Please welcome guest blogger Gwynne Morrissey, who has been working in the schools with teachers to measure student growth.
Three secondary school nurses came to a workshop wanting to measure students’ learning related to a one-time video and discussion about signs of suicidal thinking. How could they measure student growth in understanding this very important topic?
Well . . . I had reservations. It is a very important topic, but this video/discussion combination is a small portion of these nurses’ work, and the content wasn’t delivered by the nurses themselves. We could measure students’ knowledge before the video and just after the post-video discussion, and count the number of visits students made to the nurse’s office related to having suicidal thoughts. But what would that tell nurses about how they could improve their work? How many visits would count as “moderate” growth in students’ learning? It seemed like a non-starter.
Instead, I suggested they come up with a topic more representative of the scope of their work that would provide important information about their work and how it supports the school’s academics. Here is what they identified as their most important tasks:
- getting ‘frequent fliers’ back to class more quickly (or keeping them in class in the first place)
- improving the frequency with which students with special dietary or medical needs provide their own needs, rather than rely on the nurse
In response to these topics, we drafted several DDM ideas that align nicely with DESE’s suggestions in the Implementation Brief SISP (page 6). Those ideas and a few others can be found in this collection of Five DDM Options for School Nurses (Better to download the document itself as it features terrific illustrations.)
Five DDM Options for School Nurses
1. Parent survey
Purpose: to determine parents’ perceptions of the effectiveness of nurse visits for their children
Timing: collect throughout year, aggregate at end of each year to compare to previous year
Notes: could use surveys for particular groups of students, like those who must receive medications
2. Seat time/unnecessary visits
Purpose: to measure degree to which unnecessary visits to the nurse are reduced or students’ time spent in class is increased
Timing: collect monthly or quarterly, compare beginning of year to end of year
Notes: there may be groups for whom an effort to increase class time is particularly important (‘frequent fliers’): could limit measurement to those students; maybe this is a measure of how much time certain students spend in the nurse’s office (could depend on tracking systems already in place.
3. Effects of health lesson or educational/prevention campaign
Purpose: to measure how effective the lesson/campaign was in increasing student knowledge or changing behavior
Timing: before and after lesson/campaign, maybe during (depends!)
Notes: One health lesson is probably too small a unit to examine: a unit is more reasonable, though you could make a case for one lesson in some instances. A campaign would have challenges in measuring effects, but could be hugely consequential for the school environment.
4. Completed vision exam cycles
Purpose: to determine how many students—or, more realistically, parents—follow through on results of school-based vision screenings by seeing an ophthalmologist or optometrist, returning the form to the school nurse, and getting glasses (and wearing them!)
Timing: yearly (post-test only format)
Notes: This may work best in elementary and possibly middle schools.
5. Independent monitoring of health needs or accessories
Purpose: to measure how many eligible students increase the frequency of bringing their own snack, monitoring their own health needs, rather than relying on the nurse to provide them with necessities
Timing: beginning and end of year, or repeated measures including middle of the year
Notes: This may work best in middle and high schools, and for certain groups of students, such as those with diabetes.