National Institute on Out-of-School Time

The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) is a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

NIOST has brought national attention to the importance and value of children and youth’s OST hours, including hours before and after school, and also summer, camp, and vacation hours.  NIOST supports the healthy development of children, families, and communities, and advances the OST field through our research, training, advocacy, and tools. 

Our work bridges the worlds of research and practice.  We provide evaluations, consultation, and training to create innovative and effective solutions for OST programs on local, state, regional and national levels. 

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.
    • 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.

The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) envisions a world where all children have access to high-quality out-of-school time (OST) programs that help them develop into effective members of society.  Quality is measured by various criteria including the programs offered, staff expertise, and the children’s experiences.

Since 1978, NIOST has successfully brought national attention to the importance of OST hours for the development of children and youth and for families’ economic opportunity.  NIOST first raised the need to focus attention on afterschool time in the 1970s as a key strategy to help more women enter and stay in the workforce. Our work has included developing and increasing standards and professional recognition for practitioners, and guiding community action aimed at improving the availability, quality, and sustainability of programs, and influencing OST policy.  

As part of Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, NIOST works to bridge the worlds of research and practice.  Our initiatives have advanced the field by utilizing our distinctive capacity for research, education, training, evaluation, consultation, and system-building.  NIOST has developed interactive and collaborative approaches to create new and effective solutions to OST needs on individual, local, state, regional, and national levels.

NIOST has led cutting-edge research for the field, including:

    • Collaborated on the first comprehensive national study of before- and afterschool programs for the U.S. Department of Education;
    • Established the “National Afterschool Association’s Standards for Quality School-Age Care”, the first set of uniform standards for the field;
    • Created “Afterschool Quality: The Process of Program Improvement” (ASQ), a self-study, team improvement approach for assessing program quality;
    • Developed comprehensive quality and outcome measurement tools “A Program Assessment System” (APAS) that includes observations, questionnaires and surveys (APT and SAYO tools);
    • Co-managed the “Massachusetts Afterschool Research Study” (MARS), one of the first statewide studies to examine the important links between program quality, features, and participation that contribute to positive outcomes for youth;
    • Researched, drafted and recommended the national “Core Knowledge and Competencies for Afterschool and Youth Development Professionals;”
    • In partnership with the HOST Coalition Leadership team, formulated the “Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Out-of-School Time Programs (HEPA Standards).”

Our assessment system, the APAS-A Program Assessment System, has been recognized by the Forum for Youth Investment and the U.S. Department of Education and is used in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wyoming, Illinois and other programs nationwide and in Canada.

NIOST has produced a wide array of research and technical papers, assessment and training tools, and publications.  Our journal Afterschool Matters is the only peer-reviewed journal in the OST field.  The Afterschool Matters Fellows Program has developed and trained OST practitioners to focus their leadership skills and develop writing capabilities. 

Please watch our video, Raising the Bar but Keeping the Heart, for an overview of how the (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.

Research & Evaluation  NIOST is an action-research institute that provides a national perspective on the critical issues facing the OST field.  We are dedicated to: 

    • Conducting, tracking and organizing data collection and research;  
    • Interpreting and synthesizing research for multiple audiences, including policymakers, press, and practitioners;
    • Participating in evaluation research at the program, community and national levels, both by conducting research and contributing to collaborative evaluations; 
    • Producing and disseminating information in a variety of products such as publications, videos, and electronic media.

Community Learning Centers:  NIOST is a key collaborator on federal projects to develop a National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (NCASE) and to provide technical assistance nationwide for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Healthy Out of School Time:  This national coalition of leaders in the OST field fosters health and well-being practices in afterschool programs nationwide, using science-based standards for healthy eating, physical activity, screen time, and social supports for these behaviors including staff, family and child engagement.

NIOST Training Programs:  NIOST is a national leader in providing highly interactive, research-based training for OST program directors and staff, school administrators, community leaders, and others committed to providing high quality afterschool programs for children and youth.  We offer custom solutions for small and large-scale initiatives on topics such as program improvement, assessment and evaluation, leadership development, youth learning and enrichment, as well as relationship building.  Professional development trainings can be customized to client needs and available on-site.  Online training is also available.

