Afterschool programs in high-poverty communities are often tasked with meeting the social and academic needs of a diverse group of learners. Through evaluation, these programs can identify what’s working, what’s not, and how to provide high-quality services for all children.
Illinois’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative is an ambitious program that has supported the creation of over 400 sites, coordinated by school districts and community-based organizations, that provide academic and social enrichment opportunities during non-school hours. The initiative reaches more than 40,000 students across the state each year, with a focus on serving students from high-poverty communities. Since 2013, EDC has been conducting the evaluation of the statewide 21st CCLC program and working with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to determine how well ISBE is meeting its programmatic goals.
EDC’s evaluation of 21st CCLC includes the following activities:
- Collect and analyze 21st CCLC grantee data (including surveys, site visits, and local reports) to address questions related to students and families served, student outcomes and community engagement, program development and sustainability, and other issues of interest to ISBE
- Provide technical assistance, including workshops and training sessions, to build 21st CCLC grantees’ capacity to conduct internal evaluations, as well as to deepen grantees’ understanding of the statewide evaluation and data collection efforts
For eight years, EDC has supported ISBE in responding to changing state and federal program requirements and priorities:
- EDC’s annual evaluation reports provide recommendations to help ISBE and grantees improve the program. Spanish and English versions of the final reports and executive summaries are posted on the ISBE website so that families and other community stakeholders can learn more about the program.
- EDC’s site visit reports provide insights into specific program areas and strategies, and they offer grantees and ISBE an opportunity to draw upon lessons learned in implementing programs focused on STEM, arts, social emotional learning, summer learning, and other topics.
- EDC continues to develop the capacity of both ISBE and grantee staff to conduct and use evaluation for continuous improvement and accountability, helping them to be better situated for long-term sustainability.