Building Quality in Afterschool

Image of young students in a garden with teacher

For young people, learning never stops. Once the school bell rings, afterschool programs step in to expand educational opportunities for all youth—particularly those in underserved and underresourced communities.

Through funding from the Mott Foundation, AIR supports The 50 State Afterschool Network, as part of the Afterschool Technical Assistance Collaborative (ATAC). AIR supports afterschool network leads, their staff, and ultimately the programs in their states on topics related to afterschool quality.

The resources on this page relate to statewide afterschool quality systems, including quality standards, staff supports, and other tools.

Path to Quality

We would love to post your examples and resources on this Path to Quality website. Please e-mail us with your documents to share.

The Path to Quality resource portal provides afterschool networks with step-by-step guidance to help develop quality afterschool systems, programs, and staff. Included in the portal are examples from statewide networks, references to relevant research, and a wide variety of best practices.

  • Quality Standards: Learn how to plan, design, disseminate, and refine statewide afterschool standards.
  • Staff Supports: A four-tiered approach, aligned to the Quality Standards, that can be used to further the development of a statewide system for afterschool practitioners.
  • Resources and Tools: A central and accessible hub aligned to the Quality Standards.



Recognizing the Role of Research and Evidence in Out-of-School Time (Guides). The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund provides opportunities to support young people during the hours they are out of school. In this guidance series, we describe: (1) an overview of research versus evidence; (2) what we know from decades of research on afterschool and summer learning programs; (3) what evidence-based means for afterschool and summer learning programs; and (4) strategies to leverage this historic investment in afterschool and summer programs. Read the guides to learn more.

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE | How Summer Programs Responded to the Needs of Youth and Families in 2020: AIR solicited early findings, resources, and stories from national and local youth-serving organizations about their summer 2020 programs. We developed a short resource [PDF] that highlights practical examples of how a sample of national and local youth-serving organizations responded to the needs of youth and families. Preliminary data suggest that summer programs rose to the challenge in 2020 to provide youth and their families with opportunities to experience safety and belonging, develop meaningful relationships with adults and peers, and build skills. Organizations can also download an editable version [Word] of the resource to customize for their own use.

50 State Afterschool Network: Landscape of Quality (Interactive report): In December 2020, the AIR team updated our landscape scan of the 50 afterschool networks related to quality standards, school-age assessment tools, core competences for afterschool program staff, credential systems, quality rating and improvement systems, and skill-building initiatives. This resource contains links to websites and electronic documents where applicable.

Beyond the Bell® Toolkit 4th edition (Website): A suite of professional development services, products, and practical tools designed to help afterschool program leaders and staff members create and sustain high-quality, effective afterschool and expanded learning programs.

Beyond the Bell: Turning Research into Action in Afterschool and Expanded Learning (Website): A series of briefs and tools focused on how afterschool programs can support the social and emotional development of young people. AIR designed these resources to make research on the afterschool and expanded learning field accessible, easy to read, and ultimately useful in practice.

Mott Foundation 50 State Afterschool Network (Website): Mott's 50 State Afterschool Network's website offers state profiles, most of which contain a link to the state network website where you can review the quality standards that are in use.

Ready to Assess (Website): A suite of tools, available at no cost, helps education leaders, practitioners, and policymakers decide whether and how to assess social and emotional development.

Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) (Website): A collaborative effort to combine findings from diverse areas of research, from neuroscience to human development, into an integrated science of learning and development—a body of work that can bolster the youth development field’s efforts in afterschool systems and settings to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to thrive.

State Quality Standards Profiles: The AIR team worked with network leads to compile profiles of various states’ quality standards planning and design processes. Profiles include contact information for network leads.