By Rachel Scott
I recently changed career paths from working as the Director of Magnet Programs for a small urban school district to being employed by the Center for Research Evaluation at the University of Mississippi. It might seem like a small leap, but it has caused a shift in perspective that I didn’t necessarily anticipate.
Previously, I was the grantee. I oversaw the design and implementation of our Magnet School Assistance Program grant. I provided support to campuses in implementing magnet school programs and served as the advocate for the funded grant narrative. In the day-to-day, that could mean everything from purchasing band instruments ensuring students access to music programs to leading professional development on Google Classroom. I hired external evaluators and routinely conducted program evaluations. I felt good about my ability to manage my external evaluators and deliver efficient and effective internal program evaluations. I loved when my outside evaluators visited and looked forward to spending time with them, showing off the project. However, I didn’t always see the value of evaluation beyond it being part of what helped me keep funding (e.g., compliance) or get a purchase approved (e.g., compliance).
Now, I am the evaluator, and I have to say that hindsight really is 20-20. I sometimes reflect on how I viewed evaluation as a means to an end before, rather than evaluation being part of the process.
To my clients
As an Evaluation Associate, I spend time analyzing data, summarizing findings and making recommendations, investing myself in your projects and outcomes. I conduct interviews with key stakeholders that help me better understand diverse perspectives on programs. I want to see your project succeed and I think deeply about the impact my thoughts and words may have on program design and implementation. I understand the need for data to be shared in a timely manner and for the evaluation to be responsive to the reality you may be facing at a program site. I hope you see evaluation as more than compliance, and I look forward to finding ways to help you make sense of the myriad of metrics that are available.
To evaluators from my past
And to all the evaluators that I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my previous career—thank you for the time and care you invested in our work. It was valued.