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Twenty-Five Years of Out-of-School Time Jargon and Acronyms

Monday, 07 October 2013 09:47

The National AfterSchool Association proudly celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary as the national organization charged with leading the development, education, and care of children and youth during out-of-school hours. As our profession developed, so did the acronyms and terms associated with out-of-school time (OST). Have you ever been part of a conversation full of acronyms and terms you didn’t understand?

 This article will help you with wording used over the past twenty-five years by afterschool professionals, parents, principals, and community leaders.

The OST Issue

In the late ‘70s, more women entered the workforce, single-parent families increased, and a phenomenon developed. Parents needed care for school-age children when school was out. Bender, Elder, and Flatter (1984) estimated that six million children in the U.S. could be classified as “latchkey” at that time—a term used to describe children left home alone or in the care of sibling. Many children in “self care” wore keys around their necks, so they could let themselves in their house when they got off the bus or walked home. In 1983, Long and Long published The Handbook for Latchkey Children and Their Parents: A Complete Guide for Latchkey Kids and Their Working Parents, with a major focus on helping parents whose children were left “home alone.” Only one chapter included information on afterschool programs, because few existed at publication time. The need for school-age child care (SACC) before and after school and in the summer when school is not in session was just emerging. The clock reading between 2 and 3, after the typical school day has ended, has become the symbol for OST and is the NAA logo.

In 1979, the School-Age Child Care Project (SACCProject) at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, was created to serve as a national resource to provide OST training, technical assistance, and research. The SACCProject was later renamed the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST). In 1982, Baden, Genser, Levine and Seligson, all associated with Wellesley, published School-Age Child Care: An Action Manual to help communities start SACC programs. The book includes a wealth of information gleaned from the authors’ comprehensive field research via telephone interviews of two hundred programs and weeklong site visits at twenty-five programs across the country. The impact of NIOST on our field had begun.

The Leading Voice

Since 1926, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been the leading voice for high-quality early care and education of young children. The need for a national professional OST organization to address the unique care and education of school-age children when school is out emerged from conversations at NAEYC conferences in the mid ‘80s. SACC caucus gatherings were held in conjunction with NAEYC conferences until another groundbreaking group of leaders started the National School Age Child Care Alliance (NSACCA), incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1987. In 1994, NSACCA received an AmeriCorps grant in collaboration with The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) to hire a staff member and open an office. Since 1994, we’ve held our own convention/conference focused on bringing together leading afterschool experts, thinkers, and practitioners.

In 1995, NSACCA became the National School-Age Care Alliance (NSACA) and in 1999 hired our first executive director. Community crime statistics and a changing focus on older children brought emphasis to middle and high school students. If afterschool programs lead to positive outcomes for elementary school children, they could lead to positive outcomes for all youth. In 2003, at the last NSACA conference, a vote was taken to change our name to the National AfterSchool Association (NAA); a new name and new era with a wider focus.

OST Quality

In 1993, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) published Standards for Quality School-Age Child Care, in collaboration with the SACCProject. Principals were concerned about children caring for themselves after school—specifically walking home in unsafe neighborhoods, the risk of accidents, fear of being alone, and too much time spent inside watching TV. As boards of education (BOEs), principals, and community-based organizations (CBOs) began to work together, a need for quality standards developed. While safety and security started as primary reasons for SACC, the benefits of recreation and socialization with peers were recognized. The 1993 NAESP publication stated that “A good program is not simply a longer school day. It is different in both structure and content. Children who have been in school for 6 hours need to shift gears, much as adults do after work.”(p. 2)

In 1991, NIOST published a method of program self-study knows as Assessing School-Age Child Care Quality (ASQ; O’Conner, 1996), designed to focus on a team approach to incremental, ongoing change using an observational instrument and administrative review. Program staff, family members, children, and community members worked together to share their views about quality, then collect and analyze information from participants, and develop and implement a plan of program improvement. In 1994, NSACA and NIOST formed a partnership to develop a National Improvement and Accreditation System (NIAS). Using the ASQ program observation and questions, NSACA, now NAA, published the NAA Standards for Quality School-Age Care (1998), many times called the “purple book.” The standards were developed to define best practice in OST programs for children ages five to fourteen. NAA operated a national accreditation system from 1999 to 2009, when the Council on Accreditation (COA) began afterschool and youth program accreditation using NAA standards as a guide to developing COA afterschool program standards.

Federal Funding

In the 1990s, the federal government recognized the impact of the ‘80s phenomenon on children and responded with funding. The only federal funding source dedicated to OST has been the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC). Funding began in 1998 with $40 million; it’s now around $1.1 billion serving as estimated 1.1 million children, and has affected the development of OST programs nationwide.

Program Terms

Jargon in the OST field has changed in the past twenty-five years. While “shared space” versus “dedicated space” were new terms in the 80s, current terms include Expanded Learning Time (ELT) and/or Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs). ELOs and ELT are practices and programs to provide a more structured learning environment outside the traditional school day. The U.S. is recognizing the need to make children competitive globally and for increased opportunities for making afterschool time more enriching and educational. Programs are placing more emphasis on quality programming in areas such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); when adding an emphasis on the arts and music, the acronym becomes STEAM. To improve health and nutrition in OST, a set of Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) was developed by the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition and adopted by NAA in 2011.

The Future

Due to cutting-edge work begun by NAA and NIOST in the ‘80s, the field has accumulated numerous research studies on OST program quality, child outcomes, 21st CCLC grant evaluation, and academic performance. The latest publication, Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, edited by Terry Peterson, provides the strongest evidence that quality summer learning and afterschool programs make a positive difference in our youth, families, schools, and communities. Careful reading of the four hundred-plus pages will surely result in new acronyms in the OST field.

By Alice H. Hall, Ph.D., associate professor, Child and Family Development, Georgia Southern University


Baden, R. K., Genser, A., Levine, J. A., & Seligson, M. (1982). School-age child care: An action manual. Dover, MA: Auburn House Publishing Company.

Bender, J., Elder, B., Flatter, C. (1984). Half a childhood: Time for school-age child care. Nashville, TN: Curley Printing Company.

Long, L. & Long, T. (1983). The handbook for latchkey children and their parents: A complete guide for latchkey kids and their working parents. NY: Arbor House.

National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAEPS,1993). Standards for quality school-age child care. Alexandria, VA: National Association of Elementary School Principals.

O’Connor, S., Gannett, E. & Heenan, C. (1996). Assessing school-age child care quality. Wellesley: MA: Center for Research on Women.

Peterson, T. K. (Ed.). (2013). Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success. Washington, DC: Collaborative Communication Group.

Roman, J. (1998). The NAA standards for quality school-age care. Boston, MA: National AfterSchool Association.