Measurement Resources’ Program Evaluation for VSA Ohio:
Data and Storytelling Result in 360-degree Impact Report
VSA Ohio’s Adaptation, Integration, and the Arts (AIA) program was launched during the 2003–2004 academic year, and has continued to grow throughout the state. VSA Ohio’s mission is to make the arts and arts education accessible and inclusive for people with any disability and their support networks. Through integration of the arts in an equitable way, the AIA program provides a platform for students and educators to explore the human experience, together, and to nourish students’ self-worth and curiosity in ways that many general education settings are not equipped to do.
As a small organization, VSA Ohio did not have the time or resources to conduct the program evaluation they knew they needed to continually improve and achieve more impact year over year. They proposed to the primary funder of the AIA program to outsource this work to a research firm, and the funder agreed that this would be putting a portion the funding VSA Ohio had received to good use. For the past six years, VSA Ohio has teamed up with Measurement Resources Company (MRC) to conduct annual evaluations of the AIA program.
“MRC helps us do more with less,” Erin Hoppe, Erin J. Hoppe, MA, CTA, executive director, VSA Ohio. “The arts field is already stretched, and we’re always asked to do more and to do it better. This can be a challenge for an arts-based organization.”
Erin goes on to explain how the evaluation process allows the organization to build additional accountability and transparency into its reporting, to openly demonstrate to funders what’s going well—or if something isn’t going as well as anticipated, how the organization plans to address any areas of concern. The program evaluation also provides evidence that underscores the degree to which the organization makes the most of its resources, further demonstrating to funders that VSA Ohio is a good steward of their investments.
“There’s also currently a large and growing body of research related to arts education, but much of this research is not specific to students with disabilities,” said Erin. “We want to push the field forward by making this research available to all, and because the research is being conducted by an established, professional research firm, we can feel good about contributing solid data to that body of knowledge.”
In addition to this contribution, the impact reports have helped raise the visibility of the organization. VSA Ohio has been invited to give several presentations throughout the years, increasing awareness about its mission, the AIA program, and the social impact the program has achieved.
“Over the past years, we’ve looked at the data,” said Erin. “But the 2018 impact report went a step further, putting faces and moments to that data, to really bring it home to funders, partners and school administrators.”
While the data indicate how students benefit from arts in the classroom, the 2018 report expanded its narrative to include teachers, aides, and principals. Not only does VSA Ohio get recognized for this impact, the report helps its teachers, aides and principals make the case for the AIA program. Not only do they have data, they have really powerful stories to go along with it. What’s more, the data and stories combined have helped changed perceptions by providing clear indications of personal growth, as well as unique key takeaways of the individuals involved in the program.
“MRC has helped us streamline how we do this work,” said Erin. “It has helped inform how we talk about this work we’re doing, and the value we bring.”