Responding to COVID-19: How to Adjust Your Data Management Plan

by | May 29, 2020

The COVID-19 public health crisis changed the way most of us do our work. Many of our clients, especially those who  are school-based or operate afterschool programs, faced the challenge of ending their school-year programming unexpectedly. Programs are trying to find new ways to engage youth virtually and are planning for new safety restrictions for summer programming.  

This crisis is also impacting many programs’ ability to report on their results and outcomes. If you have incomplete data for this program year, you may wonder how to best report your impact. Here are four steps to adjust your data management plan in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

1. Identify data points that you can no longer measure or report

Your program first needs to identify if there are data points you can’t measure. 

For example, programs that closed unexpectedly might not be able to do internal end-of-the-year assessments or surveys. This limits a program’s ability to collect feedback on the program and other key data points.  

At Transform Consulting Group, we work as a local evaluator for multiple 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLCs). Their programming year came to a sudden halt when schools across Indiana closed. The programs we work with report on performance measures related to academic grades and standardized testing. Schools were not able to complete Spring standardized testing, due to the sudden closures. As a result, our 21st CCLCs have incomplete academic data for the year.

2. Review your timeline

Review your data management timeline and consider if you can extend timelines to allow for the collection and reporting of more valuable and meaningful data. 

For example, the Indiana Department of Education extended the original due date for 21st CCLC programs to submit their fall data. They recognized that, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, programs have other priorities. This extra time allowed programs to prioritize pressing needs, and come back to their data reporting at a time when they can give it full attention and care. Don’t be afraid to ask your partners or funders for an extension (we’ll get to this more in the next step!).

3. Have honest, level-setting conversations with your partners, funders, and board members

Once you identify data points that you are missing for the year, you will need to reach out to your funders, board, or anyone else who holds you accountable or shares your data. Let them know the issues you are facing with your data and discuss a plan of action. Consider how you might adjust your data collection method and/or indicators. If extending deadlines would benefit your program and lead to more valuable data, don’t hesitate to ask about the possibility. Make sure you understand the expectations of your partners and funders and reach consensus on how to move forward.

For example, if your end-of-year academic data is incomplete, perhaps your program can report on mid-year assessments that your students completed. Or if your program was not able to collect end-of-the-year surveys, consider sending one out electronically. If your participants don’t have access to the internet or other technology, you can hold follow-up phone calls to collect feedback.

4. Identify new data your program can pull and leverage

While many programs and organizations are missing program data for this year, there are new, comprehensive data sources related to COVID-19 that you can leverage. For example, college and career readiness programs may be interested in research currently conducted by Strada Education Network. Their COVID-19 Work and Education Survey assesses the impact of COVID-19 on the lives, work and education of Americans, while providing insights about education and training needs. Organizations should use sources such as this to inform their programming and future work. You may also use this data to make the case for continued or increased funding for your program if COVID-19 has increased the need or demand for services in your community. Some other great COVID-19 data resources include:

At Transform Consulting Group, we are committed to helping you accelerate AND communicate your impact. In the midst of this crisis, we know you are doing amazing work in your community. If you need help highlighting that work and reporting your outcomes, contact us today!

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