David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality

We empower youth development leaders to adapt, implement, and scale research-validated quality improvement systems to advance child and youth development.

Environment is everything.

Young people need to feel safe and supported in order to learn and lead. As a crucial part of the Forum’s mission to change the odds that young people are ready for college, work, and life, the Weikart Center helps out-of-school time (OST) systems build the safe, supportive, interactive, and engaging environments that are foundational to youth development.

Based on decades of expert research and real-world experience, the Weikart Center’s pyramid of program quality takes the abstract idea of quality and breaks it down into manageable targets for continuous improvement efforts.

Building a safe environment is the first step to improving the quality of experiences for young people. Ensuring that an environment also feels supportive is the second prerequisite for creating a space where young people feel empowered to learn and lead. Once a space is safe and supportive, making it as interactive and engaging as possible rounds out the kind of environment essential to young people’s ability to develop skills and reach higher-order goals. 

The Weikart Center’s signature Youth Program Quality Improvement (YPQI) approach harnesses the power of research evidence and the experience of practitioners to improve the quality of youth experiences in OST programming from the ground up. The YPQI uses evidence-based materials and practices that can be customized and applied in any program type, size, or setting. 

From data-driven tools to expert trainings, we equip leaders with the positive youth development and SEL-informed resources they need to create a culture of continuous improvement for staff and young people. 



Our Reach

Youth leaders in nearly every state have used the YPQI to improve the quality of youth experiences in OST programming. The Weikart Center has worked with partners in Mexico and supports ongoing efforts in Canada and the U.K. as well. 


We’ve been dedicated for decades. 

Scroll the timeline to learn more about the history of the Weikart Center & the research behind the resources we offer.



Psychologist & educator David P. Weikart founds HighScope Summer Camp (later Institute for IDEAS), pioneering a positive youth development approach in the provision of summer learning experiences in the arts & sciences to thousands of youth from diverse cultural & socioeconomic backgrounds.




High Scope’s Youth Development Group starts using this approach to train youth workers, laying the groundwork for the Youth Work Methods Series grounded in direct experience & positive youth development research.


Following a multiyear study funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Youth Program Quality Assessment is published, catalyzing the development of workshops & supports geared toward helping practitioners use the tool, forming the basis for network quality improvement initiatives nationwide.


The William T. Grant Foundation funds the Youth Program Quality Intervention study, a randomized control trial of our systematic approach to quality improvement.


The Forum for Youth Investment invites the Weikart Center to participate in the Ready by 21 Quality Counts Initiative, funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Atlantic Philanthropies.  The initiative provides community, agency, & elected leaders from 7 cities & 5 states with an infusion of national & local momentum & a suite of policy- building  and quality improvement strategies & tools.  The project helped demonstrate the effectiveness of Weikart Center programming and increase demand.


The Weikart Center is launched as a joint venture of the Forum for Youth Investment & HighScope Educational Research Foundation.


The Weikart Center becomes an official unit of the Forum for Youth Investment.


The Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) is revised to better convey the purpose of each measure, strengthen the Skill-Building scale, & make items easier to interpret & score.


In partnership with the National Summer Learning Association, the Weikart Center develops the Summer Learning Program Quality Intervention (SLPQI), focusing on qualities of the learning experience to advance the science & practice of continuous improvement.


Funded by the Susan Crown Exchange, a social investment organization connecting talent & innovation with market forces to drive social change, the Social & Emotional Learning Challenge identifies promising practices for building SEL skills with vulnerable adolescents & develops a method for scaling these practices in thousands of OST settings, establishing the Weikart Center as a leader in the SEL movement.


The Weikart Center celebrates its 10th anniversary & announces Dr. Kimberly Robinson as new managing director.


The research-validated SEL PQA is released along with 10 Youth Work Methods workshops focused on SEL, including a set of Foundations & Self-Awareness workshops geared toward preparing adults to consider their own SEL skills that inform their practices with young people.


The Weikart Center has adapted its active participatory approach to virtual learning environments, offering our expertise to partners via Zoom & self-paced online courses.

Our Vision

All young people reach their fullest potential - in education, work, and life.

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