The Case for Quality
How do we effectively prepare youth in a rapidly changing and complex world for college, work and life in the 21st century? Youth need opportunities to be physically engaged, to grow socially and emotionally as well as academically, and to experiment with new and diverse content. A greater emphasis is now placed on a holistic learning approach for youth with learning no longer being confined to the classroom, and occurring in school, after school, at home and in the community.
With increased pressure on teachers to focus primarily on reading, writing, and math in preparation for standardized tests, the time to teach science, history, the arts, physical education and social and emotional skills in the school day is waning. Quality out-of-school time programs fill this gap, supporting the learning in the school day while simultaneously exposing youth to new concepts and catering programming to their specific passions and skills. Programs serving younger youth often encourage them to dabble in a variety of subject areas, while teen programs tend to focus on more specific topics of interest which emphasize college and career readiness skills.
Out-of-school time programs are a powerful tool to help youth develop the skills needed for the 21st century workplace. Programs develop leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills, traits that are most sought after by today’s employers. Real world experiences and community involvement are commonplace in out-of-school time programs, allowing teens the opportunity to apply what they are learning in relevant context and preparing them for the demands of college, work and life.
There is widespread agreement that while out-of-school time programs can be strong tools for youth development, this is only the case when these programs are of high quality. Quality programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is no one program, style, curriculum, or method that meets the needs of all youth. Rather, a quality program is one that is a living organism, growing and adapting to meet the needs of all youth. It is a program in which the staff are caring, passionate, creative and energetic. It is a program that collaborates with classroom teachers, families and communities, and introduces youth to new ideas, encouraging them to experiment in unfamiliar territory.