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Collecting "Good" Data for Your Evaluation

An afterschool leader’s job involves compiling attendance records, parent surveys, behavior reports, report cards, and standardized test scores. Although it might seem that you are simply amassing paperwork with these records, you are actually engaged in the important task of collecting data. “An evaluation is only as good as the data it contains,” explains Zena Rudo, a project director with SEDL who has performed evaluations on afterschool programs for the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning.

What can you do to make sure you’re collecting “good,” or meaningful, data? As the current school year comes to a close and you begin to think about fall programming, it helps to remember that the same adage that applies to planning an evaluation goes for collecting the data: start early and get all of the players involved. “If you’re supposed to collect data on parent contact and involvement, you’re not going to be able to remember what happened at the beginning of the semester or the school year. So, ask your staff to make notes on parent attendance at afterschool events as well as their own efforts to contact parents as they happen. Your numbers will be much more accurate if you do it as it happens,” says Rudo. She also recommends that program directors hold training sessions so staff can make sure data collection instruments like attendance forms, parent comment forms, and other records are completed correctly.

If your data collection involves getting feedback from people who interact with your program, consider the tone and language of the surveys you use. For example, a survey for parents will probably have a different tone than one given to day-school teachers. If some of your students’ families speak limited English, try to make arrangements to have surveys translated. Finally, be sure to go to a variety of sources for feedback on your program. “If you want survey data on your afterschool program’s impact on students, you want to survey afterschool instructors, day school teachers, parents, and the students themselves,” explains Rudo.

Read this story in the April 2007 issue of AfterWords.

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