Establishing Connections Between Evaluation and Program Improvement

Published in: Research Perspectives on School Reform: Lessons From the Annenberg Challenge (Los Angeles, CA : Annenberg Foundation, Mar. 2003), Chapter 5, p. 81-96

Posted on RAND.org on March 01, 2003

by Denise D. Quigley

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Spearheaded by leaders of the professional, academic, and business communities, a coalition of educators and civic leaders in Los Angeles County came together to take up the challenge offered by Walter Annenberg. In December 1994 the Annenberg Foundation awarded $53 million to the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project (LAAMP) to support school reform across several school districts in Los Angeles County, including the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Annenberg award required that LAAMP raise an additional $53 million in public and private matching funds. LAAMP set out to accelerate school reform by building on existing district, community, and school efforts, including the reform efforts of the Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring (LEARN). This chapter describes how an external program evaluation team that headed up one of the several comprehensive evaluation studies worked hand-in-hand with program staff and others seeking to build and improve one program within LAAMP, Parents as Learning Partners (PLP). The evaluation events reflected the LAAMP philosophy of accountability. They were also shaped, in part, by the participation of the Weingart Foundation, which made a major grant to LAAMP for parent involvement. The Weingart Foundation required separate external evaluations of the two initiatives it supported: PLP and Design for Excellence: Linking Teaching and Achievement (DELTA), an initiative in teacher professional development. PLP and DELTA were somewhat autonomous within the LACE evaluation because they had a direct funding stream and clients to whom they reported. This chapter first provides an overview of the PLP program and its external evaluation. Next, it reviews the chronology of events to demonstrate how a dynamic relationship among the program, the funder, and the external evaluation team was coupled with keen insight on the part of the program coordinators and program staff to build successful relationships. It concludes with lessons learned.

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