NIOST envisions a world where all children have access to high-quality, sustainable out-of-school time (OST) programs that help them develop into effective members of society. NIOST’s primary focus is on improving the quality of OST programs for all. The following core beliefs drive every action we take to pursue that goal:
All children should have access to quality OST programs.
Professionalizing the field is one of the best ways to drive quality.
Our research and evidence from the field define “quality.”
Best practices can look different in different settings, under different providers, and/or for different children.
Collaborations accelerate the impact of quality improvement efforts.
NIOST supports the healthy development of children, families, and communities, and advances the OST field through our research, training, advocacy, and tools. We help before-school, afterschool, expanded learning, and summer programs get better at what they do.
NIOST first brought national attention to the importance of OST programming in the 1970s as a strategy to help women enter and stay in the workforce. Since then, we have focused on the ways in which OST programs can build on the work of schools, especially in high-need communities, to improve children’s wellbeing and life prospects. NIOST’s work bridges the worlds of research and practice. We advance the field of OST by:
NIOST and the Wellesley Centers for Women
NIOST is program of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), a premier women- and gender-focused, social-change-oriented research-and-action institute at Wellesley College. WCW’s mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high-quality research, theory, and action programs. NIOST is one of WCW’s largest and oldest action research institutes.
More About NIOST
For more than 35 years, NIOST has moved the afterschool field forward through its research, education and training, consultation, and field-building. Much of NIOST’s work has encompassed projects of national scope and influence, several representing “firsts” for the field and many focusing on building out-of-school time systems.
Expertise in Field-Building: NIOST has played a lead role in a wide range of system-building initiatives across the country. Each of these projects has employed and refined a multi-level, multi-faceted, collaborative approach, integrating research, evaluation and/or promising practices as part of efforts to build staff skills, improve program quality, and create stronger, sustainable afterschool systems. These system-building initiatives include projects such as the MOST (Making the Most of Out-of-School Time) system-building initiatives in Boston, Chicago, and Seattle, funded by the Wallace Readers’ Digest Fund; and the San Jose 4Quality initiative and Building a Skilled and Stable Workforce Project, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Research & Evaluation Expertise: NIOST has worked at the forefront of out-of-school time research and evaluation for many years. Some of NIOST’s research and evaluation projects have included the first national standards for afterschool programs. These standards later became the basis for the National Improvement and Accreditation System (NIAS) which was developed as a partnership with the National Afterschool Association (NAA), and development of an outcomes evaluation system for Massachusetts Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center grantees. This work has included extensive training of grantees in theory of change evaluation methods, and the development of two measurement tools, the Survey of Afterschool Youth Outcomes (SAYO) and the Assessing Afterschool Program Practices Tool (APT), the set of integrated tools that now comprise the Afterschool Program Assessment System (APAS).