By Stacie Cherner
When the Jim Joseph Foundation’s evaluators’ consortium met last November, the overall focus was on the long road ahead towards developing a common set of measures – survey items, interview schedules, frameworks for documenting distinctive features of programs – to be used as outcomes and indicators of Jewish learning and growth for teens and young adults. Consortium members and the Foundation were especially excited to learn about the work led by George Washington University to develop a common set of long-term outcomes and shared metrics to improve the Foundation’s ability to look at programs and outcomes across grantees and over time. A key part of this endeavor will be an online menu – developed in consultation with evaluation experts and practitioners – from which grantees can choose to measure their program outcomes.
Already, the GW team is making significant progress towards this end. As part of Foundation efforts to inform and advance the field, we think this process and the lessons related to these efforts are important to share.
To begin, the GW team reviewed the desired outcomes and evaluation reports from a dozen past Foundation grants representing a variety of programs. Six grants address the Foundation’s strategic priority of providing immersive and ongoing Jewish experiences for teens and young adults. Six others address the strategic priority of educating Jewish educators and leaders.
For this latter strategic priority, the GW team offers a welcome “outsider” perspective, bringing strong expertise on outcomes in secular education and teacher training into the development of common outcomes for the Foundation’s Jewish educator grants. For example, how do programs measure quality and teacher retention? Both of these qualities are desired outcomes for these Foundation grants. Yet, if these qualities are not measured with common metrics, the Foundation will never be able to properly determine if its grantmaking in these areas is successful. GW’s expertise in this area and strong relationship with the Foundation are beginning to provide important solutions to these challenges.
To be clear, these efforts are works in progress. The unique and collaborative relationship of our Evaluators’ Consortium makes them possible. In fact, members of the Consortium have volunteered to be advisors, working with GW, on the project to develop common outcomes for Jewish educator grants. They provide valuable insights of their own based on their work together and individually with Foundation grantees. Notably, this work intersects in several ways – with current field building grants, such as the Jewish Survey Question Bank; CASJE, which aims to bring the rigor and standards of general education applied research to Jewish education; the cross community Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative evaluation; and the ongoing evaluation work with which grantees and evaluation consultants engage on a regular basis.
We look forward to sharing the framework of our long-term outcomes and to using these new measurement tools. We then will begin to test if these tools help grantees measure progress and improve; help evaluators document progress and report useful and valuable lessons learned; and help the Foundation gather information on long-term outcomes across several grants. Along with these specific tools and outcomes, we are confident that related learnings about field building efforts, work with teens, and ongoing evaluation will be of use to the field and will contribute to even more effective Jewish education.
Stacie Cherner is a Senior Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation.