Data Driven Decision Making for Grant Writers

Summertime is busy. At least it is in my world of grant writing. It’s a time to reflect and adjust priorities for the years to come. The only surefire way to do this right is to let the data be your guide.

I’ve put together a couple of scenarios to illustrate my point.

Scenario #1

We’ve created a focus group to decide what we need for our school next year. The leadership team includes stakeholders from many parts of our school community, grants administrators, department heads, teachers and some parents. One of the members of the group, a parent, is very aggressive and insists we need new reading books for the early grades. The old ones are “musty and torn”. The administrators in our group have been criticized in the past for never taking parents’ advice or suggestions. He is inclined to take the path of least resistance and fix the complaints all in one fell swoop. He appoints a reading teacher to a team to review and select a new reading series.

Scenario #2

The same group of educators and parents has assembled to identify priorities for supplemental budgets in the new school year (grants). The Math Department Head has prepared a PowerPoint presentation for our review. She illustrates the deficits in our math scores, with graphs and charts showing declines in test scores in some of the curriculum standards for math. She notes a bibliography that lists books for the library to supplement the existing math curriculum to address the deficits. She also suggests that since we are adopting new standards, we should evaluate our existing resources for alignment with the new guidelines and develop replacement schedules for books, software and Internet resources.

These examples are actually very realistic. I’ve made them very different to make a point about priorities and grant writing. The schools that show the most improvement in test scores over time are those that have a coordinated process of sticking to a mission (scenario #2) that is grounded in data.
We are all drowning in data, but it is our responsibility to absorb it and guide our decisions based on what the data says. Perhaps a great grant project to start might be to apply for funds for staff development to make teachers better consumers of statistical information. There are good consulting firms that can help your school come up with long-range plans. Perhaps one way, would be to bring back a retired teacher who successfully raised scores over her career using test data as her guide. It doesn’t have to be dull and boring, using real life examples can keep everyone tuned in.

The message is clear, as the grant writer, you can navigate through the scenarios to guide your school to a successful grants program. It’s all about the data, and having a structured program to use it for school improvement is in everyone’s best interest.

Here are some resources to help you sort it all out;

Using Data to Influence Classroom Decisions –
Data Driven Decision Making – Sonoma State University
Data Use; California State University – a team approach
Making Sense of Data Driven Decision Making pdf – Rand Corporation Education Research
Fact Sheet – Delaware Dept. of Education

Do your homework, become literate in the language of data; you will greatly improve test outcomes and budget planning efforts for the future.


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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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