Palm Beach County's Prime Time Initiative
Improving the Quality of Afterschool Programs
This series of reports document five years of development and refinement of Prime Time, a system-building effort to strengthen the quality of afterschool programs in Palm Beach County, Florida. These reports draw upon findings from multiple methods, including interviews with stakeholders, review of assessments and documents, and observations of program activities and meetings.
The first reports concentrate on the development and expansion of the Quality Improvement System (QIS), which began with a pilot of 38 afterschool programs serving elementary and middle school age students in targeted geographic areas. QIS components include internal and external assessments, written improvement plans, support from a quality advisor, and access to other resources. Key findings about the development of the system include the benefits of a “low-stakes” and supportive approach to improving quality; the value of concrete, relational and emotional supports from quality advisors, and the promise of a systemic and iterative approach to quality improvement. These benefits were still apparent during the expansion of the QIS to new programs, although needs to improve communication, intensify support for new QIS participants, and improve the peer coaching process were also identified.
The fifth-year report provides an update on the role of the QIS in supporting quality among participating agencies and addresses two other aspects of Prime Time activities. One is Prime Time’s efforts to expand the availability and use of supplemental curricular programs (“enhancements”) to afterschool programs. Findings discussed include specific challenges and opportunities in the negotiations between enhancement providers and afterschool programs and the delivery of enhanced curricular activities. The other is a recent shift in a core funding mechanism used in Palm Beach County from a model of contracts with individual agencies to a market-based model where funding is attached to families. Agencies participating in this transition were uncertain about the long-term effects of the shift, but hopeful it would not interfere with program quality.