I’m a firm believer in making assessments. In a school setting most worthwhile programs cannot only be assessed, but they can also be improved. Just because you are making decent progress does not mean you can’t get a whole lot better. For this reason, you should go back and read the goals for any grant program you have in place. Then, either build or buy an instrument that will tell you exactly how much progress students have made in the fall semester.
If you have non-grant programs that you suspect are performing poorly, you should also assess them. As we have discussed previously, the statistical information from formal assessments can go a long way in persuading grantors to give you the money you need. In the same vein, this good statistical information can help you get additional money from a grantor. Grantors love to see their money actually making a difference. If you are successful once with their money, you may very well be successful a second or third time.
I don’t believe assessments should be given on the day you get out for holidays. In fact, I don’t think they should be given any time during the week you get out for holidays. Many students can’t concentrate and their performance may not be indicative of how they could have performed under normal circumstances. Try to do your assessments the week before you get out.
When you develop assessment instruments, try to measure as many of your goals as possible. Disaggregate the information to be sure you are making adequate progress with all groups. The information you get from your assessments should allow you to tweak your program in ways to turn it around if you are not making progress or to make even more progress by emphasizing the strong points of a successful program.
Remember, if you are using grant money, you have an obligation to make as much progress with your students as possible. Grantors love to see positive programs, but more than that, your students deserve the very best program you can provide them. All too many times I’ve seen educators think they were making excellent progress, when in reality, their students were making little or no progress, and the educators just didn’t know it because they didn’t have proper assessment instruments in place.