The Next Generation Afterschool System Building Initiative is but one program hoping to strengthen the systems supporting high-quality afterschool programs for low-income children and teens. Using data as a foundation for planning, management, and strategy, these types of programs provide recommendations for afterschool program data systems.
This initiative shows that a system-level focus is a great way to build a functional, effective data system capable of supporting shared goals, sustaining the focus on outcomes, and understanding distributed contributions.
Afterschool program directors who strive to improve their outcome-based initiatives can use afterschool management software solutions for effective, efficient data gathering, analysis, and reporting.
Using Data in Your Afterschool System
As an administrator, you can use data for accountability, improvement, and management.
Consider participant characteristics and program quality when gathering attendance data. Set minimum benchmarks for average daily attendance based on what you find.
Use your data gathering capabilities to summarize demographic data, attendance, and enrollment. This can help create a clear picture of what kind of people your program is attracting and how often they attend. Attendance data helps you plan future activities and monitor how program changes affect program success.
Data helps identify opportunities for program content and systems support for providers. Take a look at key performance indicators like current attendance, budget, parent satisfaction, grades, etc. Use this data to define your current program status.
Next, work with your team to define program goals. Can your program support more students? Do you have a leftover budget? What resources are needed to offer a new activity or program?
With your future goals in mind, align funding and programming opportunities with organizational strategies and tactics.
With the right data system, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual management becomes easier. From relying on real-time data to make real-time decisions to producing required reports for licensing agencies, a quality afterschool data system lets you troubleshoot program-specific patterns so you can improve individual program operations and address programming decisions.
Barriers to Meaningful Data Use
There will likely be bumps in the road to successful and effective data usage. Barriers to using your data for meaningful change and management include :
- Insufficient resources for manual data input and monitoring
- Excessive turnover among system leaders and organizational staff at the provider level
- Time restraints
As you decide how to track data for your afterschool program, ask yourself: what do you need to know to improve program quality and satisfy stakeholders and funders without overwhelming your reporting system?
Data Use for Future Afterschool Program Planning
Here are some suggestions on what type of data will most benefit future afterschool program planning.
- Attendance data is a critical measure of program quality and success. How many students can your program accept, and how far from that goal are your numbers? What is your student retention rate, and how frequently does each student take advantage of your program?
- Resource cost is an essential part of the budget process. You need to know how much it costs to keep your program running in order to generate a reasonable budget for supply needs, utilities, and maintenance.
- Demographic and district data about your current students inform where your biggest client base is. Who should your program be advertising to? Are there any missed opportunities?
- If you provide meals or snacks, monitor the amount of food issued to the amount wasted, what each student consumed, and how many have dietary restrictions. This will inform a more effective food budget.
Running an afterschool program means documentation of every sort. Automated data gathering and analysis from a centralized database eliminates errors and data duplication, so the reports you send to state agencies, school authorities, and other stakeholders are accurate and useful.
Afterschool programs are not static. They move with the times and the needs of the students they serve. You have stakeholders on all sides wanting to know that you run a quality program and staff that relies on your ability to make a profit.
Afterschool management software like EZReports has all the tools you need to collect, organize, analyze, and report any data you want. From automated attendance to ad hoc reporting, the EZReport solution has the data crunching and reporting capacity to keep your afterschool program successful.