Statewide Collaboration to Build Equitable Quality Improvement Systems

Collaboration with out-of-school time (OST) partners as part of a planning process ensures that states use Child Care and Development (CCDF) funds to effectively support school-age childcare.  To illustrate what this can look like, the Afterschool Alliance released a new Collaboration Playbook, Designing State Child Care Systems with Intentional Supports for Children and Youth 5-13. The playbook highlights lessons learned, strategies, and reflections from statewide networks who have actively worked together across systems to provide high-quality school-age care. 

Several examples in the playbook highlight the importance of a positive youth development approach that intersects with the Forum’s work in Youth Program Quality Improvement. The section on Quality Systems features examples from Utah and Georgia, where both states use the School-Age Program Quality Assessment (PQA) to strengthen their quality systems. They have found that implementing a PQA as part of a supportive continuous quality improvement (CQI) process creates more opportunities for improvement that supports equitable access to quality than higher stakes approaches. These examples of states using developmentally appropriate assessments, paired with professional learning opportunities inside of a responsive quality improvement system, are similar to others that were highlighted in our recent brief, Strengthening Quality Rating Improvement Systems for School-Aged Childcare.

In the professional development section of the playbook, an example from Washington State was highlighted that exemplifies elements of our approach to building equitable quality improvement systems. In 2022, Washington’s CCDF Lead Agency – the Department of Children, Youth, and Families – completed a full revision to their Core Competencies for School-Age Childcare and Expanded Learning Professionals. The process included collaboration with School’s Out Washington, the statewide afterschool network, expanded learning providers, and the Next Generation Youth Work Coalition and sought to center youth voice, racial equity, and cultural responsiveness.

Building equitable quality improvement systems is the focus of a new series of workshops from the Forum’s Weikart Center. As the Weikart Center team works with youth-serving organizations around the country to build equitable quality improvement systems that advance positive youth development, we emphasize three things that were also apparent in the Washington work:

  1. Emphasize the importance of engaging key stakeholders throughout the system design process, not just implementation or evaluation.
  2. Encourage stakeholders to align around guiding principles to inform and shape the components of the system (Standards, Measures, Cycles, and Supports).
  3. Embed critical commitments – like Core Competencies – into a continuous quality improvement (CQI) process.

Across many states, we have worked with OST networks, state agencies, and other youth-serving organizations to support robust assessment with aligned professional development and other supports, and do so in the context of an equitable quality improvement system that is designed and implemented in partnership with local stakeholders. Expanding access to high-quality school-aged childcare will require continued investment, collaboration, and careful learning from the innovative practices of states who are partnering to build and implement equitable and developmentally supportive systems.