Consultation: NIOST consults with state, national and local organizations and agencies, school districts, and individual programs, and has played a lead role in a wide range of initiatives across the country.  We emphasize using an interactive and collaborative approach to create innovative and effective solutions to OST needs on a local, state, regional or national basis. Each project employs and refines a multi-level, multi-faceted, collaborative approach, integrating research, evaluation and/or promising practices to build staff skills, improve program quality, and create stronger, sustainable afterschool systems. 

Workforce Development: With research and writing support from NIOST, the National Afterschool Association adopted a set of nationally recognized Core Knowledge and Competencies for Afterschool and Youth Development Professionals.  NIOST continues to bring national attention to the professionalization of the field. 

Quality & Assessment: To improve program quality, NIOST, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, developed a quality assessment system –  A Program Assessment System (APAS).

Is a suite of tools that help OST programs document and strengthen their quality practices that impact youth outcomes and contribute to life success.  APAS consists of:

APT-O and APT-Q (Assessment of Program Practices Tool – Observation and Questionnaire)

SAYO- S, SAYO-T and SAYO-Y (Survey of Academic and Youth Outcomes – Staff, Teacher and Youth Surveys)
A free APAS brochure is available here:
Watch our Intro to APAS here:

ASQ: After-School Quality:  ASQ is a team process that helps afterschool programs create a common vision for their program and a road map for how to achieve that vision.  ASQ was originally developed in 1996 as the continuous improvement process for afterschool programs seeking national accreditation. Today, it is still the process of choice for afterschool improvement and it can be used with any tools, questionnaires or surveys.

 ASM JournalAfterschool Matters is a free national, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to promoting professionalism, scholarship and consciousness in the field of afterschool education.  The journal serves those involved in developing and managing programs for youth during the OST hours and those engaged in research and in shaping youth development policy.  


ASM Fellowship: The National Afterschool Matters Fellowship is a two-year professional development and leadership training program unique in its national reach and incorporation of technology for ongoing collaboration. The NASM Fellowship engages professionals in the OST field in a process of leadership development where they learn to reflect on, study, improve, and assess their work with a view toward improving its quality and impact.

National ASM

                                                             Fellowship 2015-17 Cohort

Audiences served
NIOST supports the healthy development of all children, families, and communities, and advances the OST field through our research, training, advocacy, and tools.  We support before-school, afterschool, expanded learning, and summer programs to be better at what they do.  We work with OST staff and programs, community, state and regional organizations, funders, and policymakers.

Successful impact
NIOST first brought national attention to the importance of OST program quality in the 1970s as a strategy to help more 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.  As part of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, NIOST is uniquely positioned to bridge the worlds of research and practice to provide organizations with solid evidence-based technical assistance and support to enhance program quality.  To advance the field of OST, NIOST works to:

    • Guide community action to make OST programs more available and sustainable;
    • Develop research-based standards for OST programs and practitioners;
    • Enhance the leadership, youth development, and quality improvement skills of practitioners and program managers;
    • Show OST programs how to continuously improve through evaluation and ongoing discussion with all stakeholders;
    • Build OST systems in cities, states, and regions across the nation; 
    • Influence policy.

Recommendations for replication and/or adaptation

    • If you are thinking about developing or enhancing out-of-school programming, you may want to review Afterschool Matters Journal, an excellent resource on a variety of topics relevant to the OST field from research to best practices to policy. 
    • Quality out-of-school time begins with investment in staff development.  NIOST is known as a leader in the development and delivery of training to OST professionals, and we provide ongoing support through consultation and training.  (See “NIOST Training Programs” under Activities.)
    • NIOST supports system-building initiatives.  Each of our 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 OST systems.
    • Program evaluation is important.  Please review the criteria and measurement tools that NIOST has developed.  (See “Quality and Assessment” under Activities.)
    • NIOST is moving forward with projects that focus on STEM participation, healthy eating and physical activity, arts programs, and project based learning.  We are able to evolve and adapt to changes in the field, and to share these developments with others through our website, research briefs, newsletters, and on social media.  

Contact Info
For more information about NIOST visit our website:
Telephone: 781-283-2547

Our Mailing Address:
NIOST, Waban House

Wellesley Centers for Women
Wellesley College

106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481 USA

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