Boston Beyond Launches Certified Observer Network

In the fall 2016, Boston After School & Beyond (BASB) in collaboration with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) launched the Certified Observer Network – an in depth training opportunity designed to enable program partners to conduct their own program quality observations. The training process has four components:

  1. An overview of the purpose and use of the Assessment of Program Practices Observation Tool (APT-O)
  2. An independent practice observation using the APT-O on the individual’s own program
  3. A tandem observation of a fellow program in the network with a NIOST Master Observer Coach
  4. An inter-rater reliability assessment against the Master Observer

The Certified Observer Network holds a variety of benefits for individuals, youth-serving programs, and Boston Beyond’s city-wide network. Importantly, it stimulates peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. As staff members from participating organizations observe fellow programs in Boston, they witness best practices in action across the city. Professionals in Boston’s out-of-school time (OST) field can network with other program staff and discuss the challenges facing youth-serving programs today.

Additionally, programs can leverage a research-validated tool to keep a pulse on their program quality. With certified staff, programs can confidently assess their own quality on an ongoing basis in addition to the one-time, third-party observation offered by Boston Beyond. Finally, the Certified Observer Network advances the sustainability of Boston Beyond’s continuous improvement system by leveraging partner expertise in high quality program practices to support evaluation and professional development efforts.

In the augural year, 12 school-year organizations stepped up to the plate as pilot partners for the Certified Observer Network, participating in a process that had never been done for a network of this size. These organizations represent the diversity of Boston Beyond’s network from sports-based programs to K-8 after school programs to health career exploration programs, and serve all grade levels.

On March 8, 2017, 25 individuals from these organizations were awarded a BASB Program Observer Certificate, becoming the first ever members of the Certified Observer Network. Representing a variety of roles, these Assistant Program Directors, Directors of Learning, and Program Managers will enter the field to observe and assess fellow school-year programs.

To further expand this network, Boston Beyond will host two opportunities for program staff in spring 2017 to become certified before summer programs launch. We are hoping for representatives from each of our 50 partner organizations to attend this two-day training event and become certified to support continuous improvement within Boston’s youth-serving program network. If you are interested in joining this network, please contact Kelsey Cowen at