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Why do an Evaluation?

In education, one thing is constant—change. Teachers and administrators must adapt to new realities.

They must respond to policies and mandates, keep pace with technological changes, master new curricula and instructional methods, and satisfy the needs of diverse students. And they have to do all this while keeping foremost in mind their important job of helping students learn.

Think about how many decisions you make in a day. Countless. And when you make a decision, you use information that helps you make the best possible one. Later, you reflect on the results. You measure its success. You weigh the outcomes. In a word: you evaluate. And you do it all the time. Every day. From deciding what to wear and what to eat, to how to vote—and beyond.

How does this relate to program evaluation?

Program evaluation is very similar to everyday decision-making. The main difference is that program evaluation is systematic. It’s carefully planned and executed. It requires questions that are clearly asked. And it allows you to draw conclusions that are based on collecting and analyzing data in a diligent manner. Many times these are evaluations with high stakes attached to them, and it is important that the results be defensible. In addition, the information collected can be used to make changes or revisions with the intent of ensuring better outcomes.

Building evaluation into an implementation plan ensures that you will have the information you need to determine your direction and your level of success. It is a safeguard against following a path without knowing if you’re going in the right direction.

Consider the benefits of a carefully conducted evaluation:

the quality of your implementation activities or your programs...

Effective evaluations empower you to enhance the quality of your program or project. Without the information provided through evaluations, you make program decisions that are based only on hunches. But with carefully constructed and executed evaluations, you gain insights into all aspects of your program—from decision-making to student / teacher interaction to needs assessment—and more.

with stakeholders...

Evaluations arm you with an understanding of your project or program—your objectives and your action steps or activities. As an informed advocate, you identify your program’s strengths and are able to correct its weaknesses. You discuss its mission and strategic objectives. Best of all, you base your claims of future success on defensible results. And that makes it easier to secure the support of your district and other local education agencies.

to state and federal mandates or to the requirements of a grant or contract...

It’s important to understand what you need to do if you are writing a grant or responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) that requires that you have an evaluation plan or that you use an “external evaluator” to monitor the progress and outcomes of your project if you are funded.

It’s also very important to understand how conducting an evaluation is similar to/different from conducting a “scientifically-based” research study that will fulfill the requirements now commonly called for under state and federal grants (as reflected in legislation such as the federal, No Child Left Behind Act. Link to http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml for information on this legislation).

your school mission...

By gaining insight into your project or program, you achieve a better sense of what your implementation activities are accomplishing. You’re better able to express the ideas and values built into them in a clear, compelling manner. From the superintendent to the principal to onsite staff, team members can articulate organizational goals, assess and assign responsibilities, compare deliverables to timelines, and facilitate cooperative effort. 

collaboration and collegiality...

The most effective evaluations aren’t separate from or added to a project or program. They’re part of the project itself. When evaluation and program implementation work hand in hand, the results can be truly impressive. An added benefit is that it gives you another reason to collaborate and build productive working relationships because you’re sharing results and progress and discussing what to do next.