Knowledge is Power: How afterschool and cocurricular programs can use data to their advantage
An interview with UpMetrics Executive Director Stephen Minix and Account Development Manager Cheryl Lala on the power of data for program development
There are a lot of programs that can benefit from the kind of information UpMetrics provides, but so many of them don’t realize all the ways that they can use that information. UpMetrics Executive Director Stephen Minix, whose background is in education and youth sports, has seen this from both sides. Cheryl Lala, former Cal athlete & coach at Academy of Art University, also has experience studying the correlation between ‘OST’ (outside-of-school time) activity and classroom performance.
Here, they shed some light on a few of the ways afterschool, cocurricular, and community programs can make the most of their data to show their true value.
1. How important is it for afterschool and cocurricular programs to monitor their attendance? In your observation, how much has taking attendance been made a priority for outside-of-school programs in the past?
Stephen Minix: For afterschool [taking attendance] is the lifeline as most grants that fund their programs use attendance as the main metric for grant compliance. For athletics this is a new area—most athletic teams use attendance for accountability, not funding.
Cheryl Lala: It’s imperative after school programs take and monitor attendance. Working with partners in the Bay Area, they reference the need to track attendance for grant requirements, audits and quality control. Plus, taking attendance is a simple way for staff to learn participant names and create an immediate connection to the kids they serve.
2. What are some examples of the ways that attendance, engagement, and demographics data can be used to help show program effectiveness and value?
SM: The lowest hanging fruit is average daily attendance. If you look at the attendance trends for after school participants and athletic team participants they usually have higher attendance in the school day than non-participants. If you look at the math on the value of the day of attendance you can come up with the financial impact of kids attending school daily. This is a simple equation that usually helps organizations understand that these programs do cost to run, but the return in funding from your state for the days of school attended is being positively impacted.
CL: In the news, there is a lot of conversation right now about program effectiveness especially in the afterschool space. Attendance metrics, activity hours, demographic and engagement data paint a clear story line about children who attend programming, their number of hours spent with after school staff and the communities these kids are coming from. These metrics prove that afterschool programs keep children off the streets, surrounded by quality enrichment experiences and supervised by trained adult leaders.
3. What kind of information are potential funding resources looking for? How can outside-of-school programs tailor their pitches to funding sources using anonymized program data?
SM: Demographic data. Funders care about this to be able to justify their investment. If programs can easily and accurately share demographic information on their participants, then that is huge. If they can do that and add a layer of additional data—kids in our program are 45% less likely to drop out of school as evidenced by ‘blank,’ etc.—then you’re really on to something.
CL: In the non-profit world, potential funding sources are looking for accountability that is tied to measurable outcomes. Potential funding sources want to know the performance measures of an organization and how programs measure impact within a certain period of time. Program data gives community based organizations these tools to measure the quality of their programs in terms of how many activities are being offered, how many participants are being served, how many hours are youth engaged with and benefiting from the experience they are having in that particular program. Data is essential to measure these performance standards based on real-time program analytics.
4. What are the major implications of potential 21st Century budget cuts? How can UpMetrics data be used to show program value and/or obtain independent funding if government funding is restricted?
SM: When I was at GDPS I gave 85% of the grant for a school’s afterschool program to Arc to run the program (subcontract). When we lost the grant a few years ago we cut a program that has $250k annually per site to $20k. The reality of that cut was huge. Instead of servicing 150 kids a day, we were able to support 20 kids 3 days a week.
CL: Working at UpMetrics I’ve made a great deal of friends in the after school sector, who are gravely concerned about the proposed 21st Century budget cuts. Some after school programs could be wiped out entirely if these cuts go through. UpMetrics is a tool to help these programs. UpMetrics gives program administrators data associated to participant numbers, activity hours over the day, week, season, etc. It gives them demographic data about the communities they serve and a clear picture of attendance in a streamlined visual display. Program administrators don’t have to sift through paper to monitor attendance related to their programs and can pull up their program’s data immediately. UpMetrics can not only defend a program’s value, it can attract independent funding—my hope is that it will one day contribute to increased government funding because programs will be able to show their positive impact on kids and communities.
For more on the impact that data can make for afterschool programming, follow the UpMetrics blog, Data for Good, right here on Medium.
If you’d like to learn more about how UpMetrics can help you take your program to the next level, please get in touch via our website, www.upmetrics.com.