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The Quality of School-Age Child Care in After-School Settings

Author: Priscilla M. Little
Publication Date: June 2007

This is an excerpt from the full brief.

Emerging research indicates that regular attendance in quality after-school programs can yield a range of positive developmental outcomes for school-age children, but many after-school programs struggle with understanding and improving the quality of their programs. While only a handful of developmental research and program evaluations have rigorously tested the relations between after-school program quality and child outcomes, there are dozens of program quality assessment tools to help after-school programs improve the quality of their programs. Most of the research on quality of school-age care settings, as well as most of the federal investments in school-age quality improvements, have been confined to school-based and center-based care. Thus this brief will discuss care in those settings.

This brief identifies the features of high-quality after-school settings that have emerged from the research and are reflected in program quality tools. It also examines key research linking program quality to positive developmental outcomes; it reviews current practice in program quality assessment; and it offers considerations for policymakers regarding future school-age care decisions in order to promote high-quality programs. Finally, it includes a listing of program quality assessment tools.

Examples of some of the critical features emerging include: (1) appropriate supervision and program structure; an environment that fosters positive youth-adult relationships; (2) programming with opportunities for autonomy and choice; and (3) good relationships among the various settings in which program participants spend their day—schools, after-school programs, and families. Moving forward, these emerging critical features should help shape future programming and professional development efforts and investments, as well as the development of appropriate program quality assessment tools.