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12 Exemplary Practices

  1. Vision and Ownership: Program leaders, program staff and other stakeholders (including principals/site administrators, board members, etc. and others in positions of influence) have a clear understanding and shared ownership of the program vision, mission and the principles on which the program is designed. They can all articulate these in a consistent manner to others. Strong support for the program in the school and community is clearly demonstrated through words and actions and the program's vision and core principles are observable in practice at all program-related levels.
  2. Program Leadership: Stakeholders and staff have developed an integrated system of leadership, mentorship and management focused on building the capacity of staff to succeed through:
    • training and a system of coaching support,
    • mechanisms to ensure positive communication, and
    • shared and site-based decision-making.
  3. Community Involvement: The after school program provides activities that increase the young people's knowledge of their communities and a positive sense of connection. Youth have opportunities to contribute or "give back" to their communities through program activities. The program engages parents and community members as vital resources to enrich the program by providing opportunities to become involved and support the program in various ways.
  4. Youth Development: The after school staff have been trained in youth development principles and have used them to shape their program structure and staff practices. Activities are intentionally designed to support key developmental experiences for young people, and the staff solicits feedback from program participants to assess and improve program quality and effectiveness.
  5. Safety: Young people experience a sense of physical safety and emotional safety with the surrounding adults and peers. They know:
    • that they will be protected from harm,
    • that program rules to ensure individual safety will be fairly and consistently enforced by supervising adults, and
    • that they will be respected and valued by others, regardless of cultural and/or personal differences.
    The program staff have reviewed issues of physical and emotional safety together and adjusted the program to deepen the sense of safety of program participants.
  6. Supportive Relationships: The program is intentionally structured to build positive and supportive relationships between young people and adults and among youth people, themselves. Young people report that they feel known by others and can identify adults they can go to for support or guidance. Adults have trained in facilitation skills designed to build a sense of relationship and community. There is an explicit process in place for adults and youth to address differences among participants and to resolve conflicts in positive ways.
  7. Learning and Skill-Building: Young people have opportunities to build new skills through learning experiences that they find both challenging and interesting. Learning activities are aligned with young people's interests and draw on instructional strategies that fully engage and motivate young people as active learners.
  8. Academic Alignment: School day staff and after school staff work together to ensure that after school academic components (including homework and educational enrichment) are aligned with the regular school day through academic liaison support and classroom connections. On-going staff development and training results in an environment where participants demonstrate enthusiasm for learning, and contributes to improved academic achievement.
  9. Youth Participation: The program empowers young people to participant in meaningful ways by:
    • promoting the development and practice of leadership skills,
    • offering various opportunities for participation in decision making,
    • offering opportunities for input on the program design and on-going activities.
    Staff has been trained in youth leadership strategies and practices that promote increased participation.
  10. Attendance: The program is highly visible and attractive resulting in the sustained participation of large numbers of young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities. The program operates at full attendance capacity. Waiting lists attest to the demand young people's have for quality after school programming.
  11. Measuring Outcomes: There is a system in place for measuring and managing outcomes. This is part of a larger on-going improvement process which relies on data to identify areas of strength and those needing further development. Program leaders engage stakeholders in developing and implementing plans to modify organizational structures and worker practices to improve program outcomes.
  12. Sustainability: The program has achieved a diversified balance of local, state and national funding that allows for growth and significantly increases the program's chances for long-term sustainability.

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