Introduction to QTurn White Papers

We, at QTurn, are pleased to share the first three, in a series of four, white papers. White Paper 1, Socio-Emotional Skills, Quality, and Equity (Peck & Smith, 2020), provides a translational framework for understanding our relatively unique view of the key parts of a socio-emotional skill set. In short, we develop a case for supplementing the traditional focus on student beliefs and behavior with a much more extensive focus on students’ emotional life and the attention skills necessary for becoming the primary authors of their own development.

You can download White Paper 1 from our website or ResearchGate. We’ve also published a blog describing what we think are some of the important points and implications of White Paper 1.

Although our work is anchored in the wide and deep range of developmental supports that are currently evident in the out-of-school time (OST) field, we view the “neuroperson” model described in White Paper 1 as applying to all adults and children in all settings. Quoting from the paper:

We introduce a theoretical framework designed to describe the integrated set of mental and behavioral parts and processes (i.e., schemas, beliefs, and awareness) that are socio-emotional skills and that produce both basic and advanced forms of agency. With improved definitions and understanding of SEL skills, and the causes of SEL skill growth, we hope to improve reasoning about programs and policies for socio-emotional supports in any setting where children spend time. Perhaps most importantly, we hope to inform policy decisions and advance applied developmental science by improving the accuracy and meaningfulness of basic data on children’s SEL skill growth. (p. 3)

The series of white papers will define what exactly we do and believe at QTurn. After the translational framework is explained in White Paper 1, White Paper 2 – Measuring Socio-Emotional Skill, Impact, and Equity Outcomes (Smith & Peck, 2020a) – provides guidance for selecting feasible and valid SEL skill measures. White Paper 3 –  Realist(ic) Evaluation Tools for OST Programs – integrates the SEL framework and measures with a pattern-centered approach to both CQI and impact evaluation. White Paper 4 – Citizen Science and Advocacy in OST (Smith & Peck, 2020b) – presents an alternative evidence-based approach to improving both the impact and equity of OST investments. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing blogs related to White Papers 2 and 3.

We’ll also be updating our website as we go along and hope to be joined in the blogging by a couple of expert clients in Flint and London. That’s it for now. We look forward to sharing further information in the coming months and would love to receive any feedback you think might help further the cause of supporting OST staff and students.

Reflections on White Paper 1

In conjunction with the release of White Paper 1 this week – A Framework for Socio-Emotional Skills, Quality, and Equity – we want to mention a few of the highlights:

What are socio-emotional skills? In our view, a person’s socio-emotional skills are integrated sets of mental and behavioral parts and processes (i.e., schemas, beliefs, and awareness); these integrated systems are socio-emotional skills and produce both basic and advanced forms of agency.

Why are socio-emotional skills important? Socio-emotional skills have a compounding effect on many developmental outcomes that has been described as dynamic complementarity (Heckman, 2007); that is, socio-emotional skills beget other types of skills. Children and adults operating at high levels of SEL skill can more easily get on to the business of learning what the context has to offer. Settings that do not address SEL skills can become a further cause of educational inequity.

Why are organizations and policies struggling to implement socio-emotional skill reforms? A recent review found over 100 different frameworks describing SEL skills and supports (Berg et al., 2017). This cacophony of words and concepts undermines the shared understanding and language necessary for coordinated action, both within organizations doing the work and among evaluators producing the evidence.[i] Confusion about what constitutes SEL skill, and how “skill” may or may not differ from many other concepts – such as, competence, abilities, traits, attitudes, and mindsets – undermines scientific progress and slows policy processes that rely on at least approximate consensus around shared meanings and objects of measurement.

How can the QTurn socio-emotional skills framework help increase the effectiveness of reform? By defining, naming, and sorting out the key parts of integrated SEL skill sets, we can much more effectively measure and model both changes in socio-emotional skills and, ultimately, impacts on outcomes and equity. In White Paper 2, we extend from the socio-emotional skills framework described in White Paper 1 to corresponding guidance for measuring socio-emotional skills with increased precision, accuracy, and sensitivity.

