Hello. I am Sean Owen, Associate Research Professor and Assessment Manager at the Research and Curriculum Unit (RCU) at Mississippi State University. Founded in 1965, the RCU contributes to Mississippi State University’s mission as a land-grant institution to better the lives of Mississippians with a focus on improving education. The RCU benefits K-12 and higher education by developing curricula and assessments, providing training and learning opportunities for educators, researching and evaluating programs, supporting and promoting career and technical education (CTE), and leading education innovations. I love my role at the RCU assisting our stakeholders to make well-informed decisions using research-based practices to improve student outcomes and opportunities.
- Districts understaff research and evaluation specialists. Although there is an expectation there are personnel within districts that have strong backgrounds in program evaluation, we have found that is typically not the case in smaller, rural school districts. With a climate of tightening budgets, this is becoming more the norm than the exception. Districts have staff assigned with this role for program evaluation, but the role is accompanied by numerous others.
- “Demystify” the art of program evaluation. We have found that translating program evaluation to CTE may be confounding to some partners. Training key stakeholders about the evaluation process not only assists with the success of the current evaluation but also builds intellectual capital for future studies performed by the district. Guide districts to create a transparent, effective evaluation of their CTE program that encompasses students, facilities, advisory committees, teachers, and administrative processes.
- Foster strong relationships. Identifying which RCU staff interact best with the school districts wanting assistance in program evaluation is key. Interpersonal communication is crucial to ensure that all the necessary information is gathered and steps in the evaluation process are followed. We have found that a more skilled evaluator who does not have a strong relationship with the partner will not help the district achieve their goals.
- See the CTE Clearinghouse: Program Assessment and Evaluation for CTE program evaluation resources and research by ACTE and NRCCTE.
- See the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network to access implementation and assessment tools and a design framework for CTE programs of study.
- See the Research and Curriculum Unit: Evaluation for recent reports from academic and CTE evaluation studies.
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