Evaluating Success – creating new tools to measure Afterschool Development

It has recently been announced that the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and nine other donors will be “awarding $1 billion to expand the reach of high-performing charities that serve low-income children and youths.” The billion dollar question is, how are they going to define the outcomes in order to identify “high performing” charities.

Outcomes-oriented policies and outcomes-based financing have been around for years, and their history has been surprisingly substandard. Last month, the Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article called “The Promise and Peril of an ‘Outcomes Mindset’”, in which they reviewed the 40-year history of how social sector funding, based on narrowly defined outcomes, has led to questionable results.

With the incessant drive by funders and others to improve test scores, both public schools and many afterschool programs have focused not on fostering development and creativity, but on knowledge acquisition, homework help and remedial learning. And now, many in the fields of education, afterschool and youth development are speaking out to say that this approach is failing our kids, failing our communities and undermining our country’s future.

All Stars Project founders questioned many of the assumptions in these fields, and we have spent the last three decades creating both a practice and a science of human development that has put us on the cutting edge of shifts that are now taking place on a broad scale in these areas.

At the All Stars we believe development — the capacity of human beings to continuously create and recreate their lives — is necessary to re-initiate learning. Performance is the tool we employ in our afterschool programs to produce development, onstage and in life.

Last year, the Center on Research & Evaluation at Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education began working with us to create precision tools of measurement and evaluation for this new field of Afterschool Development. These are tools that are consistent with our approach and are focused on how development is understood and manifest. For us, our partnership with SMU has meant that we can demonstrate in more significant ways why and how the All Stars works.

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Last month, the All Stars Project was awarded the 2016 Simmons Luminary Award for our approach to Afterschool Development and our work to help young people create new possibilities for themselves and their communities. As we look to redefine what constitutes success and develop new tools, metrics, and benchmarks to measure development, I look forward to our continued work with the Simmons School and forward-looking institutions across the country to re-invigorate human growth and to fully recognize its impact and outcomes.

You can view my full remarks from the Luminary Award presentation here. I encourage you to check out our website: http://allstars.org and follow me on Twitter: @ASP_CEO to find out more about how you can help transform the lives of youth and poor communities.

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