Why is evaluation crucial to efforts to dramatically improve public education?

Evaluation findings are often politicized and interpreted in different ways. Even when the results of an evaluation appear to be accurate and point towards a particular action or change in policy, various stakeholders, groups, and organizations often have different perspectives as to the direction that should be taken as a result of specific evaluation findings. While it is always important that educators and policymakers look to pertinent research when making decisions about how to best improve public schools, it is equally, if not more crucial that educators evaluate and think critically about their work on an ongoing basis. 

Public education has a history of adopting new strategies without carefully examining the research for these strategies, or building in mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of new strategies. It is when educators fail to actively assess and evaluate the effectiveness of potentially innovative ideas that "innovations" becomes "the latest fad" and are easily dismissed by parents, teachers, educational leaders and policymakers. The spread of innovation has the potential to lead to transformational change, but doing so entails that all educators become conscious evaluators of their own work and practice. 

What is the focus of our evaluation services? 

Evaluation design and data analysis: We work with clients to conceptualize and design high quality evaluations and data analysis strategies that are meaningful, practical, and designed to capture the information needed to address and accomplish client objectives and goals. 

Formative and impact evaluation: We design and conduct evaluations of education policies, interventions, and strategies, with a particular focus on evaluations of district and school improvement strategies and state-level initiatives.

How do we engage with clients? 

In our design and data analysis strand, we engage clients (e.g., teams from state departments of education, districts, schools, and constituents) in an iterative and collaborative process that provides time and dedicated space for individuals to discuss the purpose, goals, and questions that will provide the foundation for the evaluation design. A set of facilitated and semi-structured conversations and meetings are used to collect information and provide opportunities for clients to articulate their theory of action for the strategy, intervention, or policy being implemented, and inform the evaluation design that will best assess the impact of their work. 

In our formative and impact evaluation strand, we begin with an initial evaluation design session in order to clarify evaluation questions and identify and agree upon data collection strategies and methodologies. Formal evaluation activities (e.g., data collection, surveys, focus groups and interviews, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, dissemination) are designed to meet client needs while ensuring the integrity and rigor of evaluation activities and findings. 

What are the outcomes of this work? What can we expect?

All evaluation design and consultation involves work towards the following outcomes: 

  • Articulating the purpose, expectations, and intendend audience(s) of the evaluation and evaluation findings; 
  • Crafting detailed evaluation questions and data elements aligned to each evaluation question; and 
  • Constructing a logic model depicting the theory of action and intended outcomes of the proposed policy/strategy/program/intervention. 
  • Formal evaluation studies (formative and impact) include detailed formative reports and recommendations, customized to meet client needs and objectives. 
INSTLL BasicLogo

© INSTLL, LLC 2015