Out-of-school time initiatives are a proven way to support the academic success and overall development of young people. More than a decade of research links sustained participation in out-of-school time programs to positive outcomes that support student success including: improved work-study habits, increased interest and engagement in learning, improved classroom grades and performance on standardized tests.

In addition, out-of-school time programs have been credited with supporting social and emotional development, helping youth avoid risk-taking behaviors, and fostering stronger relationships with adults and peers. A growing number of high-quality programs that serve middle and high school students are also positively impacting high school course selection, school-day attendance, credit accumulation, and graduation rates. These benefits are especially important for students who are at risk of academic failure and/or high school dropout.

http://outofschooltime2.unitedway.org/_img/26.jpgIn growing recognition of these benefits, United Ways are making considerable investments in out-of-school time as a strategy for supporting student success.

But quality matters. In fact, poorly designed and implemented programs have little to no positive impact on youth development and academic achievement. Given this, United Ways and other stakeholders can play a significant role in ensuring a return on the community's investment by focusing efforts on access to quality programs.

This toolkit can help you understand the key elements of program quality, connect you to resources from other United Ways and national organizations working to improve quality, and consider ways that your United Way can work to strengthen out-of-school time program quality in your community.