Celebrating Program Improvement: Data Journey Stories from the Network

June 27, 2014

“The Activator Improvement Cycle gave us a clear, research-driven map for how to interpret and look towards improvement in our programs.” Arbor Otalora-Fadner, CommonBond Communities

On May 30, Sprockets network partners came together for a Program Improvement End of the Year Celebration, a morning of sharing and learning as we reflected on the Activator Improvement Cycle. The event was open not only to those who have participated in all or parts of the cycle, but also to those who have worked on their own improvement process or wanted to learn more about program improvement as fall planning gets underway.

Our goal was to share successes and setbacks of the past year’s improvement cycle and generate ways the network can better support youth programs to improve quality—plus, there were breakfast burritos.


Activator Improvement Cycle

Throughout the morning, participants were asked to document their Data Journey Story, indicating steps that were most helpful to their site, steps that were less helpful, and noting steps that weren’t completed. These pieces were used to facilitate table discussions and were also collected at end of day as a source of additional data for the network to utilize.

The Data Journey included steps like:

1. Attended YPQA (Youth Program Quality Assessment) self-assessment training
2. Conducted YPQA self-assessment
3. YPQA entered in Scores Reporter
4. Attended Making Meaning with Multiple Data Sets (a.k.a. Data Day)
5. Created improvement plan
6. Submitted improvement plan to Scores Reporter
7. Set plan in motion/completed an action

...and asked questions like:

- Are there places you veered off the road? Where are places you either intentionally took a detour, created your own road, or unintentionally got lost?

- What things inspired staff to work with data or on quality improvement?

- Has your participation changed how and when you collect data?

- What aspects of the Activator Improvement Cycle need to be improved? What are your ideas for improving these aspects?

Data Journey Story - Sprockets Program Improvement Celebration
Last December, Making Meaning with Multiple Data Sets (M3) brought youth workers together to analyze participation, program experience, youth outcomes, and quality practices data in order to form program improvement plans.

Haley Nelson of the Minnesota Children’s Museum shared, “Attending the data day [M3] gave us the opportunity to dig deeper and inspired us to look at our data differently and add the missing pieces.” Likewise, Shaun Walsh of Saint Paul Public Schools Community Education asserts, “I think the data day is awesome and people should be invited to come with their teams and work.”

Sprockets partners at Program Improvement Celebration

Prior to the May 30 event, a survey on the implementation of the Activator Improvement Cycle was used to garner initial information about participants’ experiences. Of the 47 respondents:

- 96% had at least one staff person trained in the YPQA self-assessment training by September 2013 or earlier.
- 90% had at least one staff person attend Making Meaning with Multiple Data Sets (M3)
- 83% completed a YPQA self-assessment before M3
- 76% entered their YPQA scores into Scores Reporter
- 63% entered their improvement plan into Scores Reporter

Sprockets partners at Program Improvement Celebration

With regards to the supports available to program sites, 81% reported being “Very satisfied” or “Satisfied” with the completion of a YPQA External Assessment and 91% were  “Very satisfied” or “Satisfied” with the types of Foundational Skills Workshops available to staff.

Chue Xiong of the YMCA reflected on some of the challenges of the Data Journey, “We followed the map but it took more time to train, reflect and make changes on a weekly and monthly basis.” She also suggested having an online webinar training based on the YPQA for new staff hired during the year. Stressing the importance of collaboration, Chue hopes to see "more sharing of ideas and strategies across organizations.”

On a similar note, Chris Ohland of Youth Express stated, “The things that inspired staff to work with data or on quality improvement were hearing each others’ perspectives at greater length. It energized them to think, self-reflect, and be more intentional about improving the program and themselves.”

Sprockets partners at Program Improvement Celebration

In the spirit of idea-sharing, consider the following questions as we prepare for fall:

- Who has tips for getting buy-in from all staff?
- Who has examples of contextualizing YPQA for cultural communities?
- Who has a commitment to involve youth as assessors or evaluators?
- Who has a commitment to collect and use video clips for professional learning and improving practice across the network?

Thanks to all who participated in this year’s cycle and continue to be champions for youth success in Saint Paul!

Interested in being part of the next Sprockets Activator Improvement Cycle? Stay tuned for details coming out in mid-July about our fall kick off for the 2014-15 cycle, and consider coming to our Sprockets 101 info session on July 11!