Assessment and Evaluation in Grant Writing

You’re really moving along now; you have a very good handle on the program you will be providing for your students. You’ve described the need and you have checked your eligibility for the grant you are seeking.

By now, you’ve spoken to your prospective grantor. Yes? A phone call has been made to be sure you have the most current application package from their office. You’ve cleverly woven in an introduction to your project with your requests for more information. You have started the process of developing a rich and long lasting relationship with XYZ Foundation. You’ve been to their office (or nearby university) where there was a grants conference to meet and greet grant professionals in your community. Their experience will be useful to you as you go along.

Now however, in NASCAR parlance, this is where the rubber meets the road. How the heck are you going to prove to your funding source that their investment has paid off in a measurable way? At this stage, how are you going to describe that process to them? There will be a post-program opportunity to share your data with your new friends, but for now, what methods do you plan to use to measure your success? They really want to know, and be aware they are not newbies, they understand assessment terminology so don’t be shy when you start slinging the jargon around.

Much depends on the program you are planning and the materials you are selecting to teach the material. Let’s say you are developing a new reading program for grades 3-6 to address certain deficiencies you’ve identified from academic achievement scores. You would be well served to bring in some curriculum companies’ program staff to help you select the right program. You are seeking a new one for a reason, the old one left your kids behind in some measurable way.

You’ll want to compare several different companies’ products. Embedded in the best of those systems is your assessment, if you’re doing this right. The very best curriculum resources have built-in assessment tools. The sales reps for companies are helpful, but it’s often worth a plane fare to bring in specialists and professional development experts to help you select the best programs and materials. You’ll want to identify district funds for these plane fares, it will show the grantor that you are serious and have a real plan, that you’re not just seeking a “slush fund” to buy things for your classrooms.

Explain your selection process in your narrative. Show them that one major deciding factor for purchasing these materials is the sophisticated set of measurement tools that come with it. Tell them how these tools will align with Common Core State Standards and your state academic achievement tests so you are comparing apples to apples. How will you take your assessment results right down to the individual student? When you have the data, how will Sarah’s reading program be changed to meet her needs?

Be sure, as you are preparing your budget, that you include all the supplementary materials that come with the reading program. There are usually site licenses for software, audio and video products, associated fiction sets for your Library, etc. Don’t leave these items out, they turn vanilla into a banana split. Meet with your associates in the foundation to be sure you are on the right track. It is not unusual for your course to need correction half way through the application process because the foundation has philosophical issues with various teaching approaches. It makes sense to know what they are.

So, assessment is different from evaluation. Assessment refers to testing achievement at the student, classroom and district level to measure student learning and achievement. Evaluation means measuring the general success of your program. I’ve provided some resources that help make that fine distinction:

Purdue Center for Instructional Excellence

Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation

Once your program has been approved, and the funds have been allocated for all the things you will need to make it happen, don’t sit back and congratulate yourself. Be sure you’ve worked with everyone involved in the program to check that you’ve met all the requirements the foundation has stipulated with their investment. Be prepared to have them come in to your district to see the evidence of your success. Don’t be scared by this, it’s part of developing a healthy relationship with the foundation so you can go back to them in the future for more support. Unless you really mess things up (and you won’t), they will want to continue supporting your school.

Comment on this blog, what are your experiences with assessment and evaluation in a grant funded program?

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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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