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Defining What Works in Afterschool Programs

Client: The U.S. Department of Education, Profile and Performance Information Collection System (PPICS)

How do you measure impact? That is the fundamental question when using data to assess and improve program performance. Learning Point Associates has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to improve the collection of data on afterschool programs to better measure the scope and outcomes of these programs that work with nearly 1.5 million students a year in 10,000 centers across the country.

PPICS is now collecting student-level data in four states and refining the impact indicators used to judge program performance. This vital information can be used to redesign programs and increase student achievement.

During the past two years, Learning Point Associates has initiated an ongoing conversation with ED and a panel of national experts to identify meaningful indicators of performance and collect longitudinal data to measure the extent to which ED’s $1.1 billion-per-year national afterschool program was benefiting students. By defining performance indicators, collecting reliable data on each indicator, and analyzing and reporting on the results, Learning Point Associates has begun to enable ED and state program coordinators to better manage and monitor their programs, provide targeted technical assistance, and design stronger state and local evaluations to improve program performance and student outcomes.

Learning Point Associates operates the Profile and Performance Information Collection System (PPICS), a data system that gathers comprehensive information on all 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLCs) nationwide. The 21st CCLCs are federally funded afterschool programs that provide academic enrichment and youth development activities to students who attend low-performing schools in areas with high rates of poverty. An emerging body of rigorous research clearly shows that high-quality enrichment programs, those that engage youth in intentional and skill-focused activities, yield a range of positive academic and social outcomes.

As Learning Point Associates has gathered annual information on these programs over the last five years, it has become clearer that additional data and refinements to the measurements used to determine program success were needed. Data that could better determine student achievement were not being collected, and some of the indicators that were used to determine the programs’ outcomes were not tied closely enough to the likely results of a successful before-school and afterschool program.

Learning Point Associates worked closely with ED to convene researchers to identify measures that could better detect 21st CCLC program impacts. From these recommendations, PPICS began collecting student-level data in four states, and the impact indicators required under the Government Performance and Results Act are being refined. This information will provide Congress, ED, state-level administrators, and program staff with vital information about the services and the results of successful programs.

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