If your community is like most, then you know a lot about young people as students: their attendance rates, grades, test scores and the rankings of their schools. But what do you know about the majority of their lives – the time when they are not in school? Probably not as much.
To make good decisions, leaders need complete data from all the settings and systems where young people spend their time. They need information about youths’ physical and mental health, after-school activities, employment and family structure, and more. They need information about the extent and performance of existing services and supports.
Without this, you risk adding to supports that aren’t needed or effective, and missing young people in need. Better data will help you use your resources more efficiently and effectively.
Here are resources that address common questions:
How do we figure out what data we need?
To see what data is available and what you need to find, ask your stakeholders to complete this Taking Stock Worksheet. It will help you assess what data is already at hand and where you should improve data collection.
Where do we get information about youth outcomes?
Do the youth with whom you work have the skills to communicate, think critically, show initiative and collaborate with others? Research shows that teachers and business leaders agree that such “high-order thinking” skills are crucial for college and career success. That’s why the Forum produced From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes, a guide to measuring skills and attitudes that cut across academic and social emotional outcomes. The guide reviews eight youth outcome measurement tools that are appropriate for use in after-school and other settings, providing sample items and crucial information about usability, cost, and evidence of reliability and validity.
Additionally, Gallup, a Ready by 21 National Partner, is breaking ground by directly surveying youth about important outcomes: their hopes, well-being and school engagement. Researchers have linked these factors to student performance and success. For example: Did you know that young people’s scores on hope are better predictors of college success than their GPAs or SAT scores? But that only half are hopeful about their futures?
Find out more about the 2011 National results through the Hope, Wellbeing and Engagement data sheets.
If you’re looking to fill gaps in the outcome data that you collect, the Child Trends DataBank is invaluable. The DataBank is a one-stop source for the latest national trends and research on over 100 key indicators of child and youth well-being, and breaks down data to state and county levels.
Where do we get more information about the existing supports in our community?
Try landscape mapping. The Program Landscape Mapping Packet helps you figure out what services and supports are available for young people, and whether they are reaching those who need them the most.
How do we know the quality of those supports?
There are lots of program quality assessments out there. To help you make a decision that best meets your needs, the Forum for Youth Investment created Measuring Youth Program Quality: A Guide to Assessment Tools, 2nd Edition.
How do we use data to illustrate the actions taken by leaders?
Leaders and policymakers are inundated with spreadsheets and budgets, but they often don’t have information on the story behind the numbers. Adding it up: A Guide for Mapping Public Resources for Children, Youth and Families shows you how to present not just dollars and cents, but a fiscal picture that provides information about children, youth and communities.
See the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s Resource Mapping of Services for Children for how one state is getting a fuller picture of expenditures per child and reorganizing the state budget to reflect spending in the areas of safety, health, education, support and nurturance, and engagement.