Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Needs Assessment Project Mirrors District Demands

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Needs Assessment Project Mirrors District Demands

Article excerpt

Needs assessment is a crucial element in the strategic planning process of school districts across the country. Results of these studies are instrumental in evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs; predicting the need for additional programs, facilities and other resources; and gauging requirements of special populations.

With our society constantly experiencing demographic and attitudinal shifts, districts without a program to evaluate and track these changes are at a disadvantage. Often such studies seem far too time-, labor- and money-intensive to be practical. Manual data entry of surveys can easily overwhelm most budgets and clerical personnel.

However, this doesn't have to be the case. In a needs-assessment application that mirrors those of many school districts, the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., demonstrates that such studies can be conducted in a timely, cost-effective manner.

* Call to Action

"Our objective was to understand the demographic and societal changes our diocese is experiencing and their effect on how our parishes and diocese serve parishioners," explains Edmund Glabus, director of the Diocesan Office of Research and Planning. "Additionally, we wished to identify those areas in which we are successful, and those in which we need more work."

The first step was to identify who to study. It was decided to use as large a cross section of the Catholic population as possible. Eleven separate groups were identified.

"Our next thought was 'How are we going to do this?'" says Glabus. A colleague suggested using machine-read technology. Glabus says they had heard of optical mark reading being used successfully for similar, though not as extensive, studies by other dioceses and archdioceses, so they felt comfortable with the technology. "The only thing we had to do was find a company that could help us put everything together," he says," and that's when we discovered Scantron."

* Surveys Are Developed

Working with a Scantron representative, Glabus' task force chose a Scantron Model 8400 Optical Mark Reader with a special ink readhead that enables respondents to use pen or pencil when filling out surveys. A series of scannable questionnaires was then developed. …

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