In a recent national study, Deborah Vandell of the University of California, Irvine, found that regular participation in afterschool programs results in overall improvements in academic achievement, reductions in school absences and improvements in behavioral outcomes, all benchmarks for student success. Other studies have demonstrated that middle school performance is a key indicator of high school success.  NAZA delivers results, targeting exactly those areas of school success during those critical middle school years.   

During the 2013/14 school year, NAZA served 1046 middle school students, whose average daily participation rate was 81%, exceeding our 70% target. This is critical since research has established that benefits are linked to participation levels. High participation levels result from a targeted focus on continuously strengthening program quality. NAZA is implementing a Quality Improvement Plan, first developed in 2009 and updated annually.

Each year the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality evaluates NAZA’s program assessment and improvement process. The 2013-14 report found that:

  • The quality of instruction improved substantially, for the NAZA network overall as well as for the four AfterZones independently.
  • The greatest improvement was in the area of youth engagement, which is crucial to attracting and retaining 10-14 year-olds.
  • This focus on quality improvement is having lasting positive effects at sites despite staff turnover.
  • Program staff across all four zones effectively produced improvement in areas they targeted for change.
  • Youth participants reported very positive program experiences, in a space where they feel supported and empowered, where positive values and a commitment to learning are promoted, and where clear expectations are established.

An evaluation model is being developed for NAZA and Metro Schools by the American Institutes for Research, thanks to support from the Forum for Youth Investment through its Expanded Learning Initiative.  Reports provide data to both Metro Schools and NAZA to support an ongoing evaluation of how well NAZA programs are:

Implementing programming with fidelity to quality practices
Increasing youth participation as a result of these high-quality practices
Supporting outcomes related to school attendance, school behavior, and academics.

Preliminary findings show a correlation between regular participation in high-quality NAZA programs and improved school attendance, fewer behavior incidents, and improved math and science grades.