We’ll be back with more soon…


[i] Given the extent of diversity across SEL frameworks, Jones et al. (2019) developed resources to help stakeholders understand the unique strengths of different frameworks as well as the alignment between core elements of these different frameworks. The general conclusions from this work are (a) there is currently no single consensus framework that is obviously more scientifically or practically valid than any or all of the others, and (b) the use of the same terms by different frameworks where presumably referring to different things (i.e., jingle fallacies), and the use of different terms by different frameworks where presumably referring to the same things (i.e., jangle fallacies), are abiding challenges faced by stakeholders charged with making funding, evaluation, training, performance, measurement, and analysis decisions. Our approach is designed to help solve these problems.

A Compassionate Evaluation using the GOLD Assessment in Genesee Intermediate School District

In early 2020, COVID-19 rates were soaring. Masks, cleaning supplies, and clear information were in short supply. This was especially true for schools across the country. Teachers, parents, and students were unsure about what was going to happen next. On Thursday, April 1, 2020 (in-person) school was still in session in the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) and the students and staff of the 21st CCLC Brides to Success afterschool programs were looking forward to a 4-day weekend. On Friday, April 2, Governor Whitmer released executive order 2020-35, immediately suspending school for the remainder of the school year and drastically changing how delivery of school and afterschool services would be provided (e.g., shifting from in-person to remote interactions with children and youth).

This was the second year QTurn partnered with GISD’s Bridges to Success programs, and we quickly realized two things. First, our original continuous quality improvement (CQI) cycle (with a heavy focus on Socio-Emotional Learning) was, in spirit, more relevant than ever but, in implementation, completely inappropriate. Second, the setting-based tools (such as the Youth and School-Age PQA) available to evaluators in the OST field in April of 2020 could not provide valid program quality data and could not demonstrate how afterschool programs, like Bridges to Success, were pivoting to meet the needs of children.

During this pivot point, we discovered the four “rules” for designing and implementing a compassionate evaluation. It was clear that it felt unethical (to us and to the Bridges to success leadership) to ask staff to partake in an external evaluation processes ill-fit for the transitional physical setting or within the greater context of learning during a global pandemic. Our partners didn’t need the added pressure of an external observation while they were still figuring out what it meant to offer virtual and non-virtual programming to students and families.

By the time schools were closed in Michigan, QTurn was in the midst of developing a self-assessment tool for evaluating program quality during the COVID pandemic, which would eventually become the Guidance for OST Learning at a Distance (GOLD). The development of the GOLD, funded by the Michigan Afterschool Association (MAA) and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), was the culmination of interviews, workshops and reviews with over 25 youth development and OST experts from the State of Michigan. Because the GOLD materials were not released for another month to the public, the QTurn team and Bridges to Success leadership decided to use the 27 best practices described in the GOLD as a framework for coding a series of interviews in order to tell the story of Bridges to Success’ response to the pandemic.

Over the course of two weeks, the QTurn team interviewed 15 afterschool staff, from 9 GISD afterschool sites, and 1 administrator from the GISD office. Each interview was structured around the following five questions:

  • What is the experience of transitioning from in-person to distance programming?
  • What are you hearing from students and families?
  • What are the barriers to students’ virtual learning?
  • Where are you experiencing success?
  • Where could you be successful with more support?

Some calls were quick, lasting only 35 minutes. Some were over an hour. We asked questions, and we listened, asked follow up questions, and listened more. Every conversation was an intense opportunity for direct staff, program administrators, and team leads to tell someone outside of their world what was going on. We heard many sentiments filled with hope and gratitude, confusion and uncertainty of their impact, moments of fear and sadness, and overwhelming concern for the students and families in their programs.

