State Level Challenges to Using a Strength-Based Approach
David Murphey of the Vermont Agency of Human Services discussed the state's experiences with promotional indicators.
Survey overload. Vermont was interested in gathering more information with an additional survey, but did not want to bog down students and educators. Vermont currently fields the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) every other year and was interested in also adding a Search Institute survey. To ease the burden, Vermont made the Search survey voluntary and slated it for years when the YRBS is not fielded. Also, the state agreed to pay for the surveys and provide reports for the smaller communities and school districts. (The survey costs about $2 per questionnaire and $500 per report.) Although the survey is voluntary, approximately half of the students who received it took it. (Vermont did not add the Search survey questions to the YRBS because of the length of a combined instrument. They felt that to combine the two would have compromised both.)
Potentially confusing language. Vermont is careful to organize and summarize findings in ways that reduce confusion.
The state of the science. Certain indicators and assets are better researched than are others. Vermont tends rely on the better researched indicators.
Following up on the data. Beyond sharing data with communities, states need to work with the communities to implement findings into planning. Vermont has school-building-level action plans that involve the use of data beyond grades and test scores.
Walking the talk. New ideas need to be incorporated into policies, not thought of as new management techniques.
Murphey presented five assets selected for examination in Vermont:
Parent involvement in schooling
Percentage of students reporting family love and support
Percentage of students reporting parents set rules and consequences
Children who have 2 to 3 (or more) nonparental adults that care about them
Young persons who feel that young people are seen as resources in their community.
Murphey says Vermont is interested in looking at how to train youth leaders and how to get adults to work in a collaborative and positive way with youth.
Debbykay Peterson: Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning
Minnesota has a universal health and development screening program which is a screening required by all children prior to entering the public school system. The early childhood data that comes from this screening is:
A snapshot of health development and other factors in young children
A complement to other data sources (such as maternal and child health and Census data) and provides a system of accountability
Why is the Screening Program Important?
It provides information on the status of young children.
It connects rural regions of the state to data.
It provides a means of outreach to diverse clientele.
The data gathered is used in many different ways, including
With different denominators (county, state, economic developments, school districts, etc)
Analysis that overlaps different data
The early childhood screening outcome data can be added to K-12 data to provide information on percent of kids in the normal ranges with hearing, vision, immunization, primary language spoken in homes, and other measures. The screening program evolved with the implementation of graduation standards and early benchmarks.
Rebekah Hudgins, Georgia
Regarding the issue of training youth leaders and adults working with youth. There is a need to have family representatives at the table to help make the best decisions.
Regarding data uses. How are we using this data? We (researchers and practitioners) need to be aware of data uses and measures of data.
What do legislators want? How do we package and present information?