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An-Me Chung of the C. S. Mott Foundation describes the Statewide Afterschool Networks, and three Statewide Afterschool Network coordinators—Jennifer Becker Mouhcine from Illinois, Zelda Waymer from South Carolina, and Janet Frieling from Washington—discuss how their Networks support and promote systems of after school program quality.

What are the C. S. Mott Statewide Afterschool Networks, and how are they taking steps to build statewide after school systems?

An-Me Chung: In 2002, the C. S. Mott Foundation began supporting Statewide Afterschool Networks and providing technical assistance to these Networks through the Afterschool Technical Assistance Collaborative, which is comprised of representatives from Afterschool Alliance, Council of Chief State School Officers, The Finance Project, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association, National League of Cities, Inc., and the University of South Carolina Education Foundation, with support from Learning Point Associates and Collaborative Communications Group.

The Networks provide a structure for bringing together key decision makers interested in improving outcomes for children and youth through school-based and school-linked after school programs. The Mott Foundation's long-term goal in supporting the Networks is to provide intentional and meaningful bridges between leaders of schools, communities, and families in order to better support student learning, youth development, and lifelong learning opportunities.

Currently, 31 Statewide Afterschool Networks encourage local and state policymakers to invest resources wisely to expand quality after school opportunities focused on improving outcomes for children and families. The Networks also provide the means for joint planning, sharing of resources and best practices, building bridges to and between federal, state, and local after school initiatives, and forging partnerships necessary for comprehensive statewide after school policies.

The goals of the Statewide Afterschool Networks are:

  • Creating a sustainable structure of state, regional, and local partnerships, particularly school–community partnerships, focused on supporting policy development at all levels.
  • Supporting the development and growth of statewide policies to secure the resources needed to sustain new and existing after school programs.
  • Supporting statewide systems to ensure programs are of high quality.

Each Network functions through common vision, collective thinking, and shared responsibility. In small and large ways, the Statewide Afterschool Networks are taking concrete steps and building systems to affect policy at the local, state, and national levels. For example, Networks are:

  • Increasing awareness among governors, mayors, and other key decision makers about the impact after school programs can have on student success in the 21st century.
  • Engaging after school champions who shed light on the importance of after school among legislators, businesspeople, parents, and community leaders.
  • Holding forums and meetings to engage potential local and regional providers and supporters.
  • Compiling and analyzing data to inform continuous improvement and policy development.
  • Providing testimony and recommendations on issues of quality and sustainability.
  • Developing systems and principles for effective after school programs.

The Networks are supported by a variety of organizations—for example, state departments of education, universities, community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, school age care alliances, youth development organizations—who contribute their expertise and knowledge. This organizational support is contributing to the development of a national network that is increasingly well positioned to influence national policy priorities to better serve children and families.

After School Evaluation Symposium

In September 2005, HFRP, with support from the C. S. Mott Foundation, convened the After School Evaluation Symposium to integrate after school researchers, practitioners, and policymakers into a “community of practice” and to discuss how to turn research into action. The C. S. Mott Statewide Afterschool Networks not only served as a model for connecting various stakeholders to expand and improve after school programs, but also sent representatives to participate and share lessons learned with others in the field.

A webpage featuring the Symposium is part of HFRP's newly redesigned conferences website. It includes summaries of key themes from each of the plenary sessions and audio recordings from the Symposium speakers, including Deborah Vandell from the University of California at Irvine, Fred Doolittle from MDRC, and Jennifer Reinhart from the Afterschool Alliance. The website highlights the dynamic contributions of both speakers and participants to discussions about professional development, research and policy, and after school systems.

Click here to read more about the Symposium.

Why is creating a statewide system of after school program quality so important?

Jennifer Becker Mouhcine, Zelda Waymer, & Janet Frieling: First, a statewide after school system can ensure that families across a state can count on receiving the same level of services, thus creating greater equity in services and funding. A statewide system enables a consistent approach to services at the local level, while at the same time enabling individual regions to get the training and services they may need that are specific to their particular region within the state. For example, a region that has a large Hispanic population may need bilingual training opportunities for after school program staff that programs in other state regions may not need.

