David M. Fetterman
The health of a gifted and talented program requires both self-examination and external evaluation. Routine self-examination allows early detection of educational problems and confirmation of a sound programmatic approach. This discussion is intended to highlight some of the common sense ways of reflecting upon one’s programmatic achievements and shortcomings, and discuss briefly the value of an external evaluation component in that reflective process.
Self-examinations and external evaluations, in addition to sharing concepts and techniques, can complement each other and help to cross validate data from each approach. Self-evaluations help maintain an educational program’s health on a daily basis; expert external evaluation is essential to an in-depth and objective understanding. External evaluators offer training and experience and an “objective eye” rarely found inside a program. They can help identify goals and objectives at the onset of a program and can help participants take stock of an ongoing program. They can help establish standards, benchmarks, and milestones with which to measure student, teacher, administrator, and program performance against multiple goals. External evaluators can also provide feedback about progress toward those goals and inform policy decision makers about the impact of a program in a credible fashion. External evaluation plays an invaluable role in refining healthy programs and has a significant impact on future funding and programmatic concerns.
Evaluation is essential to learn how a gifted program works, how effective programs are, and how to raise their standards of quality. Self-evaluations should be a routine part of daily program activity. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents should be encouraged to conduct informal self-appraisals on a daily or at least weekly basis, questioning and comparing what students are doing in relation to stated program goals and objectives. Systems should be developed to give regular feedback to students, teachers, administrators, and parents, including parent-teacher conferences, faculty meetings, and student performance conferences.
External and independent evaluations complement self-evaluations by ensuring a more objective and credible appraisal. Formative evaluations provide a continual flow of information to program officials throughout a review to improve program practice. Summative evaluations can enhance formative evaluations by providing additional knowledge with a focus on policy decision making. External evaluations can improve program practice and student performance.
David M. Fetterman
- Make sure the evaluation serves the practical information needed by the targeted audiences.
- Make sure the evaluation is realistic (politically and pragmatically) and cost effective.
- Make sure the evaluation is conducted in an ethical manner.
- Make sure the evaluation is as accurate as possible.
- Make sure program documentation exists.
- Make sure you review as many relevant data sources as possible.
- Make sure you compare the program’s stated goals with their actual performance.
- Make sure you describe and assess the climate.
- Make sure you talk to students.
- Make sure program finances are reviewed.
- Make sure community and school board components are included in the evaluation.