Data gives a snapshot of the overall health of an OST program and is beneficial, as it provides a wealth of information and insight. Data allows program leadership to see areas of strength, can help to display active progress and brings awareness to potential improvements. Data enables us to gauge if the programming being offered is relevant or how effectively it is being implemented.

Data collected should be relevant to stakeholders such as the youth and their families, school districts, community and business partners and funders, as it offers tangible evidence of results.

Before you begin to collect data, it’s critical to define what you want to find out. What aspects of your program are you trying to measure? How does this align with your mission and overall goals? Broadly, you may want to assess: Who attends our program? Does this match with who we want attending? How engaged are youth in the programming and what results have we seen in participants?

Knowing the importance of data and the questions you want to ask is one thing, but actually going about collecting the data can be challenging.  

Common Data Sources

  1. Attendance (both OST program and school day)
  2. Student grades
  3. Test scores
  4. Behavioral referrals
  5. Surveys
  6. Pre/Post tests
  7. Observations
  8. Interviews and group feedback

OST programs also have an advantage in their flexibility to collect data that is unique to a program and it’s goals. For example, data could be collected on specific improvements in social-emotional behaviors, specific gain of skill sets or improvement in specific goals.  

Key to accurate and timely data is the develop systems that collect data on a regular and on-going basis. It should be incorporated into the program implementation. For example, attendance should be taken every time an activity or event meets, grades and test scores should be collected as they are released. Pre-test and post-test should be offered at the beginning and end of a program or event. Observations, surveys or feedback sessions should be scheduled at regular intervals. Attempting to go back and collect data only when various reports are due will likely result in inaccurate information and is a burden on staff. Additionally, programs should ensure that all staff collecting data are properly trained on how to collect information. Lastly, examine what resources you have available to collect this data. Assess the proper staff, space, equipment and time available to collect what you need.

Data is a major part of the continuous improvement cycle. Programs should be able to draw a line from it’s mission and visions to it’s goals and to outcomes, as evidenced in data collected. That data collected in turn helps to reveal new goals and objectives.


Afterschool Alliance: Articles on using how to determine the best data collection for your site and how to use that data


Wallace Foundation: This interim report presents early findings from a study of how afterschool systems build their capacity to understand and improve their practices through their data systems. It examines afterschool data systems in nine cities that are part of The Wallace Foundation’s Next Generation Afterschool System-Building initiative, a multi-year effort to strengthen systems that support access to and participation in high-quality afterschool programs for low-income youth.