How do I assess progress in developing better connections between my school and the community?
In order to assess the results of a partnership program, it is important to begin designing the program with assessment objectives clearly in mind. At the beginning of a project, it is crucial to determine the needs and objectives for community connections. Those planning these programs need to ask questions like the following: What are the problem areas in our school? What are our strengths? Where are parents already involved? How could these programs be improved? Which parents aren't involved and how could they be brought in? How can we improve communication between families and school? What do teachers want from parents that they aren't currently getting? What do parents want from teachers?
Assessment should be done at regular intervals throughout the course of the partnership program. This gives a way for the members to see if the program's original goals and objectives are being met. Schools should also do an annual end-of-the-year assessment and at the three-year and five-year marks after the program has been established.
As the program is implemented, the answers to these questions will probably change. However, the number of parents involved in activities can offer a rough statistical guide to the program's success. Continuing to assess which activities are helpful and which are not is an important part of a good community connections program. Each activity should also provide the opportunity for feedback from participants on what they liked and didn't like, and what they found most and least helpful.
Since change doesn't often happen overnight, it is crucial to measure small steps and to set realistic goals. It is important to recognize the incremental nature of change and encourage the school and the community to celebrate small victories on the road to larger ones. If the goalposts are initially set too high, everyone can become discouraged and feel that the whole project is impossible.
When a school has implemented a good community connections program, teachers should also be able to evaluate progress with evidence of improved student attendance, report card grades, conduct and behavior, and increased communication and collaboration with families and community members.
Check the Resources page for information about support on developing partnership programs available from the National Network of Partnership Schools.