PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG Week: Education Evaluation’s Lessons Learned from a Year at Home by Amanda Klein-Cox

I’m Amanda Klein-Cox, owner of Engage with Data (formerly Structured Solutions). I help K-12 schools, districts, and education non-profits use data to measure their impact, particularly around family engagement.

I’ve been reflecting lately about how life has changed since the pandemic started. Somehow, we’ve made it through this year of change, fear, and loss.

It has also been a year full of learning and growing as people and evaluators. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. Educators have realized that families are critically important partners in the work of educating children … and that we need to listen to their feedback.

From focus groups and surveys I’ve conducted, educators have seen how important family engagement is for getting their own work done, especially when so much of it takes place at home.

?As a result, there’s been an increase in the number of family surveys and focus groups from school districts and partners, which is wonderful for stakeholder engagement!

I encourage my clients to collect feedback in a variety of free, accessible ways, including polls through Zoom or social media, to reach as many families as possible.

Hot Tip:

Of course, sometimes a full survey is needed. I love using Panorama Education’s open-source, validated survey instruments to build out custom surveys for clients. They even have a scale for remote and hybrid learning.

2. Educators have become increasingly open to using data to understand how well they are reaching their students and families. 

I’ve noticed an increased appetite for learning to use data to drive supports for children and families. Without kids and families in their buildings every day, educators could no longer rely on memory or conversations with peers to know who they were reaching… and who had barriers that the school needed to help families overcome.

I’ve worked with a number of schools, districts, and organizations on their use of data this year, so imagine my PURE JOY to hear that a staff member at one of these schools said that with the use of the data tracker we developed, “We are no longer guessing.” 

As evaluators, we can help clients use simple, low- or no-cost strategies (see #3) to make sure they know EXACTLY what’s happening with each of their kids. No one’s falling through the cracks on our watch. 

3. Data visualization is critical in helping educators make sense of and actually use data to improve their work.

Most educators are not trained to be data people, so we need to guide them in building their capacity around understanding data and using results to adjust their practices.

Setting up easy-to-maintain dashboards and trackers in Excel or Google sheets is one way to facilitate this process. Another is improving our own data viz to make the results of our evaluations clearer and more direct.

With more effective data visualization, our clients won’t get lost in the weeds – we can help focus their attention on the most important leverage points for improvement.

I’ve also found that improved visuals are great for conversations around equity – in a glance, clients can see if they are truly meeting the needs of all students and families and where additional supports may be needed.

Rad Resources:

Here’s a past AEA365 post about data viz for K-12 educators. Storytelling with Data has also helped me tremendously in streamlining my visuals and making them more effective for clients.


As we start to transition back to some semblance of normal life, I hope that we remember all that we’ve learned this year and continue to bring creativity and clarity to the work of educational evaluation.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating 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 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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