Program Profile: Assessing Needs for Afterschool Program Design Pays Off for Cook County District 104 21st CCLC Program
The Cook County School District (SD) 104 21st CCLC afterschool program in Summit, Illinois, has been operating for just over a year. From day one, the 21st CCLC team has used comprehensive data analysis to plan and implement an arts integration afterschool program.
SD 104 is a dual-language district where both English and Spanish are heard and valued. Adjacent to Chicago, the district is in a tight-knit Latinx community with five schools. Three of these schools are part of the district’s 21st CCLC program: Graves Elementary School serves students in Grades PK–4, Wharton Fifth Grade Center serves students in fifth grade, and Heritage Middle School serves Grades 6–8.
Data Informs Program Planning
The district received notice of its 21st CCLC award in October 2020; after the program secured funding in January 2021, the 21st CCLC leadership team conducted an informal needs assessment to determine which students would benefit most from afterschool programming.
Jon Baricovich, 21st CCLC program project director, said, “We examined . . . quantitative assessment data as well as qualitative data on student interests and student socio-emotional wellbeing. Our academic data revealed issues in equity across racial and socioeconomic lines. Our SEL [social and emotional learning] data revealed issues in self-concept, identity, and other issues of this kind. Those students most at risk of academic failure were selected for participation based on academic need, scores on local social and emotional learning screens, and teacher and parent recommendations.”
The 21st CCLC team also used data to plan programming. “We surveyed our parents early on to better understand what their needs were,” said Baricovich. “By and large, coming out of the pandemic, there was a clear expressed need for academic programming to “catch up” for perceived instructional loss. We made certain to include this in our programming. Additionally, there was an expressed need for mental health, physical health, and social and emotional learning. We began to integrate this into our programming as soon as possible.
“We surveyed our parents early on to better understand what their needs were.”
—Jon Baricovich, Project Director, Cook County SD 104 21st CCLC program
Using Data for SMART Programming
The SD 104 21st CCLC program is called SMART, an acronym for science, math, art, reading, and technology. Baricovich describes it as a cross-curricular approach, using arts integration to support student academic achievement, especially in literacy and math. Activities include mariachi band; TinkRworks, a Chicago-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) program that has offered robotics and coding; and a project called Through My Sole, in which students receive white high-top sneakers, learn about hip-hop culture, and then decorate and display their sneakers.
Family involvement is crucial to the program. The SMART program holds three large community events—a back-to-school bash, a Día de los Muertos event, and a Día del Niño celebration. “We have a great group of parents that are very involved in bringing those events to life,” says Baricovich. “We get hundreds of parents to come out and have our mariachi perform, our folkloric dancers perform, [and] we have student artwork on display.”
In addition to serving as project director for the 21st CCLC program, Baricovich oversees assessment and bilingual education for the district. “I’m sitting at the fulcrum point or the nexus of all of these projects,” says Baricovich. He sees the issues of language and culture play out in a third, intersectional space. “Many of our students are not Mexican enough to be Mexican or American enough to be American. They live in this third space. And so, we push kids to be part of both of those things. I want others to know that programs like this can further those efforts. During the school day, we teach kids history, math, and science in Spanish and English. Then they go to an afterschool program and learn traditional folk dancing or mariachi, or they study great Mexican muralists and create a mural for their school. There’s a certain synergy or connectedness. Culturally responsive pedagogy is at the forefront of what we’re trying to do.”
A Focus on Continuous Improvement
As the 21st CCLC team implemented afterschool activities, staff continued collecting and analyzing data. The team used a variety of data collection instruments. The program’s evaluation team developed surveys, and they purchased surveys to assess student and staff social and emotional needs. Collaboration with district and school staff enabled the 21st CCLC to access student academic achievement data. Staff also monitored student attendance for the various 21st CCLC activities and adjusted programming accordingly. “We ended up removing some programming that had high rates of attrition and offering more robust versions of programming that was received favorably by students during our first year of operation,” says Baricovich. Afterschool staff reviewed student work throughout an activity or program to assess academic progress and the degree to which they were engaging with the topic. Finally, the team also looked at culminating projects that students created to see if an activity had met its goals and objectives.
“We ended up removing some programming that had high rates of attrition and offering more robust versions of programming that was received favorably by students during our first year of operation.”
—Jon Baricovich, Project Director, Cook County SD 104 21st CCLC program
The 21st CCLC leadership supports staff in developing data literacy. In addition to focusing on arts integration, dual-language pedagogy, and meeting the needs of a culturally and linguistically diverse population, professional development for 21st CCLC staff provides guidance on crafting and delivering assessments aligned with standards and ways to make instructional decisions based on formative assessment data.
Like many districts, Cook County SD 104 saw student assessment results drop overall amid the challenges of virtual school instruction and maintaining student engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 21st CCLC program offered summer programming to foster learning recovery and provide culturally responsive pedagogy and SEL supports that helped students stay engaged.
By tracking data, the district saw that students who participated in the 21st CCLC program regressed less than their classmates or even maintained their achievement levels. Baricovich says that the NWEA Math Assessment showed that students who participated in the afterschool program regressed an average of 1 point or stayed the same, while others regressed 5 points. “Not statistically significant by psychometric standards, but our kids held their own well,” he explains.
Data analysis is often a collaborative process that reflects the program’s commitment to continuous improvement. Each year the leadership team collaborates with local, school-based administration to review formative and summative data to ensure that the program is meeting students’ academic and social and emotional needs. Afterschool leadership plans to administer additional surveys to gauge student engagement and performance. “We’re expecting to have a much deeper kind of analysis this year because we had a full battery of programming throughout the fall,” says Baricovich.
For new programs that are just starting up, Baricovich advises staff to take the time to survey families and students, even holding focus groups if possible. He says, “Make sure you have a wide variety of programming and that it is responsive to what kids want to do and what they are interested in. If they are engaged, we can teach anything in the moment.” He also recommends that programs dedicate time to recruiting students. And one other piece of advice from Baricovich: “Make sure you monitor attrition because kids change their minds a lot.”