Schools today are required to implement dozens and dozens of new program and initiative every year. Are these initiatives required or even good for students and staff? Probably. I’m sure most of them are good, though some may only be someone’s pet project or the flavor of the day. Do these initiatives ever work? That is the question we need to ask more frequently – and you can get answers if you have a 4-Part Assessment System
4-Part Assessment System
Part 1 = Fidelity
This is the big F-Word in the world of education and educational research today – Fidelity! Fidelity means that programs or interventions are implemented faithfully (both in time/frequency/dose and in observance with its original intent). May great programs are not successful because they weren’t implemented as frequently as required or because educators ‘cherry-picked’ only certain parts of the program to implement. This is the equivalent of going on a diet but still eating chocolate cake daily – pick a diet program and implement it as prescribed and most will led to the desired outcomes. If you cheat – you won’t get the desired outcome of weight loss. The same is true for educational programs. If you cheat and only implement parts of the program, you’ll probably never see the desired outcomes. Sad.
Part 2 = Social Validity
Social validity looks at how the program is perceived by the users – us educators. Even the most effective programs will not take root if educators don’t like them. A great example is Direct Instruction or scripted lesson plans. This intervention has proven to be crazy effective in teaching student’s math, reading, or other skills. Student scores shoot up incredibly fast and the intervention seem to work for almost every student it has ever been tried on. Yet, the common perception of Direct Instruction is that it “takes away teachers creativity and is too rigid”. So it is rarely used. Too bad – kids lose. But it illustrated that the educational pill must be easy to swallow by the educator and the student or it will simply not be taken.
Part 3 = Academic & Behavior Outcomes
This is the goal of education, right? Increased achievement and social competence, right? So why do we spend so much time measuring our effort instead of outcomes. Schools will tell you they spent $ xx,xxx on test prep or XXXX days and hours preparing students for standardized tests. But what they should be looking at is the outcomes of that time and money. Because if the students are still failing, we must do something different or else we are just waisting their time and money!
Part 4 = Screening Scales
Screening scales are predictive – nothing else. A vision or hearing screening merely predicts which students could benefit from more complete assessment and indicates which students might need some additional supports or modifications in class. Make those modifications such as a seating change or controlling ambient noise and the student will succeed. Do nothing, even though you know some students will have problems and wait for the student to truly fail – bad idea. We have excellent behavior screening scales too – some are free! These are also predictive, and can predict which students are at high, moderate, and low risk of behavior problems with over 90% accuracy. Behavior screening is recommended up to three times a year to ensure that schools are getting students the behavior supports they need and to assess if those supports and interventions are working! That’s the important part!
There really is a lot that we can do to evaluate whether the programs and interventions that we load onto our school personal and students are actually resulting in outcomes or merely increased effort in an already busy school day. Let me know if you want more info on this topic – I’m happy to oblige!