 22, 2019

Your students have spent the school year being fed and watered. It’s time to shine the bright summer sun on their budding minds, and watch those colorful petals unfurl!

Tilling for a New Crop: Reflect

As you review data to identify and invite the students who most need support during summer months, also take time to reflect on ways you and your students have bloomed over the past school year. What strategies ”fed and watered” this growth? Have you told your colleagues and students about ways you've seen them bloom, maybe by overcoming a challenging situation, learning a new skill or daring to try something new?

Try these ways to review data and identify students who most need support:

  • With your program team, use your continuous improvement process to review your program’s spring session to see what worked well for students and staff. Note any programmatic issues that disrupted growth. Grab your gloves and pull those weeds out of the mix!
  • Your stakeholders — including teachers, principals and parents — can offer valuable advice on this year’s crop. Meet early to revisit your academic and enrichment program essentials with these cultivators of young minds to strategically target recruitment.

Sowing the Right Seeds: Recruit

Be intentional about recruiting students who can benefit most from the summer program you’ve designed. Based on teacher recommendations and needs assessment results, make direct invitations to the students and their families. For ideas about structuring and managing student recruitment, start with the Y4Y Summer Learning Youth Recruitment Planner tool, and also try these strategies:

  • Take advantage of family and community activities to set up an information table where families can learn about your summer program activities and goals.
  • Advertise your program through social media. Be specific about program goals so you attract the students and families you hope to serve.
  • For more recruitment ideas, visit the Implementation Strategies section of Y4Y’s Summer Learning course. See Step 5. Intentional Design: Recruit Students.

Helping Families Harvest: Identify Local Resources

For students who don’t have access to summer programs, try these strategies to support summer growth:

  • Coordinate with community partners to distribute materials about summer activities at libraries, museums, parks and historical sites around your district.
  • Participate in spring school-based family activities to help sing the praises of community resources and offer at-home ideas such as those in the Y4Y Family Engagement Strategies tool and the Learn More Library of the Y4Y Summer Learning course. Here are some examples from the Library: