Cultivate Learning : Center for research and professional developement

Expanded Learning Opportunities

Cultivate Learning is expanding. With almost twenty years of experience in evaluation, system building, and professional development work to improve the quality of early learning programs, we are broadening our scope to include the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) field. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive learning system that emphasizes quality and equity from birth to 18 years.

What is the ELO field?

The Expanding Learning Opportunities (ELO) field provides a wide range of enrichment opportunities to school-age children and youth (ages 5-18). Programs operate before and after school, during summers, and on weekends in such diverse setting as parks and recreation departments, youth centers, licensed child care facilities, sports organizations, and community service programs. Programming is provided through nationally sponsored youth organizations, federally funded programs, autonomous non-profits, faith-based organizations, parks and recreation departments, youth centers, sports organizations, and community service programs (Mahoney, Reed, Eccles, & Lord, 2005).

How does the ELO field impact children and youth?

Studies show that attendance and participation in ELO programs have been linked to numerous academic and non-academic gains, including;

  • Increased school attendance (Auger, Pierce, & Vandell, 2013; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Huang, La Torre, Harven, Huber, Jiang, Leon, & Oh, 2008).
  • Increased participation in class (Learning Point Associates, 2011).
  • Better grades and performance on tests (Durlak et al., 2011).
  • Reduced likelihood of developing problems with alcohol and drugs (Grossman & Tierney, 1998; Youniss, Yates, & Su, 1997; Youniss, Mclellan, Su, & Yates1999).
  • Reduced occurrence of depression and anxiety in adolescence (Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001; Brustad, Babkes, & Smith, 2001; Larson, 1994; Mahoney, Schwder & Stattin, 2002).
  • Promotion of personal and social development (Durlak et al., 2011).
  • Lowered obesity prevalence (Mahoney, Lord, & Carryl, 2005).

Early Start Act

In Washington State, education policymakers have turned their attention to equity in access and quality of ELO programs and ways to measure and improve program quality. In 2015, Washington lawmakers recognized the value of high-quality ELO programs with the Early Start Act. Among other directives, the Act mandates the implementation and study of a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) pilot for programs serving school-age children, similar to the state’s Early Achievers initiative.

ELO Quality Initiative Pilot

In 2016, The Department of Early Learning launched the Expanded Learning Opportunity Quality Initiative. The initiative’s ultimate goal is to build a high-quality, equitable, state-supported ELO system for Washington’s school-age children and youth. Cultivate Learning developed and implemented a unique study design that captured both an understanding of baseline program quality and impact of coaching intervention on program quality improvement over a period of eight months. The ELO Quality Initiative Pilot evaluation examined ELO site quality and the feasibility, perceived value, and impact of improvement efforts such as Practice-Based Coaching.

As we move into year two, Cultivate Learning will launch a second ELO focused study to refine the quality intervention, study the impact and effectiveness of Practice-Based Coaching in the ELO setting, create new learning opportunities for the ELO field and engage youth voice in defining ELO quality.