Inciter | How to Prove Your Youth Program is Rockin’
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How to Prove Your Youth Program is Rockin’

by Mandi Singleton
Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of youth? Many of my clients are, and the time, effort, and money they put into creating killer programs is proof enough that they are invested in forming positive and meaningful experiences for the young people that they work with.
BUT, how do program directors really know they are creating quality experiences for youth? How exactly is this measured? By the size of smiles on youth’s faces? Perhaps by tracking enrollment, attendance, and engagement? Maybe a youth satisfaction survey?
These are all good answers – but I’ll let you in on a well-known secret; there’s a tool designed specifically for this purpose: The Youth Program Quality Assessment (PQA).
The PQA is a research-based tool developed by The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. It’s designed to assess the quality of youth programs and can even help you identify staff training needs. Although it’s not a perfect fit for every program or evaluation situation, it can be a great tool for many youth programs. I personally have used it countless times while conducting observations of various school-based programs.
Depending on the program and age of youth served, you can use either the Youth PQA, which is fit for evaluating programs catered to youth in grades 4-12, or the School-Age PQA, which is developmentally appropriate for children in Kindergarten through grade 6.
The Youth and School-Age PQA evaluate the following domains and items within each domain:
Safe Environment: Emotional Safety, Healthy Environment, Emergency Preparedness, Accommodating Environment, and Nourishment.
Supportive Environment: Warm Welcome, Session Flow, Active Engagement, Skill-Building, Encouragement, Reframing Conflict, and Child-Centered Space*.
Interaction: Managing Feelings*, Belonging, Collaboration, Leadership, and Adult Partners.
Engagement: Planning, Choice, Reflection, and Responsibility*
*Indicates item is included on School-Age PQA only.
The tools work by gathering evidence through program observation and staff interview. Your observation notes and interview data are then used as evidence to score the items included under each domain. Once all items have been scored, your scores can then be combined to create an overall program quality profile.
The Weikart Center even has an online Scores Reporter were you can enter your scores, produce reports, and store program data over time. (Note: you will need to create a sample account to log in and view how the scores reporter works).
Copies of the Youth and School-Age PQA instruments can be found and downloaded here.
Find additional information on these tools and more at: http://www.cypq.org/

Mandi Singleton

Mandolin Singleton, B.A., is a Research Assistant who has worked with various community organizations, providing research services to non-profit and public agencies within and surrounding the Baltimore area. When commuting to and from work, project sites, and client meetings, Mandi enjoys singing in her car like no one’s watching; she could be the next “Beltway Idol.”

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