Who is it for?
District administrators often need, or want, to have programs evaluated, and they may have a number of questions about how to proceed: What do we want to learn from our magnet program evaluation? What are the roles and responsibilities of district staff in supporting an effective evaluation? How do we ensure our evaluator gets high-quality data to work with? How should we use and report our findings?
If these are the kinds of questions you’re asking, this website will provide some answers. The resources in this Toolkit can help you work with an evaluator to conduct an effective evaluation that moves beyond compliance and provides high-quality data that can be used to make informed decisions about your magnet program. The primary audience for the website includes Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grantees and prospective applicants, but the materials may also be useful to any district administrator interested in providing evidence about their educational programs, particularly those related to school choice.
Why was it created?
In this era of accountability, district administrators have to describe succinctly, yet concretely, the intended impacts of magnet schools; explain how conducting magnet activities will achieve these impacts; and demonstrate a viable evaluation plan for measuring success. In other words, developing capacity to report on program outcomes“”Do magnet schools produce the intended results for reducing minority group isolation and increasing student achievement? To what extent? And for whom?””directly impacts future program funding decisions.
Whether or not a district is pursuing or receiving MSAP grants, program staff must be able to demonstrate the value of their magnet programs to ensure continued funding and gain support for expansion efforts.
There are particular obstacles to conducting effective evaluations of magnet programs that need to be understood and addressed by evaluators and district administrators. This Toolkit provides assistance by sharing practical advice and lessons learned from evaluation teams that surface misconceptions, challenges, and remedies related to the evaluation process.
How is it organized?
The Evaluation Toolkit for Magnet School Programs is not a step-by-step guide for conducting an evaluation. Rather, it provides resources that can help you address different questions and issues that arise in six important areas:
- Set the stage for purposeful evaluation.
- Develop a theory of action for your program.
- Evaluate implementation to document what you are doing.
- Evaluate outcomes to show your program is making a difference.
- Get quality data into your evaluator’s hands.
- Take action in response to evaluation results.
Each of these six practices provides introductory text, a video interview, background information and links to related to key actions. Downloadable tools, vignettes, and sample materials are listed within each key action. Quick tips, pitfalls, things to remember, and extra resources associated with conducting an MSAP rigorous evaluation are also included.
Who created it?
The Evaluation Toolkit for Magnet School Programs was developed at WestEd with funding from the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. Sharon Horn was the project director.
We would like to acknowledge the Magnet Schools of America (MSA) for their support of the project and for providing opportunities to gather information and feedback from MSA members throughout the development process.
The evaluators and district administrators who contributed to the development of this site were generous with their time and provided many of the resources and helpful hints that are featured on this website. We would like to thank the program staff and evaluation teams for their willingness to share the lessons they have learned in implementing evaluations of magnet programs.