THE SPARKWIND MOVEMENT
For decades, expanded learning opportunities like summer learning and after school programs operated in isolation, without any common language or standards for quality. While many of the programs delivered great benefits to the participants, expanded learning wasn't a field the way traditional in-school education is - it didn't have professional development opportunities for its staff; there wasn't a common definition of what a program should look like; and there was little support for helping programs both improve and grow.
That led to sporadic access to gaps in quality - particularly for low-income young people and youth of color. That's where the Sparkwind Movement comes in. Over the past several years, Schools Out Washington and the Raikes Foundation have worked with a variety of youth-serving organizations and public sector partners to put the field of afterschool, youth development, and summer learning on the map. Sparkwind brings that to life.
As a part of the Sparkwind Movement, providers now have a central repository - a Youth Program Registry - which is a free tool and a comprehensive database to support expanded learning opportunities, youth development professionals, and quality information in Washington. This data will allow for an assessment of the service gaps in the sate, help target funding and support services, and engage advocates to make the case for additional resources. Over time, data from the Youth Program Registry will enable families to search for programs that meet their needs and will help programs better market their services. Good data will support this emerging field to gain insights, improve quality and support organizations, programs, staff and families. Providers who join the Sparkwind Movement and enter their data into the Youth Program Registry can enroll to receive quality assessment and dedicated coaching, set a customizable quality improvement plan, and track progress over time.
But the Sparkwind Movement is more than a database. It also comprises a pilot project of fifty programs from four counties around the state who were chosen to participate in a quality improvement process. This pilot aims to show that with proper support, expanded learning programs can deliver the type of high-quality engagement proven to result in meaningful outcomes for young people. It will create a system of support including coaching and training for program staff to engage young people. The lessons learned in this pilot will help support the entire system.
The Sparkwind Movement is also building bridges between state and local work focused on young people to bring cohesion and community voice. While the Sparkwind Movement brings all programs across the state together, local discussions and planning help to focus on the needs of individual communities and families. The movement is working with lawmakers in our state to bring the resources necessary to build a sustainable high quality system of expanded learning opportunities for all young people in our state.