With growing deficits, tighter budgets and greater student need within the classroom, it is imperative that every dollar be accounted for and that impact assessments are performed in relation to student outcomes.
Alberta schools have provided great leadership in terms of educational reform. This is to be commended, as thinking outside the box offers opportunity to develop cutting edge programs that lead to greater student success. One such example is, the “Coaching” model at Edmonton Catholic. This comprehensive program has resulted in the highest graduation rates for Indigenous students anywhere in the province. Innovative practices such as this must continue if we are to ensure the long term success of students and of the economy.
Not surprising though, is the tremendous costs that are associated with any new design or program. Additionally, new programs are rarely evaluated for effectiveness and their respective results often go unchallenged or unknown. Given this reality, new initiatives must be comprehensively assessed to determine if programs have met intended outcomes. This is essential to fiscal accountability. Hence, it is recommended that these types of financial investments be assessed according to a set of three criteria that include:
- an assessment of the program design (formative evaluation)
- a review of the design implementation process (process evaluation)
- achievement of short, medium and long term goals and objectives (outcomes evaluation)
This application would set a new standard and new direction related to school based approaches, provisions, and review of, program designs. As such, the analysis of formative, process, and outcome evaluations must become the standard practice for boards across the province. This will facilitate, among other things, evaluations that harness the statistical power of quantitative data in addition to important qualitative analysis and information, delivering a standardized practice to guide and assess program development, implementation, outcomes, and cost effectiveness/efficiencies across Alberta schools.
As stated by the Treasury Board Secretariat with the Government of Canada, “Evaluation is the systematic collection and analysis of information on the performance of a policy, program or initiative to make judgements about relevance, progress or success and cost effectiveness, and/or to inform future programming decisions about design and implementation” (Canada, 2017)
The use of results based analysis is able to harnesses the power of data that is statistically grounded. Thus, it is an effective tool in assessing the power, strength and cost effectiveness associated with any new initiative. It provides the needed assurance that costly programs are deemed effective in order to justify continued support. The evaluative process works to identify areas of weakness and serves to guide decisions about future programming. This is critical to ensure that tax dollars have been efficiently and effectively assigned and to assure that student results are maximized.
For this reason, I will be encouraging the adoption of this instrument for use by Edmonton Catholic Schools. As an industry standard for all publicly funded government institution, application of this commonly used tool will serve to make the district more fiscally accountable, but so too will it provide real time research information on the effectiveness of program designs, implementations and outcomes… all of which serve students and tax payers.