As we turn the corner on 2020, we would like to express deep gratitude to all of our partners, including the public agencies, community-based organizations, and foundations that have worked tirelessly to respond to the complexities of this year. So many of us have had to quickly pivot and learn new ways of working and being of service. The pandemic and the shelter-in-place order only deepened persistent inequities in health, employment, and education, issues that we have collectively been working on for decades. The ongoing fight for racial justice has also been amplified this year with the national outpouring of grief and anger over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many more. Like many of you, over the past year, we have been overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues facing us as a nation, while also being inspired and uplifted by the resilience and adaptability of our team, our clients and our communities. We go into 2021 humbled by the work that lies before us and with a renewed commitment to achieving our mission in partnership with the clients and communities with whom we are fortunate to work.
Move to End Violence (MEV) is a 10 year effort to strengthen the collective capacity of the movements to end gender-based violence in the U.S. SPR’s 2020 evaluation brief highlights lessons arising from MEV’s evaluation that can inform field leaders looking to promote strong, innovative, and sustainable movements for social change.
Through the LEAD Center, a multi-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability and Employment Policy (ODEP), SPR and its partner, the National Disability Institute, promote workforce-related policy development and capacity building to increase employment outcomes and economic advancement for people with disabilities. We are leading veteran’s apprenticeship and equal opportunity pilots in the field, conducting monthly training opportunities for practitioners, building an online financial resiliency toolkit for individuals affected by COVID-19, and supporting states and local areas to investigate the status of their WIOA disability-related reporting, among multiple other projects.
SPR was commissioned by the Washoe County School District to evaluate the progress of The New Teacher Project and Solution Tree who have worked with 25 schools in the district to improve leadership practices, instruction, and student achievement. Results from the study shed light on the effect of these programs.
The California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care was publicly released Dec 1. As part of this work, SPR partnered with Parent Voices to engage families to bring their perspectives to the forefront of this project. Lessons learned from this project included conducting focus groups with simultaneous interpretation to create virtual multilingual spaces, and were disseminated to the field during the American Evaluation Association 2020 Conference. The accompanying blog post provides additional detail and resources for other evaluators.
Based on interviews with district and school staff across projects during the spring and summer, SPR staff published a blog post in September to highlight promising practices during distance learning to help promote their spread and scale. Among these promising practices were attending to technology and access needs, streamlining online platforms, attending to adult mental health, recognizing families as partners and equipping them with the tools they need, and empowering teachers with the basics then letting their creativity shine.
In May, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation released SPR’s study of the Poetry Out Loud (POL) program, a program that reaches more than 3.8 million students and 60,000 teachers nationally. This mixed-methods, quasi-experimental study highlights the impacts that POL participation can have on student academic achievement, student engagement, social-emotional development, and poetry appreciation.
The Colorado Trust commissioned SPR to conduct a field scan of the health equity advocacy field in Colorado and to assess the benchmarks of growth in this dynamic, emerging field. SPR has developed several learning papers on this effort focused on racial equity, effective and inclusive policy advocacy, and how to center communities in change efforts.
SPR staff recently published a blog post highlighting the use of Photovoice as an evaluative method that integrates community participation for an anti-eviction and displacement initiative for which SPR is an evaluator.