Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What are the Values of Evaluation and Student Assessment for Book-It’s Literacy Programs?

We are in the process of wrapping-up, reporting out, and finalizing our evaluation work for the year. Creating summary reports for the focus groups, literacy speaker series, interviews with literacy non-profits, and interviews with potential partners for the literacy center, among other things. Most recently senior staff gathered to review the program evaluation and student learning assessment tools piloted for the education program during the 2009-2010 school year. Everyone was brought up to speed on the two areas of focus – student learning in literary analysis and theatre skills in the residency program and student engagement in the touring program. The outcomes from the data will inform programming – where to put resources, what to let go, where Book-It should get more specific about literacy, etc.

The idea of making decisions based on real numbers was exciting to everyone. The big question is funding. In order to engage in this kind of analysis requires: training teaching artists and educational staff to implement the tools, hours in the field, and hours in the office to analyze the data. At the end of the meeting each of us responded to the question, “What’s the value of program evaluation and student assessment for Book-It?” Below are some paraphrased responses to this question...
  • I can use it in deciding what shows Book-It should tour.
  • We may decide to drop certain program components like study guides if schools aren’t using them. Or we may revamp them so that people will use them.
  • We can all be communicating the same message about Book-It and the education program.
  • This can be used to leverage more funding for the program – this is the kind of information funders want–they are requesting these kinds of outcomes.
  • We can use this to inform what and how we teach. Where we’re effective and where we need to get better.
  • Making choices – it’s okay to let some things go.
  • Working efficiently with what we have.
Because of the TCG grant Book-It was able engage in rigorous program and student learning evaluation. The next step is to find a way to make it sustainable without a consultant. This is one of the issues that came up at the TEAM pre-conference in Chicago – finding ways to analyze work in-house. Here’s the deal – it still takes time and money, not as much as a consultant, but Book-It and other theatres like Book-It will need to make choices and be strategic in order to realize this kind of analysis – the difference between saying something is of value and making it real through action.

--Gail Sehlhorst, Book-It

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