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Want to know your ARP funds are having a long-term impact? Collect data.

04-02-21 blog post

In the coming weeks, states and districts across the U.S. will receive a huge infusion of much-needed cash, thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. As Learning Forward has shared, these funds can be used to bolster critical efforts to support educators as they attend to their students’ needs. Professional learning should be at the top of the list of investments you make to address your most urgent challenges.

As you plan, I urge you to commit to measuring the role and impact of professional learning in every recovery and reinvention effort. Of course, this includes investments specifically focused on coaching and other forms of professional learning. But I also encourage you to think about and measure the ways you are supporting and building staff capacity within other investments, such as curriculum adoption and technology implementation.

This is critical for maximizing the short- and long-term impacts of your efforts. Evaluation will help you continually improve the professional learning you design, facilitate, and implement so that the funds you invest pay off for teachers and students. Just as importantly, you’ll also be able to document why such investments are essential so that we can all advocate for ongoing professional learning funding in the long term.

It is critical that #edleaders measure the role & impact of professional learning in every recovery & reinvention effort. Here are six steps to measure the impact of #ARP funds. Click To Tweet

This will only happen if you build in measurement systems early. This is a data must-do. Here are 6 steps to measuring the impact of your ARP funds.

  1. Identify the desired outcomes of your professional learning efforts. Professional learning takes many forms and has many potential outcomes. As you think about using the ARP funds for professional learning, identify the specific, desired outcomes that you intend to achieve. Laying these out early will help you clarify your plan of action and identify possible measurement instruments.
  2. Identify the indicators that will demonstrate the effectiveness of professional learning. Many professional learning advocates believe the myth that the only measure for effectiveness is student test scores. Test scores are only one of many measures. Others include educator retention data, indicators of educator progress in their professional learning plans, observable changes in educator skills and behaviors, student formative data, analysis of assignments, and many others.
  3. Identify the measurement instruments you will use to track progress. Educators should measure their progress early and often. Using multiple instruments, including qualitative and quantitative measures, allows you to triangulate data to more fully tell your story and make adjustments as you move forward.
  4. Identify your baseline data. Many times, I have heard leaders of outstanding professional learning say that they can’t share the great outcomes of their professional learning because they did not have baseline data to compare it to. Any time you launch a professional learning initiative, document your starting point, keeping in mind the indicators you intend to advance. Your well-planned professional learning will lead you to a compelling story to tell, with baseline data serving as a comparison to your impressive outcomes.
  5. Measure, measure, measure. Measurement, like professional learning, should be ongoing, consistent, and job embedded. Make measurement part of the process rather than an add on. Ongoing measurement allows you to make improvements along the way and to continually improve both your process and outcomes.
  6. Share your findings. Data can be used in many ways. Use your findings to adapt or adopt practices, to make the case for continued application of funding, to motivate your community of learners, or to help the education community when asked how the stimulus dollars made a difference in education. For ideas on compiling your data, visit Learning Forward’s data summaries library.

 

In three years, the education community will be asked to show the results of this unprecedented stimulus funding. We want to be ready with the data to show that professional learning was a critical and integral part of the pandemic recovery and reinvention.

To share your data story, tweet @LearningForward.

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Melinda George
(melinda.george@learningforward.
org) is chief policy officer at Learning
Forward.

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