What does a small department with three huge areas of focus do all year long? Statistically speaking, a lot! Learn about the mammoth responsibilities of the Indianapolis Public Schools Research, Evaluation and Assessment Office – including the service excellence standards they strive to consistently meet – as they break down all things testing, data and analysis.

 

What is one of the smallest departments in IPS that produces one of the heaviest loads? Did you guess the Office of Research, Evaluation and Assessment? It says it all in the title. IPS Director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation Dr. Yvonne Stokes explains some of the inner-workings of the department.

 

Explain the role of the Office of Research, Evaluation and Assessment.
Our office is a five-member department consisting of a coordinator for assessment, two data specialists who also manage professional development, and an administrative associate who all work alongside me to serve all schools and central services departments. Our combined talents and experiences include legal, statistical analysis and professional development.

 

Research
Any research requests that comes to IPS filters through our department. We review the request to determine if the research will bring value to our students, staff families or operations; and then we proceed with arranging details of the research project or deny the request. We maintain a database of all research requests.

 

Evaluation
We evaluate research data constantly and collaborate with our Curriculum Department to determine if in-house or contracted assessment tools and programs are effective or if there is a need to explore other tools to potentially utilize in the future.

 

Assessment
We handle all formative and summative (i.e., ISTEP, ECA, ISTAR, PSAT, SAT, ACT, etc.) assessments – basically anything that helps us gather data to inform us about how students are performing and progressing toward college and career readiness.

 

It seems the number of classroom and standardized assessments are innumerable, especially given that schools have many options for determining which assessments they will administer. What does testing season look like for REA?
For us testing season lasts year-round, as we are always preparing to support schools with the administration of various assessments and then analyzing the data. We support our schools and our central services departments in disaggregating the data, identifying trends, drawing conclusions, projecting outcomes and prescribing useful recommendations.

 

Data reports can be complex and we work to break them down, when necessary. IPS has data-driven leaders who want to use the information to improve student outcomes. We assist our customers by providing comprehensive reports and face-to-face consultations. We aim to offer excellent customer service each day with each interaction.

 

Excellent customer service is definitely a foundational pillar of Indianapolis Public Schools. Who are some of your other customers that benefit from the astonishing muscle of your five-member service team?
We support every IPS department, including Human Resources, the Public Relations Division, and supervisors of schools. Requests for data come rapidly, and it is our mission to quickly turn around accurate, relevant and user-friendly information.

 

I enjoy speaking directly with families as well. It is important for them to feel comfortable about the assessments their child is taking. We have recently seen many requests for more information about opting out of standardized tests. Parents want to understand what potential outcomes opting out could bring about. I share with families that they ultimately have the right to decide whether their child will participate in testing. I clarify for them that the school performance letter grade is impacted by the percentage of students tested, which in turn affects how resources that support students are allocated.

 

We serve as the gatekeepers of IPS data that is entered into Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) systems and reported by external entities. We serve on statewide committees to inform standards around assessments and data reporting. I am a staunch advocate for our students and our schools. I fight for prompt corrections when data is inaccurately reported and I ensure I am heard when processes are negatively impacting our schools. I have a good relationship with the IDOE (laughs), we know each other well! I appreciate the ability to work with the staff at the state department, who are always willing to have dialogue about what is needed or what can be improved.

 

We appreciate the unwavering advocacy and support of the IPS Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability; with Dr. Stokes at the helm, we know the district will continue to promote accuracy, timeliness and other elements we all associate with service Excellence!