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Experience With “Practical Evaluation”(I)

“Practical evaluation” involves more than grading the efficacy of a school improvement program, it informs operating decisions. Yesterday’s posting on the subject reminded me of some relevant experience.

In the mid-1990’s New American Schools and its eight Comprehensive School Reform Designs decided on a dissemination strategy based on sales rather than grants. In pursuit of this revolutionary approach to nonprofit school reform activities NAS sought to seed a national market by negotiating Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with a jurisdictions across the nation - states and local education agencies, and collections of school districts. (While at RAND, I helped devise the strategy, and wrote the MOU negotating draft. Later, I joined NAS to help implement the plan.)

What these partners brought to the table were potential clients and revenues. What NAS offered was the designs and Design Teams; a process for matching schools and designs, including any those of other organizations districts chose to add; a liason officer; $250,000 to prime the pump (note that three-year costs for design implementation ranged from $75-300,000 per school), and access to RAND’s ongoing evaluation of the NAS effort, then moving into its dissemination phase.

This last part of the package may have been the most important.

Tomorrow: Why.

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