Developing a Needs Assessment

Aim for Success

Whether you are a new or seasoned 21st CCLC Leader, planning for success is first on your list of things to do. If you don’t know why you are providing specific activities in your program, then it is likely there will be no outcomes to measure whether the activities had an impact. Use this Click & Go to discover what data you will need to plan your activities and write solid needs assessment statements that will guide your work.


To enable participants to:

  • Identify and take ownership of the data needed to intentionally design their programs
  • Understand how to organize data into needs assessment statements

Zip Link (76.8 MB) Select the Zip Link to download the resources in this Click & Go!


Mini Lesson: Developing a Needs Assessment

This mini-lesson will introduce participants to the types of data necessary to intentionally align activities to student need. Participants will also discover how to capture these data and reframe the information into a usable needs assessment statement.

Student Voice

Extend your learning! This short podcast provides tips on how to capture Student Voice data. [Download Transcript]

For Kids Only Builds Data Bridges with Schools

This article from Build the Out-of-School Time Network describes how Kids Only Afterschool in Massachusetts uses and shares data to strengthen and define its relationships with community schools. LINK

Using Research to Continuously Improve Afterschool Programs: Helping Students to Become 21st Century Lifelong Learners

This article, written by Denise Huang from the University of California, discusses the three indicators of program quality: program structure, program content, and program implementation. LINK

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes

Published by The Forum for Youth Investment, this report provides a strong body of research on the importance of collecting data and how it will benefit our students now and in the future. LINK

From Good to Great: Using Data to Assess and Improve Quality

This Wallace Foundation tip sheet addresses the issue of program quality and how to define, evaluate and improve it by collecting, analyzing and using date. LINK


After School Program Planning 101

Provided by Leisure Information Network, this short video offers great ideas and quick tips on how to plan your afterschool program. LINK



Developing relationships with your participating school leaders is critical to capturing all necessary data. If it wasn’t done during the development of your proposal, then the 21st CCLC leader should set up an appointment with the school administrator or identified liaison to outline roles and responsibilities for the program. Be sure you have the Roles and Responsibilities Checklist to help guide your conversations. Have an outline of the types of data you will need, such as these: 

  • state assessment results for each subject and each grade level;
  • any benchmark data and report card data;
  • student-level data from teachers (specific skills students need to work on);
  • attendance data; and
  • behavior data.

Be sure your school leader knows that you will follow all Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guidelines. You might want to consider having a flash drive that you use for the purpose of capturing sensitive data. Remember that student-level data must be obtained through proper permissions, viewed only by people approved to have access and stored in a locked environment. Consult your grant director if you need guidance in this area.

Some programs have developed memorandums of understanding between the 21st CCLC program and the school or campus ( to outline the responsibilities. Having an agreed-upon understanding will overcome many misunderstandings.

To obtain public data, you can go to the website of your state education agency and search for campus or school report cards or state assessment outcomes to get the campus-level needs data. In addition, you can cooperate with parents to capture some information from student report cards and talk to parents on the skills with which students need help. While this isn’t the ideal, it is better than designing your program completely uninformed.

Building relationships with teachers is key to creating a quality program. Here are some tips:

  • Ask to attend an all-staff meeting to introduce yourself and the program. Send a follow-up e-mail to thank school-day staff for their time and list any next steps you would like to take (e.g., scheduling individual meetings, attending grade-level meetings).
  • Go and meet teachers in their classrooms. Be sure they know who you are and that you want to help them in any way you can.
  • Strategize a means of communicating student need and progress between the teacher and your staff. For example, use a homework communication tool ( that lists the day’s homework and has a way for the program leader to verify that the student completed that homework.
  • Communicate regularly through e-mail and newsletters.
  • Attend team meetings.
  • Respect the classrooms you use. Set up mutually agreed guidelines for the use of the classrooms.
  • Drop into a teacher classrooms occasionally to see if there is anything you can do to help them out.

A podcast is available in Click & Go #1:  Aim for Success – Developing a Needs Assessment; it provides tips on capturing student voice. Below are some additional tips.

For elementary students, a student interest inventory or survey works well. A search on the Internet for “student interest inventory” will yield many examples that can be modified. It is important that you provide a wide variety of potential topics from which to choose and then offer the activities that are most popular.

For secondary students, conducting a focus group can be more effective, especially when done with a diverse group of students. No more than 50 students placed at tables of five will work best. In their small groups, have each student independently write down their top five desired activities. Have them share ideas with their table group. Once they have completed that task, have the table group decide on the top five activities from their group. Students then post their ideas on a wall with instructions that if they see an activity similar to their activity, then they should post their activity below the one that is similar. Once all activities are posted, the facilitator will then review them with students and clarify any activities which are not clear or make decisions on activities that are similar.

Use student ideas to guide the design of your out-of-school time program.

Your data will help you decide what skills you should address in your program. The data should tell you how to focus the activities you provide. The data can also help you decide what community partnerships you might need to ensure students get what they need.

Your student-level data (the skills students need to master) and student voice data will be the most important to the design of your program activities. These two data sets will help give you a framework to determine how the activities students want can be utilized to help students develop the skills they need to master in real-life, relevant and engaging ways.

You can discover more about how to use data to design your activities in Click & Go #2:  Align for Success –Creating an Intentionally Designed Program.

Needs will change. It is important that you continually talk with school leaders to determine student progress and to identify any new needs that have surfaced. You must be prepared to adjust programming goals as indicated by your needs assessment. Needs should be assessed at least once each semester.