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K-12Lead of the Week

The Evolving Market in Program Evaluation Services

Announcement: Grant Project Management Services (Evaluation Registry) Due January 17, Manatee County Public Schools, Florida

Their Description:
The School District of Manatee County plans to establish a registry of experienced and qualified contractors to provide evaluation services for a wide range of educational projects. The initial contract will be for a three year period, with two (2) one year renewal options.... [I]f new evaluators are required, then approved vendors may be added at Purchasing Department discretion and with school board approval.... The District seeks multiple vendors with a strong background in advanced data analysis who will provide technical assistance in evaluation design, conduct appropriate surveys, collect data, analyze data, and prepare reports....

A contract could be awarded to all respondents who receive a score of 100 points or higher, in the evaluation process. All respondents achieving the minimum score will comprise the registry of evaluators who will be called upon to evaluate the various district projects. There is no guarantee of how much work any one consultant will receive, but all will be given equal opportunity to perform the work based upon their individual schedules and qualifications....

The evaluation contractor will be paid as a percentage of the grant award with the percentage based on level of evaluation service required by the project....

The evaluation contractor will be expected to assist in evaluation design during the grant proposal development process. In addition, the evaluator will be expected to work closely and regularly with administrative and program personnel to fulfill the evaluation requirements of the program. Programs may be funded by local, state, or federal agencies, as well as private organizations. Program evaluations are generally required on an annual basis, although interim reports may be required. Additionally, funding entities may also require a large-scale evaluation for which the evaluator would be responsible.... Evaluation contractors are also responsible for the statistical analysis of the collected data as well as writing an evaluation report for submittal to School District of Manatee County that meets local requirements and requirements of the funding agency in a timely fashion.

Evaluation Criteria:

(30 points) Past Experience ...
(25 points) Professional Capacity...
(50 points) Breadth of Experience...
(10 points) References
(20 points) Fee Structure
(15 points) Letter of Recommendation.

My Thoughts: Ten years ago the evaluation of school improvement programs was rare. High quality evaluations, drawing on principles of the scientific method to prove/disprove hypotheses about a program’s value-added to student performance as measured by test scores was even more rare. The large-scale evaluation of multiple school improvement interventions offered for a fee to hundreds of schools in dozen of locations I was engaged in at RAND for New American Schools, and then at NAS itself, as a basis for investment and consumer decisions was almost unprecedented. There was certainly nothing of its scale at the time, nor has there been since.

In 2007 we still have a very long way to go to improve research methodology, and to tease practical meaning out of scientifically-baed evaluations program, and we still have some way to go before they are actually used to bar programs from the marketplace. Nevertheless, the demand for third party evaluation services will only grow over the next decade.

Just as lawyers must do “conflicts checks” there will come a point where evaluators will have to decide if they are going to work for the sellers or the buyers of school improvement services. In this RFP we see the beginning of the market in “buy side” evaluations. The time for choice is not here yet, but research organizations should be thinking about it.

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