Although each of the afterschool sites used their own approach to providing services intended to facilitate learning at a distance, with no systematic coordination across sites, five key themes emerged from our analysis of the interview responses:

  1. Staff were unsure about how to define some aspects of program quality and/or professional practice within the context of learning at a distance; particularly, how to most effectively monitor children’s (a) socio-emotional well-being, (b) academic effort and progress, and (c) attendance.
  2. GISD Bridges to Success leadership style and organizational culture were important sources of support for staff experiencing programmatic uncertainty and professional disequilibrium.
  3. Learning at a distance both exacerbates and clarifies inequities. GISD responded by providing a diverse set of programming options, such as: (a) virtual communication and supports, (b) non-virtual communication and supports, and (c) supports for adults supporting younger children.
  4. GISD continued to deliver a whole-child curriculum that provided supports for safety, fun, academic work, and socio-emotional skill building.
  5. Increased flexibility of staff schedules was necessary to meet student and family needs, even though it often increased the length of staff workdays.
2020-2021 Bridges to Success CQI Design

When we started the 2020-2021 school year, we realized again that the setting-based assessments required by the Michigan Department of Education were going to once again offer incomplete data on the impact of programming being offered by Bridges to Success. The afterschool model was no longer face-to-face general enrichment programming. Bridges to Success was still responding to families in crisis, so their approach was a casework model focused on socio-emotional and academic support. Knowing this, we conducted external (virtual) program evaluations, using the MDE recommended PQA items plus two scales from the SEL PQA (emotion management and empathy), But, the PQA data alone felt incomplete. To supplement, we again interviewed site leads and coded the transcripts to the GOLD. By interviewing site leads based on general questions, and letting them talk, we were able to learn about not only their experiences but also what they were most concerned with and focused on. The GOLD demonstrated what the PQA alone could not: that lots of SEL programming was being done but mostly one-on-one with children and families, outside of their regularly-scheduled virtual programming

In early spring, 2021, QTurn and Bridges to Success staff came back together to decide how we could work together for the rest of the year. Schools were opening again, and in-person afterschool programming would be offered again. We decided that would do external observations using the SEL PQA and use a custom distance-learning external assessment tool that was designed specifically for GISD.

By adding the GOLD into our CQI plan,we were able to really define the quality and breadth of services. No two sites were operating the exact same way – but every site was working with their school to meet the needs of children. Utilization of setting-based assessment tools not designed for virtual learning (or non-virtual distanced learning) was only scratching the surface of what programs like Bridges to Success accomplished on 2020-21. And by working with our partners and by centering compassion, our evaluation not only articulated, but honored the heroic effort and continuous dedication of the Bridges to Success program to their communities during a difficult year.

What Exactly is Compassionate Evaluation?

Compassion has a lot of definitions, but most have to do with recognition of suffering, action to alleviate suffering, and tolerance of discomfort during the action.[i] By April of 2020, we knew that our afterschool partners in Genesee County (including the city of Flint) Michigan, and many of the children and families that they served, were suffering. A significantly higher proportion than usual of those families were in a crisis-mode. For afterschool educators, the learning environment had moved, and the means of delivering programs had changed dramatically. A “pivot” was required.

When our partners told us how evaluation could help, they emphasized a compassionate approach to the work that would address suffering in multiple ways: by reducing workload related to evaluation, by providing an evaluation design that was of timely value in the current moment of challenge, and by wherever possible reflecting back to staff their own incredible commitment and ingenuity in meeting those challenges.

We translated this desire for an experience of compassion into a few rules about method:

Rule 1 was make it quick. We knew that staff were in crisis mode and that time was precious. We eliminated all data collection responsibilities for staff. Staff had only to schedule dates for observers, sit for a 45-minute interview, review the report during a 70-minute training, and then review the report again during a subsequent 15 minute portion of an all-staff meeting. This meant less than 4-hours of total time for a site coordinator engaging in required evaluation activities between September and December 2021.

Rule 2 was prioritize local expertise. When program practices and objectives are changing rapidly (the pivot mentioned above), prior evaluation designs (including measures) are of reduced validity. This was true simply because it was no longer the same service – models varied widely both within and across programs.[ii] We asked open-ended questions about what was and wasn’t working and then coded text segments to existing program standards for program fidelity, instructional quality, and students’ socio-emotional skills. In this way, we identified standards that were applicable in the new situation, named new priorities in those terms, and respected site managers as expert sources of data about what works.

