The 2013-14 school year is shifting into end-of-year-mode. In most states, the Common Core Standards annual assessments are either now under way or complete. If you have any type of program that is using grant money this year, it is time to assess that program and see how well you are doing. It will also help guide the way you continue and fund the services next year.
You need to produce end-of-year assessments for three reasons. First, you need to know how much growth or movement your students have made this year. Second, you need to be able to clearly report your success or failure to the grantors for your programs. Third, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your grant programs so you can better plan for the next school year and will guide your fund raising strategies going forward.
Hopefully at the beginning of the current school year, you gave some type of pre-test to your students in order to document exactly what they knew or what they could do in the subject area being impacted by the grants you have achieved. It's possible you used last year's academic achievement data, or parts of it. Looking at these tests or subtests established a starting point. You should have done some type of smaller assessment around mid-term to be sure students were moving in the right direction, your program was working, and you were on pace to reach your goals. Classroom tests can help; you might pull the teachers together whose students have benefited from the grant program to survey them about any visible changes in achievement among their students.
If you set your goals properly, these beginning and ending assessments allow you to accurately measure the growth your students achieved during the year in both knowledge and skills. Any program, and especially one funded by grants, should be about achieving as much growth as possible. A grant program that shows little growth is unlikely to be funded for another year and is a red flag for possible abandonment.
Grantors like to know the results of their gifts. Some require you to report results, sometimes the reports they require are so onerous that you wonder if it was worthwhile to start a funding relationship with them. Ideally, you will know how they assess programs before you receive the funds. Their assessments may come in the form of tests such as a standardized reading test that will tell you exactly the months or years of extra growth that each student obtained. Assessments do not have to involve pencil and paper testing, but they do have to involve measurement. Remember, grantors want to know how skillful you’ve been using their grant dollars.
Finally, you need to make end-of-year assessments to know how to improve your grant program for the next year. If you set a goal at the first of the year to achieve fourteen months of math advancement from your at-risk fifth graders by giving them an extra thirty minutes of math during the day and specialized tutoring after school, and you only achieved ten months of growth, how will you adjust the program to meet your goals next year? Was the goal unrealistic? Did you need more tutors? Did you need additional supplies or computers?
Once you make your end-of-year assessment in a program, you can reflect on the year and figure out how you could have been more successful. You might even want to apply for another grant in order to enhance this year’s program. But if you never do an assessment, you’ll never know whether you reached your goals, and you won’t know what adjustments you need to make.
End-of-year assessments are vital to every program at your school. They are especially important to any grant program that you are currently running or any grant program that you wish to apply for in the future.
There are some online resources that can help you craft a useful assessment program.
Article about assessing research grant projects - also useful for school grants in general.
School Improvement Grant Assessment Data - Federal Gov't.
Comment on this post, share any assessment strategies that have worked for you.