Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Afterschool Evaluation 101: How to Evaluate an Expanded Learning Program

The Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) has released Afterschool Evaluation 101: How to Evaluate an Expanded Learning Program, a “how to” toolkit that provides guidance on the development effective evaluation strategies. In recent months, expanded learning time programs have been a topic of much discussion in the field of education. As we’ve reported on our blog, new research highlights expanded learning time as a critical strategy in reducing the achievement gap, particularly for low-performing, high-poverty schools. In addition, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waivers may provide states with the flexibility needed to increase funding for expanded learning opportunities. As with any new program or initiative, it is critical that schools implementing expanded learning initiatives take the time to develop a comprehensive evaluation strategy in an effort to understand the program’s effectiveness and areas for improvement.

Afterschool Evaluation 101 is a useful toolkit that guides schools through the entire evaluation process, including detailed information on the purpose, development and implementation of effective evaluations. In defining the desired results of the program, for example, the toolkit stresses the importance of gathering insight from the families, students, teachers and community stakeholders that will ultimately be affected by the expanded learning opportunity. While the goal of one school’s program may be to simply increase student interest in school, another program may aim to improve student test scores. Engaging families and the community in the development of the program, as well as its evaluation, is a critical step in developing a program that meets the specific needs of the students and families residing in the community.

The toolkit also provides step-by-step information on how to analyze, understand and communicate the results of the evaluation with families and the greater community. Sharing evaluation data with key stakeholders can dramatically improve family and student engagement in the program and attract funders that may help sustain the program. The toolkit also lists several additional resources that schools and communities can use in developing related programs and evaluation strategies.

For more information about the Harvard Family Research Project and the Afterschool Evaluation 101 toolkit, please click here.

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