Rule 3 was ask about what is changing (and reflect strengths). Afterschool staff told us they felt like their professional tools became outdated overnight, by the pandemic, and it was not a good feeling. We spent our moments of access to leaders and site managers asking how it was going, letting them give voice to however it was going by taking the conversation wherever it went, and then by intentionally reflecting strengths back to them. Although this therapeutic aspect of our service may feel a bit uncomfortable to some evaluators, the situation required it as an aspect of method. As evaluators, we were “giving value to” leaders’ and site managers’ experiences by letting them flow some ideas and emotion while answering our questions.

Rule 4 was write it down. By asking staff about practices and coding their transcribed responses into categories, we were identifying sentences written by program staff that describe specific local best practices in specific local terms. By identifying and writing down local best practices in the words of program staff, the evaluator helps speed up the development of shared mental models about what the pivoted service is. This helps service providers demonstrate accountability in the sense of “this is actually what we did every day.” It also makes it possible for leaders to pivot the service more easily in the future by returning to documentation for crisis- or emergency-management.

[i] Strauss, C., Lever Taylor, B., Gu, J., Kuyken, W., Baer, R., Jones, F., & Cavanagh, K. (2016). What is compassion and how can we measure it? A review of definitions and measures. Clinical Psychology Review, 47, 15–27.

[ii] Roy, L. & Smith, C. (2021). YouthQuest Interim Evaluation Report. [Grantee Evaluation Report]. QTurn. and Smith, C. & Roy, L. (2021). Best Practices for Afterschool Learning at a Distance: GISD Bridges to Success. [Grantee Evaluation Report]. QTurn.

Continuous Quality Improvement and Evaluation in 2020: A Plan for 21st Century Community Learning Centers

During times of crisis when programs are under tremendous pressures, evaluation and assessment can be challenging. Programs enter triage mode, putting their limited time and energy into the most urgent tasks. This heightens the need for evaluation that reduces strain and improves capacity. When conditions that created the crisis are long-lasting, like the coronavirus pandemic, it becomes necessary to revisit and restore vital activities that may have been moved to the backburner, but to do this successfully often requires intelligent redesign. How can the same needs be met in a new way? How can evaluation and assessment be adapted to succeed in challenging conditions?

QTurn has developed a comprehensive evaluation plan for afterschool programs at a moment when redesign of the service and delivery of the redesigned service are happening at the same time. This plan, ”Afterschool Evaluation Plan 2020,” was developed to address the unique needs of programs in the 2020-2021 school year – and support compliance with the specific requirements for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. An evaluation plan for 2020 must remove burdens rather than adding to them and make life easier not harder. Aware of these needs, QTurn’s design includes short, validated assessment tools, guidance available through online trainings, and a reassuring, therapeutic approach referred to as the “lower stakes” model.

A Lower Stakes Approach

The lower stakes model is a strong component of QTurn’s work. Lower stakes means that the results of assessments are used to support and inform, and program staff are able to interpret the meaning of their own individual and group performance data. In a lower stakes model, the results of assessments do not influence funding or prompt sanctions. Instead, low assessments scores are opportunities for mutual learning, support, and growth. 

While this approach has been integral to the work of QTurn’s founder, Charles Smith, for decades, lower stakes is especially critical in the 2020-2021 school year as program staff strive to adapt to a new normal. The AEP 2020 is intentionally designed to alleviate stress and confusion and help staff adapt to rapid change and achieve shared meaning.

User-Friendly Assessment Tools

The Afterschool Evaluation Plan 2020 includes three assessment tools designed for remote or in-person programming (or a combination of both). The first measures fidelity to best practices at the management level. The second captures quality at the point-of-service (and applies to home learning environments). The third charts the growth of social and emotional learning (SEL) skills among youth. The tools are short and easy to use. Designed to work together as part of the cycle, they also support impact evaluation.

