Bears Den Program Evaluation Summary for Ava R-I Schools

(Ava, MO) – Afterschool programs are an evidence-based strategy for helping students meet challenging academic standards, improve attendance and graduation rates, and develop college and career readiness skills and behaviors.  The federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program provides competitive grant funding to districts to implement before- and after-school and summer enrichment programs that support and enhance student outcomes.  Ava R-I Schools received a 21st CCLC grant in 2017.  The Bears Den program operates two sites in Ava Elementary School and Ava Middle School serving 329 students.

Each year, 21st CCLC grantees undergo an external evaluation process that reviews their progress related to three broad afterschool goals:  1) academic improvement and efficacy, 2) program quality, and 3) youth outcomes.  During the 2017-18 school year, each site recorded attendance and grades data, received a Program Quality Assessment (PQA) observation, and completed a series of afterschool surveys with responses from 113 youth, 60 families, 40 program staff, and three school administrators.  A certified external evaluator met with the program administrator to review data and complete a Guided Reflection Document.  Results from the annual external evaluation ensure grant compliance and influence continuous quality improvement efforts including modifying the program curricula and enrichment activities and planning professional development for staff.

Goal 1:  Academic Achievement and Efficacy

Afterschool programs provide a full range of academic support including homework help, tutoring, academic enrichment, and comprehensive integrated units directly tied to the state standards.  They provide activities that complement rather than replicate the school day.  

The Bears Den Program in Ava is to provide a safe, positive place for kids to stay after and before school that offers fun and engaging activities, builds successful and productive citizens and is affordable for our working parents.  

The goals for the Ava Bears Den Program are:

1. Support or increase student achievement and sense of competencies in the areas of reading/communication arts, mathematics, and science.

2. Develop and maintain a quality program that includes safe and supportive environment, positive interactions, and meaningful opportunities for engagement.

3. Enhance youth’s college and career readiness skills and behaviors, including positive school behaviors, personal and social skills, and commitment to learning.

An external evaluation completed by an independent, certified external evaluator concluded that the Ava program has a positive academic impact on students attending the program with the huge majority of students maintaining or increasing regular school day grades.  Overall, students that attend the Ava program have low levels of feeling they are capable in academic areas, therefore it is important that the program continue to focus on students perceptions of their academic abilities by providing activities that will build academic confidence.  

Goal 2:  Program Quality

Research shows that high quality afterschool programs help close the achievement gap and reduce the likelihood of youth participating in risk-taking behaviors.  The 21st CCLC grant recipients participate in an ongoing quality improvement process that includes the point-of-service experience of youth, school day linkages, family connections, and community involvement.

An external evaluation completed by an independent, certified external evaluator concluded that the Ava program has provided high quality programming based on sites visits that observe program activities and survey feedback provided by students and families.  Survey results from program staff show that program staff feel they are well trained to lead the program and that they are provided with the appropriate support.  Survey results show that key stakeholders feel there is appropriate alignment between the afterschool program and the regular school day curriculum.  Family survey results do demonstrate a need for increased focus on communication between the afterschool program and parents so that there is a better understanding of program offerings. 

Goal 3:  Youth Outcomes

Afterschool programs also offer non-academic benefits that support the student’s development of college and career readiness skills including positive school behaviors (e.g., regular attendance), personal and social skills (e.g., time management, team work, critical thinking), and commitment to learning (e.g., initiative, homework completion, study skills).

While in the first year, the program did have a lower level of regular attendance.  Research shows that for afterschool programs to have a strong impact on student academic growth students must attend the program at least 60 nights during the school year.  The percentage of students attending 60 nights was lower than desired and is a target for growth this school year.  Program leaders fear that some of this attendance issue related to the number of days that were counted toward the 50% goal.  Since this was year one of the grant, programming started later in the school year than normal therefore giving students fewer nights to attend than if it was a regular length school year.  Another area of focus is on middle school student perceptions of personal and social skills. Student survey results show that students have low levels of perception on items like “being able to make and keep friends” and “working collaboratively with other students”.  The program will focus on building these social skills in the current program year. 

For more information, contact Diana Premer at (417-543-0337) or dpremer@avabears.net