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 Teaching About Program Evaluation with Cookies

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is helping 10 small school districts evaluate their programs and services as part of a new institute.

This is the first time SDCOE has offered the Program Evaluation Institute. It started July 29 and will run through December with a total of five days of professional learning as well as onsite coaching.

“For a small district, support from the County Office to do this kind of work is just essential,” said Kathy Granger, superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District. “We have limited resources and we want to make sure our resources are used effectively.”

Another group of districts will make up the second cohort in March, which will focus on evaluating programs and services in districts with large numbers of students learning to speak English.

The Institute started with a look at the emotions behind evaluation, personal stories of impact and change, and a taste test of chocolate chip cookies. Evaluating the cookies helped participants experience the stages of evaluation–engaging stakeholders, focusing the evaluation, collecting and analyzing data, and communicating and using the results.

“We wanted districts to recognize that the program evaluation process is both logical and emotional,” said Shannon Coulter, lead evaluation coordinator. “The work of our districts and the results they are getting are only part of the puzzle; they must also communicate the story of that work in a way that motivates and inspires others to take action.”

Participants in the initial pilot attended two days of workshops in July. They’ll attend another one in September and two in December.

“Over the two days, district teams identified a specific district program that they’d like to evaluate and improve,” said Todd Langager, program evaluation coordinator. “We’ll be supporting them over the next six months in designing and conducting that program evaluation back in their local context.”

Eventually, SDCOE’s Assessment, Accountability and Evaluation unit hopes to partner with a school district to offer the Program Evaluation Institute to a larger number of teacher leaders and administrators in order to build evaluation capacity at a system-wide level.