Out-of-School Time (OST) is supervised programming that youth regularly participate in before school, after school, and during summer break. These programs keep young people safe, provide child care for working families, and organize activities that help youth develop skills and improve academically. Sometimes, these programs are collectively referred to as “afterschool”.
OST in Iowa
Iowa’s youth are faced with many demands and challenges – more rigorous academic standards are expected within the current school day, and, in Iowa, most parents are out of the home working for several hours after the school day is over. The Iowa Afterschool Alliance promotes high quality programming for youth that leverages the learning day and links with the greater community, recognizing that afterschool programs in local communities provide essential learning and social supports that fill basic needs for many of today’s students and families. Afterschool programs not only provide a safe environment for kids when parents are not home, but they are in a unique position to foster relationships among youth, parents, and their communities to maximize learning opportunities and provide much-needed guidance and support. We owe it to our children and youth to provide them with the tools they need to succeed in school, work and life – and afterschool programs are a primary opportunity to do so.
In 2006, the IAA Quality Work Group worked diligently to narrow a final list of standards and indicators of quality afterschool programs from an initial list of 40 standard categories and over 600 indicators. Research was drawn from a number of existing national and state resources including the National Afterschool Alliance, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, Afterschool Investments, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Youth Program Quality Assessment, among many others. In 2018, a new committee reviewed and updated the quality standards to keep them current with new best practices.
When undertaken in whole, the Iowa Afterschool Alliance’s Quality Standards provide a basic foundation for providing the most effective afterschool program – a program that prepares all its students to succeed in school, work and life. The IAA has also created a self-assessment tool that programs can use to evaluate their quality according to these standards.