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Data Key to Improving Citywide Systems for Out-of-School Learning

A new strategy guide from the National League of Cities discusses how data can be used to strengthen citywide systems for out-of-school time.

Increasing numbers of cities are moving toward city-supported systems for OST, the brief says, and data are essential to measuring the scope and impact of these systems. Data can be helpful in linking participants from school day to after-school, what demographics are or are not being served, and finding and accessing area resources.

The guide suggests six strategies for using data to strengthen city systems: collecting attendance information, conducting research on needs/wants of the community, identifying service gaps, developing quality assessment tools, conducting evaluation efforts, and developing systemwide measures/indicators. A larger report from the NLC will be out soon.

The guide profiles cities across the country that are examples of those strategies at work. Louisville, Ky.; Ft. Worth, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn., are among them. Data-driven efforts can range from inexpensive to costly, researchers write, but can dramatically affect the effectiveness of city systems.

"As city budgets become tighter, systems and programs are understandably under pressure to be more accountable, and accurate information is essential to capture and publicize the benefits of high-quality OST opportunities," the brief states. "When municipal leaders support the collection and use of data, they help the OST opportunities in their communities reach a higher level of quality and develop the 21st-century social, cultural, and personal skills necessary for young people's success."

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