Thing 20 : Evidence Based Practice – Collecting Data

As we continued work on our annual report I realized I needed a refresher on WHY we are are doing an annual report. It’s so easy to take the easy path and throw seemingly impressive numbers on a page, make it pretty, and move on. But that’s not what it’s all about. Jennifer LaGarde’s post School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library And Student Learning  our annual report needs to be about students not stuff!

She gives four great reasons to create an annual report

  1. Assuming others know what you do is stupid silly.
  2. Our work doesn’t matter if it doesn’t impact students.
  3. “We’re in this together” is a message we cannot send too many time.
  4. Reflection makes us better.

“We’re in this together” is a message we cannot send too many time.  Using the annual report to reflect on student and library data shows teachers and administrators that we are just as invested in student growth as they are.  Instead of running around fretting about our inventories, the annual report gives us the opportunity to show that we are fretting about the same thing every other adult in the building is fretting about at the end of the year: student achievement. (School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library And Student Learning, Jennifer LaGarde 2013)

With these points in mind I reviewed numbers that seem important to me…..should they be included? Why? Is there a better way to show student achievement?

Doug Johnson’s articles Demonstrating Our Impact: Putting Numbers in Context – Part 1 and Part 2 were a great, albeit overwhelming, resource.  My takeaways……

1. Our numbers help show our value….by inference.

Counting things. Year-end reports that include circulation statistics, library usage, and collection size data are a common way for building library programs to demonstrate the degree to which they are being used, and by inference, having an impact on the educational program in the school.

2. But we need to be looking at other ways to show value

There is a movement away from counting things: materials, circulation, online resource uses, website hits, individual student visits, whole class visits and special activities conducted (tech fairs, reading promotions, etc.) to enumerating how many instructional activities were accomplished:  booktalks given, skill lessons taught, teacher in-services provided, pathfinders/bibliographies created and collaborative units conducted. Administrators are less concerned about how many materials are available and more concerned about how they are being used.

3. Student and staff surveys are a great way to get feedback.

I have put it on my calendar for next year to conduct surveys post-orientation. I will also discuss with administration about requiring end of project/year surveys. Doug Johnson’s  Part 2 provides a great list of questions as well as other resources for these surveys.

4. STORIES and anecdotes MUST be part of our annual report.

When “selling” our programs, our visions, and ourselves to those we wish to influence, we need to tell our stories.

Context and Focus Numbers alone, of course, mean little. They need to be interpreted and placed in some type of meaningful context. Context can be achieved by setting and meeting goals and by looking at numbers in a historical context. Look, for example, at how each statement gets more powerful:
•    28 teachers participated in collaborative units (Is this good or bad?)
•    78% of teachers in the building participated in collaborative units (This tells me more.)
•    78% of teachers, up from 62% of teachers last year, participated in collaborative teaching units. (This shows a program that is getting stronger.)

Got it! I am ready to kick it up a notch.

It’s too late this year to pull more numbers but looking back I see many things that I hadn’t considered about including. We did some student surveys and the teachers did surveys that pertained to our time in the library together. They can easily be added along with more pictures.

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About Kim Nemeth

Hello and welcome to my blog. I am a High School Library Media Specialist in beautiful Saratoga Springs New York. I am an avid reader and am addicted to learning. This blog was originally started as part of the Cool Tools for Schools project in 2012. Since then I have continued to participate in Cool Tools for Schools and add my thoughts here. I found this blog to be an excellent place to refer to when I needed an idea or had a tick mark in my head and needed a reminder. I would love comments and feedback on my posts. Enjoy!
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One Response to Thing 20 : Evidence Based Practice – Collecting Data

  1. Terrific, you’ve got some great ideas for going forward.

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