Management Practices Self Assessment (MPSA).  The MPSA was developed with extensive input from 21st CCLC program project directors and aligns with the core requirements for 21st CCLC programs in Michigan. With 24 indicators forming eight standards in four domains, the tool requires less than two hours for program managers to complete.

Guidance for Out-of-School Time Learning at a Distance (GOLD) Self-Assessment. Site managers and staff complete a self-assessment produced with extensive input from other expert  21st CCLC site managers. GOLD contains 27 indicators that form 11 standards in four domains. The four domains represent point-of-service quality in the individual learning environment.

Adult Rating of Youth Behavior (ARYB).  Each child is rated on the ARYB in November and April. By completing the assessment at two time points (earlier in the school year then again toward the end of the year), the ARYB is able to capture growth in social and emotional skills across the school year. The ARYB has 30 items that form six skill domains, including emotion management, teamwork, and responsibility.

Additional Features:

Cost-Effective.  The Afterschool Evaluation Plan (AEP) 2020 can be adapted to a wide range of cost structures. The Guidebooks and scoring forms are available for free to all users. Additionally, the demands on time are low. Completing the assessments can require as little as 2 hours for program directors and 3 hours for site managers and staff per year.

Guidance Through Online Training.  QTurn will offer live online trainings covering the use of the MPSA, GOLD, and ARYB. Support also includes online training that equip leaders and staff to do data informed planning.

Emphasis on School-Day Alignment.  QTurn’s AEP 2020 helps programs pivot toward greater integration with schools during a time when school has become more challenging for many children.

Support for Impact Evaluation.  Finally, data obtained using the assessment tools can be used to evaluate the overall impact of programs, particularly across multiple programs.

To adopt the AEP 2020, begin by downloading the assessment tools and resources.

For support with implementation of the AEP 2020, please contact the QTurn Team.

QTurn’s Afterschool Evaluation Plan 2020

In partnership with the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan After-School Partnership, QTurn has put together a suite of evaluation tools specifically developed for afterschool programs during the 2020-21 school year – The Afterschool Evaluation 2020 (AEP2020). The Management Practices Self-Assessment (MPSA), Guidance for Learning at a Distance (GOLD), and the Adult Rating of Youth Behavior (ARYB) are a suite of tools originally designed for 21st Century Community Learning Center programs, however any youth-serving out-of-school time (OST) organization will find the AEP 2020 applicable to their work.

Guidance for Out-of-School Time Learning at a Distance (GOLD)

Management Practices Self Assessment (MPSA)

Adult Rating of Youth Behavior​ (ARYB)

Defining High Quality for Afterschool Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic​

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as schools grappled with the sudden demand for remote instruction, afterschool and other out-of-school time (OST) programs have been striving to adapt. As programs expand their remote offerings and gradually reopen, there is a need for guidance. Delivering the same high-quality supports to children and youth at home is a formidable challenge, and returning to in-person programming requires adjustment to a new normal. While the details of this new normal are still uncertain, one thing is clear. The coronavirus has not disappeared. Support for longer-term adaptations is needed.

In response, QTurn has released Guidance for Out-of-School Time Learning at a Distance (GOLD), a set of standards and indicators with a corresponding self-assessment rubric. The standards describe promising practices for afterschool learning at a distance that harmonize with existing standards and competencies. The rubric provides leaders with a means for assessing program readiness in order to provide responsive training and technical assistance. Funders and intermediary organizations may also use the standards and assessment to identify system-level supports for achieving high quality.

Standards and Self-Assessment Manual

Self-Assessment Rubric

The GOLD helps program managers and staff adopt a new model for quality at the point-of-service, a point which shifted to the home learning environment and has only recently begun a slow, uneasy shift back. The goal is to help OST programs continue providing high-quality supports to children and families at a time when they are most needed.

