MIE TIG Week: Lessons Learned as Evaluators in Urban Education: Part 2 by Leah Peoples and Monique Liston

We are Monique Liston, PhD. and Leah Peoples, PhD., evaluators that work in Urban Education. This blog continues the conversation from yesterday about the debt educational institutions owe to youth who have been marginalized. Today, we’ll focus on orienting our work as evaluators as a part of those same educational institutions. In other words, evaluators’ work — the questions we ask, the evaluation we design, the way we collect data, how we regard our stakeholders – play a critical role in education decisions. The recent Race and Class Dialogues call for us to be more critical and equitable in our roles as evaluators.

In our experience, many evaluators express interest in being more equitable but there’s always a “but” that follows those expressions. These “buts” are often ways we protect power imbalances, ensure the historically marginalized remain in the margins, and exacerbate the debts we owe to them. For example, at the most recent AEA convening evaluators made comments like, “We would really like to do more equitable work, but we can’t get our philanthropists interested” or “We would like to do more culturally responsive work, but we don’t have the time.” These types of statements affirm the evaluators have time for and institutional support to maintain oppressive, marginalizing evaluation work, but not the resources to be equitable. As a result, the status quo prevails. We must identify ourselves as part of institutions with the power and capability to disrupt this way of thinking and pay back the debts we owe.

Hot Tip: Have your own Race and Class Dialogue amongst yourself and your team.

Make a payment to the debt owed by facilitating your own Race and Class Dialogue: get a small journal for yourself and everyone on your team. Make time to reflect at least 15 minutes (without distractions) every day on the work you did. Ask yourself: What did I do that was equitable today? Why didn’t I do more? Review the journals collectively with your team at the end of the week or every two weeks. Do you notice any patterns? This is a great opportunity to evaluate yourself: As a team, are we doing enough? How do we know? Can we do better? Why or why not? Assign someone to take notes during this discussion.

Next, schedule a meeting for one or two issues at a time to brainstorm and research how you can do better; make sure meetings sustain deep conversations that move beyond the superficial. Be sure to use resources written by women, people of color, and other historically marginalized groups. Assume that the answer to every issue is “equity can be done here” and discover how to make it happen. Finally, evaluate the extent to which you and your team are using the solutions you discovered as a reflection in your journals. Below are additional resources that may provide some guidance:

Rad Resources:

Use AEA’s Public eLibrary to find presentations that address race and class in evaluation.

Lee, K. (2012). The Importance of Culture in Evaluation: A Practical Guide for Evaluators.

Mertens, D. M. (2009). Transformative research and evaluation. New York: Guilford.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) Week with our colleagues in the MIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from MIE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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