Progress with Privacy: New Portal for Out of School Time Providers

Kirstin Toth \
February 08, 2017

Impact: nowadays, that seems to be the watchword of the nonprofit sector as we engage more deeply with students both in and out of school. For-profit organizations have long been able to assess their impact using financial measures like net profit margins, profitability ratios, return on investment, etc. But for nonprofits, where success is not simply measured by financial gains, so often, nonprofits are left with little in the way of measurement systems that help them to make sense of their important work. Nonprofit thought leader Mario Morino, in his groundbreaking Leap of Reason, provides insightful ways to advance nonprofit excellence by instituting what he calls the “Performance Imperative.” One of the keys to this paradigm is monitoring for continuous improvement. That monitoring requires key measures, and for most of our Out of School Time Program (OSTP) partners, that means assessing how kids are doing in school and how that relates to the time they spend out of school in various programs. But how do we do this well and efficiently?

Luckily, our colleagues at Summit Education Initiative (SEI) just helped us take one big step forward in this endeavor: they have just released the new Out of School Time Portal. This remarkable, no-cost tool, unlike any we know, gives OST providers private, secure access to the grades, attendance and other records related to student success as long as the student they’re serving attends Akron Public Schools. The new OSTP Portal can support APS students of any age.

SEI developed the Portal to help alleviate the burden on OSTPs to track student grades and school attendance so that they can have a deeper understanding of the students’ success and needs.

Foundations are notorious for asking applicants and grantees about how they’re measuring progress for the work they do with students, but we are also guilty of having little to offer in the way of measurement tools. SEI’s new OSTP Portal has removed a large part of the guesswork around connecting out-of-school services to the impact on grades and other measures of student success. All of this said, we are also cognizant of the critical importance of honoring students’ privacy. The OSTP Portal does this by being a secured resource available to OSTP providers only after they receive privacy training. This is the promise that SEI has made to its school partners, that users of the OSTP Portal will be fully trained in FERPA regulations by SEI before using the portal. This assures that our progress about measuring impact doesn’t come at the expense of privacy.

GAR Foundation has joined the growing chorus of many philanthropic organizations seeking to understand impact in a more meaningful way, because we want to maximize the good we can do with our finite grant investments for how our funding impacts nonprofit progress, but ultimately for the good of our community’s progress. With this new tool provided by SEI, we are helping to empower OSTPs to measuring their own progress and drive continuous improvement. Much work remains, but this is a huge step for our community’s work in supporting student success along the cradle to career continuum, and throughout a child’s life. Please read more about the OSTP Portal here . We look forward to helping applicants learn more about measuring for impact in the coming year.

Photo of Akron Public Schools courtesy of Summit Education Initiative.