Friday, April 13, 2012

Are You Assessing or Obsessing?

I know that I talk a lot about assessments when this is actually a blog about grants. However, if you really understand grants and the grant application process, you know that good, comprehensive assessment is a vital part of any grant program.

Every program and every class is your school should have a thorough assessment done before the end of the school year. You may assess progress in any given program using a nationally-normed test, a state test, a campus, or teacher-made test, or a combination of these.  It doesn’t really matter what the process is. The bottom line, as far as grants go, is that you have to know where your students started the year and how much progress they’ve made during the course of the year. You can only do that by properly assessing each of your programs.
When you get the results from your assessments, you should be able to quickly spot the problem areas in your school. When you know those problems and exactly how large they are, you can then begin to develop plans to eliminate or remediate those problems. But, here’s the rub. Even if you identify your problems, are you going to have the funds in your budget to do the things you need to do to solve all of your problems?  If you don’t, then you’re going to need to apply for grant money.

When you start completing grant applications, your assessments come into play again. On your application, you can show the grantor how you determined that you had a problem and just how severe yours problem are. You then explain exactly what you need to do to alleviate the problem and how their grant money will be used to make the needed changes and improvements. If you don’t have good, solid data from your assessment instrument, you end up talking in generalities while your competitors will be using specifics.
Most grantors also require you to include your assessment process in your grant proposal. They want to know where your students started, how much growth you got using their grant funds, and the instrument you used to determine this growth.

This whole funding, assessment, and growth process is probably the closest a school will come to mirroring other types of businesses. Using the proper assessment tools, you can determine exactly how much money you spent to obtain the months or years of growth you gained. Good programs make a profit (high growth on the part of students). Poor programs have a loss (little or no progress for the money spent).
The reason I am mentioning assessments again now is that as we close in on the end of the current school year. Each of your programs should be assessed properly. You should determine exactly how much growth each student demonstrates. From these assessments you will get much needed statistical information that you can use in a grant application, and you will have a benchmark of exactly where students are at this point in the school year.

Your assessments should be given toward the end of the school year to allow as much growth to be demonstrated as possible. It should not be so close to the end of the year, however, that students cannot concentrate or do their best on the assessment instrument.

Assessments are a vital part of any grant program.  Make sure that every program in your school receives a proper assessment before you leave for the summer.

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