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PreK-12 and Education Evaluation TIG Week: We Treasure What We Measure: Student Work as Thermometers of School Climate by Vo Ram Yoon, Mira Best, Ian Rashleigh McNally, and Kasia Razynska

We are Vo Ram Yoon, Mira Best, Ian Rashleigh McNally, and Kasia Razynska, the evaluation team at the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC), and we partner with public school districts to conduct equity audits and assessments that foster more inclusive learning environments for students, families, and staff. As part of this work, we administer school climate surveys with questions related to academic expectations, safety, family engagement, and other domains. A thorough equity audit does not rely on a single source of data, but rather depends on different forms of knowledge that help clarify what a school does well and should improve on. While survey data can be a useful measure of equity-based metrics, they can overlook the meaningful progress that teachers and students are making within a classroom. This is why we encourage evaluators and schools to look at “street data” or authentic, student created artifacts as a snapshot of students’ experience with equity in their school, which can often provide insights that go beyond a survey.

Developed by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan, street data is a framework that complements more conventional forms of school data including grades, attendance reports and surveys. They define it as “the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. These data are asset based, … helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong.” Student work can be a powerful source of street data that demonstrates the lived experiences of students within a school and broader community and underscores how dedicated teachers are to their students’ learning, enhancing the validity and authenticity of the data collected as a part of a climate study.

This form of street data can be part of a school’s curriculum rather than a separate data collection. In fact, many student organizations may already be producing artifacts that call for rigorous analysis! The following list serves as an example of different forms of student work that can serve as street data:

  • A photography exhibit that highlights places within a school building and activities where students find community.
  • A student-led podcast where students of different identities discuss academic and social issues affecting them.
  • STEM-based projects that measure the environmental health of the school community.
  • A student magazine featuring works of literature that resonated with students throughout the academic year.
  • A series of maps pinpointing meaningful locations to students, such as public libraries and parks, and individuals who serve as positive role models.

Incorporating street data alongside conventional metrics, can result in a more holistic understanding of a school’s climate and culture. We urge evaluators, teachers, and school leaders to include student work in an analysis of a school’s climate, which can result in a more intimate understanding of the joys and challenges that students face. Street data can empower students to share their feedback in a way that gives them agency rather than relegating them to the sidelines. Involving students in the data collection process through their work fosters a sense of ownership, increasing their engagement and promoting a more participatory approach to studying school climate.

Lesson Learned

When gauging a school’s climate, it is important for school leadership to involve students, teachers, and families to both identify what needs to be improved and understand how to improve it. Promising solutions and ongoing feedback during the implementation period should come directly from affected communities.

Rad Resource

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan

The American Evaluation Association is hosting PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our PreK-12 Ed Eval 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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