Out-of-school time providers beware! I'm a parent and know a lot about program quality. Last week as my daughter pirouetted her way into her preschool dance class, I found her dance teacher looking at forms instead of greeting the students. As a youth worker myself, I understand the demands of balancing 20 things at once. But I couldn't help thinking about how this non-greeting affects the learning environment.
I get it that I'm not the typical parent -- I'm the one who grills potential daycare providers on their use of developmentally appropriate practice, because I understand what that is. But I am interested to study more about how the average parent can become a better consumer of learning opportunities for their children. I know that my knowledge has impacted the decisions that I make for my children, and I believe the same would hold true for other parents.
There is a battery of program quality observation tools that demonstrate that not only do we know what makes a high-quality learning environment, but we can observe it. If parents knew more about how to identify quality in youth programs, would they choose differently? Would parents start to demand quality and support efforts to better train youth workers?
In Exploring the Supply and Demand for Community Learning Opportunities in Minnesota, researchers from the University of Minnesota examined more about parents and their ability to find and access youth programs. From this we learned more about:
- What is the perceived quality of youth programs?
- What do parents and youth want and value in youth programs?
- How difficult is it for families to find learning opportunities?
I would love to extend this research by digging into the idea of program quality to learn more about what parents consider to be high quality, and how that influences their decision making. Maybe it's just a pipe dream of mine, but I hope we can create a demand for high-quality programming that comes from all fronts: youth, parents, and youth professionals.
Are you interested in the role parents play in accessing quality learning opportunities for their children? How can we help parents become better consumers of quality?
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