The Youth Program Quality Assessment tool (YPQA) was developed by High/Scope Educational Research Foundation to assess program quality features and to create customized action plans to enhance their program. The YPQA focuses on key areas of quality at the point where staff and youth interact: a safe and supportive environment, youth/adult and peer interactions, and youth engagement. The YPQA helps staff to objectively identify program strengths and gaps, and is linked to training modules that help address self-identified areas for improvement.
The YPQA was developed for programs serving youth and has been used in communities across the United States as a key component to increase program quality for out-of-school programs. For more information about the YPQA, please see here.
Many other Seattle community based organizations are using and implementing the YPQA which began as a pilot program here in Washington state supported by funders like the Raikes Foundation and the Federally funded 21st Century grant
Community Day School Association always committed to providing high quality care believes that the YPQA aligns with our mission and vision to create quality after-school programs with dedicated and invested staff.
The Pyramid of Program Quality
The Youth PQA defines quality by the pyramid below. The Youth PQA assesses what actually happens with the adults and the young people, with a strong focus on staff performance.
The pyramid is all about youth motivation to engage in the program. It reflects Maslow’s hierarchy, which suggests that we all naturally seek to learn and grow but that we have needs that get in the way. In order to create conditions for youth motivation needs for safety, belonging, and esteem must be met.
Building Quality Systems
The Youth PQA focuses on quality at the point of service—the place where the youth are. In a system, however, factors outside of the point of service can have a great impact on quality.
The professional learning community is where program leaders communicate core values to staff. It involves formal events such as staff meetings, and informal events such as staff interacting as they pass each other in the hallway. There are resounding lessons from research in education and social work that the quality of the professional learning community has a large impact on quality at the point of service.
The system accountability environment is where priorities (like using a quality assessment tool) get communicated to program leaders.
When these three levels are not aligned, it creates incentives for non-productive accountability behaviors—avoidance, resistance, and minimum compliance. When, however, the three levels are harmonious, productive engagement with an improvement system can occur.
The Youth PQA Validation Study was a comprehensive, four-year effort, funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation. Through the process of instrument development, dozens of expert practitioners and researchers were brought together to provide input on the tool. In total, the validation study encompassed 51 organizations in Michigan and over 300 Youth PQA observations and interviews conducted in programs serving 1,635 youth. Most of these youth programs were after-school programs that met weekly or daily over several months.
The Youth PQA Validation study employed multiple, independent data sources, including interviews with program administrators, observations in youth work settings, surveys of program youth, expert opinions, and verified reports of staff training. All youth survey data was independently collected and prepared for analysis by Youth Development Strategies, Inc of Philadelphia, PA.