Our Vision

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.


Our Mission

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.


Our Impact

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:

Influencing policy

Guiding community action to make OST programs more available and sustainable

Developing research-based standards for OST programs and practitioners

Enhancing the leadership, youth development, and quality improvement skills of practitioners and program managers

Showing OST programs how to continuously improve through evaluation and discussion with all stakeholders

Building OST systems in cities, states, and regions across the nation



Raising the Bar but Keeping the Heart
This eight-minute video provides an overview of how the out-of-school-time (OST) field has evolved over the past few decades, with a specific examination of how scholars and trainers at NIOST have been integrally tied to this advancement. Professionals in the before- and afterschool world share their perspectives on workforce development, program quality, and the benefits of OST programming. As Ellen Gannett, director of NIOST, notes, it's essential that administrators, educators, and policy makers continue to raise the bar while "keeping the heart" central in OST.


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).


Expanded Learning:  Opportunities (ELO) for Partnerships with a New Twist and a New Name

A Commentary by Ellen Gannett, M.Ed.

"ELO need not be only about more time, but how we use that time and how well we use that time. From our point of view at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, expanded learning takes partnerships to a new level and has the potential of blurring the boundaries between in-school and out-of-school time, taking advantage of many settings in the community, not just the school campus. "

Full article >>