Second, in many states, the after school field lacks education and training opportunities and access to resources. The presence of a skilled and stable workforce plays a significant role in the quality and continuity of programs for children and youth. The absence of a statewide quality system, then, is an obvious impediment to developing and maintaining such a workforce. Without a registry of after school practitioners and core competencies at the state level, it is difficult to design, offer, and fund training or professional development programs for staff.

Thirdly, a statewide quality system can provide guidance in establishing funding priorities and can direct funding to programs that are effective. Bringing various definitions of quality, measurement tools, and expectations into one system clears up confusion about what constitutes “quality” in after school programs. Developing a consensus about quality can provide clear guidance—both for programs, to assess where they are and where they need to be, and for funders, to make decisions about investments in quality programs.

Finally, having agreement across different types of after school programs about how to measure quality also helps create a common message—that quality matters—when working to build public support for funding quality after school programs.

What are some best practices from your states in creating a statewide system for quality?

JBM, ZW, & JF: The experiences in Illinois, South Carolina, and Washington have revealed a number of promising practices from these states, including:

  • Involve the major funders in the state in the creation of your system, as they often drive quality expectations for significant numbers of programs, and at the same time have access to resources or tools to build on.
  • Involve practitioners in the development process to ensure that the system is feasible and valuable for programs, so implementation will be successful.
  • Factor in the technical assistance and training needed to help providers implement quality assessments, understand the connection to outcomes measurement, and learn how to use the data from the assessments for program improvement.
  • Coordinate the definition of regions within a state with other stakeholders working with children and families to ensure alignment of services and supports within a consistent set of geographic regions. Be sure to designate enough regions to make the task of maintaining them manageable.
  • Build a stable workforce by considering your staff training needs right up front, including the identification of standards for school-age and youth workers and establishing a set of education, training, and development experiences to meet state standards and core competencies.
  • Collaboration is key; hold regular meetings with agency leads in the Network to ensure that all partners understand what is happening statewide. Use a competitive process for partnerships so that organizations represent the diversity of programs in your state (e.g., one resource and referral agency, one school district, county extension offices, etc.).

Based on your experiences, what advice do you have for other states who want to implement systems to monitor program quality?

JBM, ZW, & JF: Attaining quality statewide takes time. Recognize this and approach the development of statewide system of quality incrementally and patiently. Taking the time to convene stakeholders and take stock of where you are and what you already have can save you time in the long run. Many entities in your state may be using a system for their specific programming that could be broadened to include additional programs. Allocating time for consensus-building across program and stakeholder types helps uncover what is already underway, as does utilizing an advisory group that includes after school program staff and experts in the field. Initiatives that span more than a year need to take into account shifts in leadership positions. Have a plan in place for when old leaders move on and new leaders come on board.

Tool development is a critical component of the development of a statewide system for quality. Provide tools that connect quality measurement and monitoring systems to program evaluation and improvement, so these activities are viewed along the same continuum. Make sure any quality assessment tools developed are based on research and include connections to youth outcomes. But don't start from scratch. There are a lot of good quality assessment tools already in the field from which you can draw aspects most relevant to your state context.

Finally, develop a sound marketing plan to “sell” the idea of quality to parents, practitioners, and policy makers. Develop a mindset in your state that quality matters and that participation in programs, without related quality initiatives, is selling the young people in your state short. Use this marketing plan to advocate for funding dedicated for quality initiatives alongside program grant dollars.

For more information about these and other statewide systems for after school program quality, see

For more information about the C. S. Mott Foundations's after school efforts, contact An-Me Chung, Program Officer, or Eugene Hillsman, Associate Program Officer, at the Foundation's Headquarters in Flint, Michigan, or visit

Priscilla Little, Associate Director, HFRP

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