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Elizabeth Devaney and Hillary Salmons from the Providence After School Alliance describe how a citywide data collection system helps track and improve after school services and strengthen linkages with community organizations, schools, and families.

Although tracking youth participation in out-of-school time (OST) programs is not a new idea, tracking enrollment, participation, and retention across an entire OST system is an innovative concept. The Providence After School Alliance (PASA), in conjunction with Cityspan Technologies of Berkeley, California, has developed an OST reporting system that serves as a citywide data collection and management tool across a variety of linked after school sites. This tool helps us to better organize the City of Providence's limited resources in order to serve the neediest youth in their home neighborhoods.

Creating an After School System
Under the leadership of Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline, PASA has established a forum in which public and private organizations and leaders come together to build high-quality, citywide after school programming. Founded 2 years ago, PASA is an initiative of The Education Partnership, Rhode Island's leading education public policy organization. Today, we are working in partnership with public and private after school providers, schools, volunteers, youth, and parents to create AfterZones—campuses of program activity that provide a variety of safe and fun learning opportunities—for hundreds of middle school-age youth not currently involved in after school programming. The AfterZones link libraries, museums, parks, recreation centers, and community-based after school organizations to provide a hub of activities for youth.


“Up until now, the middle school youth of our city have too often been on their own after school. It was a cause of great anxiety for parents, but most didn't have the resources to do anything about it. Having a citywide tracking system allows providers, parents, and schools to know where youth are spending their time after school. Once we know this, we can make better decisions about programming that will keep them busy, fulfilled, and off the streets.”

—David N. Cicilline, Mayor of Providence

As of the summer of 2006, we have launched three of five planned AfterZones and have enrolled 695 middle school youth in two 10-week sessions. Our goal for this 5-year initiative is to eventually serve half of the city's 6,000 middle school youth in this citywide after school system. To keep track of our growing number of providers all serving this same set of clients and to examine connections and overlap among them, it has been critical for PASA to identify a utilitarian data collection and management tool for the AfterZone system.

We chose to work with Cityspan, developers of, to create an OST reporting system designed to allow multiple organizations to share information about one set of clients. has been used successfully in San Francisco and Washington, DC, and Cityspan helped us to adapt the system to meet the specific needs of our citywide network of providers. In Providence, 40 community organizations, recreation centers, libraries, and schools now have licenses to use the tool to access data on a central pool of AfterZone participants.

Managing Information: Practical Applications
The reporting system has proved valuable to PASA first and foremost because it serves as a data management tool that connects all of the institutions and programs in the system. Not only are we able to centrally enroll participants at any of our 40 provider organizations, but we are also able to keep track of attendance and dropout rates across the system on a day-to-day basis. This helps us to understand how all the sites overlap and relate to one another. Through an administrative reporting feature, PASA and the AfterZone leaders may quickly see the average daily attendance and overall enrollment percentages for all AfterZone programs. These reports enable partners to be accountable to one another for their successes (or failures) in reaching young people and to problem solve ways to fill vacant slots, reach out to recruit more youth, or find out why youth have stopped attending particular programs. PASA and its providers can also use the data to determine which sites have been most successful and popular, in order to inform decisions about the types of programs to fund in the future.

The system also makes it possible for providers to communicate easily with schools and families. PASA and its partnering organizations can keep track of parent contact information, special medical needs, and permissions for such things as riding the bus and participating in surveys. For example, the Title I after school coordinator in each school has full access to the database. If a parent calls the school with a question about where her daughter is that day after school, the coordinator can quickly enter the student's name into a central look-up device, see that student's schedule for the entire week, and let the parent know that her daughter is supposed to be at the Boys & Girls Club that afternoon. The coordinator can even enter the Boys & Girls Club system to see if the student was marked as present that day.

Similarly, the tool can be used to manage emergency situations. If PASA receives a complaint from a parent that her son was harassed on the bus on the way to the program, we can use the tool to quickly access that child's record, find out if he had permission to ride the bus, see who else was in the program that day, identify the program staff who were on duty, and manage the situation with accurate information. As a shared, Web-based application, has helped us to develop strong relationships between providers and families.

The Providence Recreation Department, which offers AfterZone programming in several of its recreation centers, is using this same reporting system to track participation and attendance at all 10 of the city's recreation centers. Their data are being used as part of Mayor Cicilline's citywide accountability and reporting system, called Provstat. The city's comprehensive use of the OST reporting system sends a reinforcing message to the public and private partners of PASA—that data and information about youth participation in quality programming matter to the leaders who care about the future well-being of youth in the city.

Managing Information: Research Applications
PASA also uses for its own evaluation purposes. As an after school intermediary, we are accountable to both our funders and community stakeholders for the work that we do and the money that we spend. The reporting system is helping us determine if we are improving the lives of Providence youth by linking with multiple organizations across the city to provide a variety of services. The database uses what is known as a relational structure, which means that end users, evaluators, and funders can link external databases to software used for outcomes-based research.

This structure soon will allow PASA to connect with the Providence School Department's database using student ID numbers. Starting in fall 2006, we will follow a cohort of sixth graders to measure improvements in their school attendance, grades, and discipline records over 3 years of AfterZone participation. The tool will also enable us to store individual student survey responses, which we then will pair with school records for a greater understanding of the effectiveness of AfterZone programming for individual youth. The tool is therefore another way that we facilitate connections between AfterZone programming and schools.

Confidentiality and Security
Confidentiality and security of student data is a monumental concern because the database contains a significant amount of personal student and family information and is accessible to a variety of providers, the Providence public schools, and central administrators at PASA. In fact, many of our partners were initially reluctant to share their information in this system for fear of compromising student data. Significant measures have been put into place to ensure that student information is kept confidential.

First, we created different user levels, each with access to different types and amounts of information. User levels are assigned based on the individual's role and needs. For example, a site-level user who only needs to record attendance may have access to the attendance pages for programs but may not be able to access information about individual students or their family contact information. A second measure we put into place is a requirement that all users have background checks on file with their employers. Finally, PASA has signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding outlining confidentiality procedures with each organization using as part of the AfterZones.

Moving Forward
PASA is still in the early stages of using the data management and evaluation system. For the past 2 years, we have focused on identifying and customizing a tool that will serve all of our needs as well as provide all of our collaborators with a valuable resource for their own data management purposes. Providers are now recording attendance on a daily basis and are beginning to understand the greater capabilities of a citywide system.

In the coming year, we hope to take the tool to the next level with an expanded base of users. All users will receive training on how to use for site-based management and evaluation purposes. In addition, PASA will begin using the information available through the system for our own evaluation purposes. As a result, we hope the tool will become even more effective for both PASA and its partnering organizations, allowing us to forge stronger linkages and to improve our programming to better serve middle school youth in Providence.

Elizabeth Devaney
Manager of Research and Quality Improvement
Tel: 401-490-9599 ext. 103

Hillary Salmons
Director of PASA and VP for Community Engagement
Tel: 401-490-9599 ext. 111

The Education Partnership
345 S. Main Street
Providence, RI 02903

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