Addressing New Pressures on Afterschool Programs

Like others around the world, the afterschool field entered uncharted territory this spring. When schools shut down, many programs closed completely. Some shifted their focus. For example, staff at ourBRIDGE for Kids in Charlotte, North Carolina, delivered packaged meals to school-age children. In other cities, afterschool counselors have connected with children online and offered tutoring, remote activities, and various social and emotional supports. Providers have faced novel demands stemming from family stress, barriers to virtual learning, and a difficult transition back to in-person learning.

Family Stress

Almost two-thirds of parents report shouting, yelling, or screaming at their children at least once in the past two weeks, according to a study by the University of Michigan. More than half say that financial concerns and social isolation have interfered with their parenting. Parents and caregivers have been under tremendous strain. The ubiquitous rise in stress prompted a response from the World Health Organization which released advice for families and a series of COVID-19 parenting posters.

Comments from parents in the University of Michigan study:

“I feel I’ve been somewhat distant even though I’ve been spending more time with the kids than ever.”

“They are confused. They don’t understand fully the dangers of a pandemic. They want to play with their friends and are getting annoyed with the same routine at home, and playing only with each other. We are also rationing food and household items, and they are anxious and scared by that. I can see it in their faces and their volunteering to make sacrifices for us.”

Like afterschool providers, they’ve raced to learn how to keep their children safe and engaged.

On recommendations for staying safe, one afterschool provider said, “Some of our parents can watch it on the news and not understand a word of it. Some of out parents don’t read real well, so if they read about it, they are not understanding it. They need someone to be able to explain to them maybe in different terms. So where it’s understandable for them and explain it to the kids at home.”

Barriers to Virtual Learning

Adding to this stress, not all children have had access to the technology needed to participate in virtual programming. The home learning environment varies considerably from one household to another, exacerbating the digital divide and presenting hurdles to equity. Even if the child has access to a smartphone, the phone may belong to a parent, or they may be competing with other siblings for screentime. Some children also lack the basic materials, like blank paper or corn starch, necessary for engaging in hands-on expanded learning activities at home.

 “I mean, it’s all over the map. Some are using phones if they don’t have a phone, some are using Chromebooks. I know the school did offer the Chromebooks to people but from my experience, so for whatever reason Zoom does not agree with Chromebooks very well. It’s not real fluid. I just I’ve talked to the parents. And they have internet but their connection isn’t fast enough to support Zoom, which is entirely possible. And I’ve had kids get on and then their phones died because Zoom just eats up a whole battery.”

From the program side, converting lessons designed for in-person programming into engaging, remote learning is a daunting task under ordinary circumstances. In a field that emphasizes cooperative learning and group activities, social distancing may seem like the antithesis of the afterschool experience.

 “Because you’re just showing your head on the zoom. Sometimes you can’t really tell what is going on. Or if they are having other issues, and sometimes on zoom, they aren’t going to talk to you about it. But, if you were at school, they would say ‘hey we need to talk’ or you can pull them aside and ask them what’s going on. I think it’s just that that sometimes not physically being able to see their bodies, their body reactions how they react to questions. You don’t see them if you’re being there in person.”

Promoting social and emotional learning in the absence of in-person interactions requires some creative solutions. In the midst of an ongoing crisis, children need the support of caring adults more than ever.

“I have one little girl who will call me every day, and I pick up, because what else am I doing. And she’ll tell me about the bird she saw on the walk, or a drawing she did, or a video. And she just loves to check in and say hi and then I see her on the zoom calls too.”

The Road Back

When children do return to programs in person, the need for new safety measures, policies, and practices have resulted in a rough road back. Due to rising infection rates, schools are considering the possibility of reopening with a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote learning.

“Simply re-creating the pre-shutdown norm will be neither possible nor desirable.”
 – Erika Christakis, For Schools, the List of Obstacles Grows and Grows, The Atlantic

Sustaining Positive Outcomes for Children and Youth

Under ordinary circumstances, to have positive social, emotional, and academic benefits for children and youth, afterschool programs must be of high quality. Lower-quality programs generally do not lead to positive outcomes. For this reason, quality standards have been a guide for programs across the country since 1998 when the National Afterschool Association developed the Standards for Quality School-Age Care. States have continued to adopt and improve quality standards to meet changing needs in their communities.

