As THINK Together has grown and expanded exponentially since 2006, the commitment to data-driven decision making has also grown.
THINK Together is committed to engaging in both internal and external evaluation and research practices that inform and guide our actions toward continuous program improvement.
Our internal research and evaluation team consists of the Director and three part-time staff, two of which are also full-time doctoral students in the Department of Education at the University of California (UC), Irvine. This team facilitates the strategic development and collection of meaningful data that serve as measures of student progress and stakeholder satisfaction. In particular, in order to help determine the academic impact of each type of program, THINK collects academic performance data from its district partners, but also collects survey feedback from multiple stakeholders. In order to ensure staff put this data into action, the evaluation team engages staff in regular data reflection practices that guide them in using these outcomes to inform program development both as process and outcome measures.
Research Partnership with UC Irvine
Externally, THINK has developed a strong research partnership with the Department of Education at UC, Irvine, under the leadership of the Department Chair and national afterschool expert Dr. Deborah Vandell that includes both external evaluation work as well as the establishment of a THINK Together Fellowship.
In 2008, THINK Together became a state-approved supplemental educational services provider in California and partnered with the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) to implement the High-Quality Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and 21st Century Community Learning Centers After-School Partnerships Demonstration program, one of just five projects awarded nationally. The projects served as models of how these two federally authorized afterschool initiatives can be coordinated so that a greater number of students enroll in, participate in, and complete academic after-school services that improve their achievement in reading and math. Throughout this three-year study, UC Irvine has consistently found significant academic gains related to student attendance in THINK SES and other THINK programs.
In addition, THINK Together has initiated a unique commitment to being research-driven with the establishment of a THINK Together Fellowship with UC, Irvine. The Fellowship has been awarded to Tracy Bennett, THINK Together’s Manager of Program Evaluation, who began UC Irvine’s Ph.D. Program in Education in 2009. Under the advisement of respected afterschool expert Dr. Deborah Vandell, Tracy’s research examines the relationships between afterschool and school day alignment and standardized test scores. Tracy’s body of work will serve to inform the afterschool community about promising practices, as well as techniques and strategies that will help develop afterschool programs that can deliver high-quality programming and have a measurable impact on the academic success of students.