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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Heather Weiss

For the past decade, Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) has contributed to the national dialogue about out-of-school time (OST) as a critical support for young people's learning and development. But OST programs—like schools, families, community-based institutions, or any other single place where children learn and develop—cannot alone achieve optimal outcomes for children and youth. Instead, OST programs are one key component in a network of supports that HFRP calls complementary learning. Complementary learning takes place when two or more institutions intentionally link with each other to improve learning and developmental outcomes for children and youth.

Our spring 2005 issue of The Evaluation Exchange introduced the concept of complementary learning, and your subsequent feedback has demonstrated that many in the OST field understand its importance and are actively pursuing opportunities to put it into practice. This issue is devoted to understanding how OST programs build, evaluate, and sustain linkages with many other institutions in order to support high-quality programming and contribute to a rich network of learning supports. Given the enormity of this task, we chose to produce a double issue of The Evaluation Exchange. We thank the C. S. Mott Foundation, as well as other funders listed in the masthead, for enabling us to do so.

We begin with a Theory & Practice article that addresses the “why” of complementary learning by discussing how recent research builds the case for linking OST programs with other institutions. Our Promising Practices articles examine the “what” and “where” of complementary learning, providing case-based examples of OST programs and initiatives that link with other learning settings.

In Beyond Basic Training and Ask the Expert, multiple voices describe the “how” of building linkages. These sections feature field experts such as Audrey Hutchinson from the National League of Cities, who talks about how to evaluate complex citywide systems of support, and C. S. Mott Program Officer An-Me Chung and C. S. Mott grantees, who discuss the role of Statewide Afterschool Networks in promoting program quality.

One goal of this issue is to highlight promising evaluation approaches within the OST arena and build the knowledge base and agenda for new studies. Our Spotlight section describes new tools and methods for evaluating linkages, while our Evaluations to Watch articles illustrate emerging evaluation approaches and preview relevant new research findings.

A second goal of this issue is to illustrate the array of institutions with which innovative OST programs are partnering. Articles in this issue feature a variety of linkage strategies that target a range of goals. For example, with support from Time Warner Inc., three articles spotlight the importance of OST programs linking to support postsecondary success. Meanwhile, support from City Year has enabled us to document another key link: OST and business partnerships.

This issue of The Evaluation Exchange has benefited from considerable reader feedback on complementary learning. We hope that future feedback will enable us to discover more examples of innovative initiatives and the ways they are being evaluated—results we plan to use in a series of papers and tools on complementary learning and its key linkages and evaluation challenges in the coming year.

Heather B. Weiss, Ed.D.
Founder & Director
Harvard Family Research Project

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project