I am Jamie Kasper, musician and director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). AEP is a coalition of national, state and local organizations dedicated to ensuring that all learners have access to an excellent arts education. It has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment) and U.S. Department of Education (USED) since its founding in 1995. I came to AEP in October of 2019 and am the fourth director of the organization, following in the footsteps of the great work of my predecessors.
In October 2019, I stepped into my new role as director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). AEP is a coalition of national, state and local organizations dedicated to ensuring that all learners have access to an excellent arts education. It has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment) and U.S. Department of Education (USED) since its founding in 1995. I am the fourth director of the organization, following in the footsteps of the great work of my predecessors.
One day in December, I sat down at my computer – after I’d had a chance to interview our advisory council members, talk with our federal partners, and get acquainted with my new colleagues – and began to draft a logic model for AEP to start outlining possibilities for tracking and reporting on our impact. I struggled in this attempt, perhaps because I was still learning the ins and outs of the work, and wasn’t clear about our evaluation processes, or any other number of factors. I ended up putting that work aside temporarily and instead devoted my attention to creating logic models for each of our existing pieces of work. This felt easier and more manageable, but I was still seeking a way to outline the organization’s overall outcomes and impact. Enter Evaluation Without Borders (EWB).
I received an email from Washington Evaluators with information about EWB in March. I submitted our application and was thrilled to be matched with a team of evaluators in May. The hardest part of beginning to work with the team was trying to explain the unique circumstances that make up AEP’s world:
- AEP is a 25-year-old organization that’s not really its own organization, as it’s part of the Education Commission of the States (ECS).
- As part of ECS, AEP can’t and doesn’t engage in advocacy. That means traditional indicators for changing public attitudes don’t apply to our work.
- Each year, AEP’s work is outlined in a cooperative agreement with our federal partners at the Arts Endowment and USED.
However, the EWB team stuck it out through multiple meetings with lots and lots of questions, and in August, they delivered drafts of an AEP logic model as well as monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan. We’ve already started to use these frameworks; later this month, AEP’s advisory council will provide feedback on the logic model, focusing on the intermediate and long-term outcomes that define our trajectory. After we’ve finalized those outcomes, we’ll turn our attention to the M&E plan. Although we’ve already started data collection on some of the indicators of our programs’ logic models, the plan will guide us to evaluate these our current efforts, make changes as needed and then turn our attention to creating tools and processes to measure outcomes to which we are not currently attending. At AEP, we are looking forward to continuing to think about, track and report out on our impact by building on the strong foundation provided to us by the EWB program!
Rad Resource: Looking for research evidence about arts education? AEP supports ArtsEdSearch, the nation’s hub for research on the impact of arts education.
This post is part of a six-day series reflecting on lessons learned, highlighting best practices, and sharing recommendations from ‘Evaluation Without Borders’ (EWB), the Pro Bono Evaluation program of Washington Evaluators, a Washington D.C. area affiliate of the American Evaluation Association.
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