Existing standards cover safety and health, relationships, youth engagement, equity, and access. While rooted in principles of positive youth development that apply no matter where learning takes place, existing standards developed for in-person programming do not immediately translate to distance learning. Existing standards illustrate what high-quality afterschool learning looks like… under ordinary circumstances.

But what does quality afterschool learning at a distance look like? Knowing the importance of high quality for supporting youth development, can high quality continue during a nationwide quarantine and transition back to in-person services? How has the role of afterschool staff changed? How can programs adapt?

To answer these questions, the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) Bridges to Success team partnered with QTurn. Led by Charles Smith, an expert on afterschool quality with more than 20 years of experience in the field, QTurn interviewed 15 afterschool staff from nine sites as well as an administrator from the GISD office. Throughout each step of the development process, expert practitioners provided extensive input and feedback.

Summary of the Guidance

Guidance for Out-od-School Time Learning at a Distance addresses social, emotional, and academic learning and takes a whole-child approach. It includes 10 standards and 27 indicators. The self-assessment can be completed in less than two hours.

QTurn identified four domains of quality for OST programming at a distance. The 10 quality standards fall into these domains, which address the new pressures on afterschool programs to connect with children and provide content in new environments.

  1. Family- and Caregiver-Centered Engagement
  2. Individual Learning Environment
  3. Distance Programming
  4. Planning with Children, Families, Caregivers, and Schools

The first domain, Family- and Caregiver-Centered Engagement, outlines new roles for afterschool staff as advocates and resources for families. In addition to helping families and caregivers understand critical information for thriving in quarantine, a trauma-informed, strengths-based approach to family engagement is recommended.

The second domain, Individual Learning Environment, addresses barriers to virtual learning. Programs are encouraged to use a variety of methods, technologies, times, and languages to connect with families. Supporting virtual learning means helping families create a workspace for children, equipping students with educational supplies, and coaching families on the use of key technologies or apps.

The third domain, Distance Programming, identifies strategies for continued social and emotional learning (SEL) despite the disconnect inherent in video conferencing. Practices that support staff wellness also contribute to their ability to model SEL skills for children and complete social and emotional check-ins. Included in this domain is an emphasis on school-day alignment, collaborative leadership, and partnerships between program and school day staff.

Finally, Guidance offers support for the transition back to in-person learning through the fourth domain, Planning with Children, Families, Caregivers, and Schools. Planning must include strategies for following social distancing guidelines as well as social and emotional supports for students’ well-being as they resume learning.

The rubric, which corresponds to the standards and indicators encompassed by the above domains, provides programs with the means to assess readiness. After completing the self-assessment, program staff are encouraged to decide which indicators to focus on and set action steps for improving practice or updating policy.

Coming Back Stronger

Afterschool programs and intermediary organizations have endured a period of intense uncertainty around the future of afterschool. Programs throughout the country are in different stages of reopening, but shutdowns have left a permanent mark on the afterschool field. Having witnessed the widespread interruption of a whole sector of youth services, many afterschool programs and staff may never fully return to “business as usual.”

The upheaval of the past few months, however, presents opportunities to build resilience within the field. When children and youth are most in need of the supports unique to afterschool, programs will be equipped to respond.


The consultants of QTurn stand in solidarity with protesters demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the many others who have lost their lives to police violence and apartheid policies. To the organizers, protesters, activists, and educators who have thoughtfully and urgently called for systematic change and accountability; we stand with you.

Racism is learned and internalized, and so too is anti-racism. We are committed to helping educators create spaces where socio-emotional skills are used to disrupt racist ideas and policies and where socio-emotional supports are a foundation for learning anti-racist beliefs and practices. We are committed to helping educators produce objective information and to suspend judgement until students and teachers are understood on their own terms.