Below is a summary of the 2006-07 Report.
A PDF of the complete informal report can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.
An Evaluation of A Trail to Every Classroom, 2006-07
August 30, 2007
Prepared for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
By Catherine M. Iacuzzi, Sharon Plumb, Amy L. Powers, and PEER Associates, Inc.
Summary of Key Evaluation Findings
· TTEC summer institute participants implemented TTEC to varying degrees ranging from limited inclusion in curriculum to large projects, including the creation of outdoor oriented clubs, in-service training for other educators, hikes, and service-learning projects. Most educators have implemented place-based education curricula and some educators have moved on to implementing service-learning projects.
· Successful implementation of TTEC curriculum was influenced by a range of factors that interacted in varied ways by project. Some of the factors supporting implementation of TTEC identified by educators and community partners included the educator/community partner relationship, administrative support, personal commitment to the project, and available time and resources.
· Likewise, TTEC educators and community partners experienced a range of challenges to implementation. Common challenges included administrative support, education environment (testing and standards), limited time, and limited material resources.
· The educator/community partner relationship supported effective implementation of projects. These relationships were strongest when there was good communication and commitment to the project on both parties’ behalf. However, in the face of other challenges, this relationship did not guarantee successful implementation.
· TTEC positively influenced educators’ knowledge of and involvement with the AT, in both their professional and personal lives.
· TTEC positively impacted student learning. Students showed more interest and enjoyment in learning. In addition, students showed increased knowledge of and interest in both the AT and service-learning.
· Most educators and community partners believed that the institute was a valuable training and should continue. Several educators and community partners believed that TTEC will become increasingly successful as additional people are trained.
Educators and community partners identified several opportunities for continued improvement. These opportunities included additional communication with and support from TTEC staff and management partners, opportunities for ongoing networking, ongoing training, and access to funding resources.
Educators and community partners found the TTEC program valuable and wanted to see it sustained. In addition, it is clear that TTEC curriculum and programming was implemented in local communities. There appeared to be a developmental trajectory for educators, such that they began their foray into place-based education and service-learning by integrating their classroom material with AT related material. Once educators developed a level of comfort with place-based education, they seemed to more easily move into implementing service-learning projects.
As educators implemented TTEC curriculum, they experienced a range of factors that either supported or impeded successful implementation. The degree to which educators and community partners worked together to enhance supporting factors and limited impeding factors determined the degree to which TTEC curriculum was implemented in local communities. Most educators and community partners would value additional support from the TTEC program in managing these factors.
The educator/community partner relationship appeared to be one factor that had a significant affect on TTEC implementation. These relationships were strongest when both educators and community partners made a commitment to the project and communicated with each other regularly. However, this relationship alone was not sufficient to make TTEC programming a success. The other factors that supported or impeded implementation overrode the importance of this relationship. Thus, there appeared to be a convergence of factors that were important to successful implementation. How these factors interact and what combinations are necessary for successful implementation cannot be determined from this evaluation, but will become important to sort through as TTEC continues to develop.
Overall, educators and community partners believed that the institute was a valuable training and should continue. Several educators and community partners believed that TTEC will become more successful as more people are trained. While enthusiastic about TTEC, several opportunities for continued growth and improvement were identified, including additional communication with and support from TTEC staff and management partners, and additional opportunities to network with other participants.
TTEC has positively impacted both educators and students. Educators, in general, are more enthusiastic about place-based education and service-learning. In addition, they became more engaged with the AT in their personal lives. Students learned more effectively, showed more interest in learning, and enjoyed school more. In addition, students involved in TTEC activities showed increased knowledge of and interest in both the AT and service-learning. Therefore, it appears that TTEC successfully changed both educators’ and students’ involvement in place-based education, service-learning, and the Appalachian Trail.
· Consider developing multiple types of institutes/workshops and supplemental resources designed along a continuum to meet educator readiness to “change.” Educators and schools new to place-based education in general, and service-learning in particular, may need more guidance, while those with more experience or motivation may need other types of support.
· Provide multiple regional gatherings throughout the years. These can have multiple purposes and serve as powerful networking opportunities. Educators and community partners can share their successes, inspire and get inspired by fellow TTEC alumni. Community partners could update participants on what events/activities/resources are going on and what they can provide to educators.
· Make additional resources available to assist educators in seeking approval and support from administrators to implement TTEC curriculum. Several educators have been challenged with showing the value of place-based education in the context of an environment focused on facts and testing. Possible resources could include a PowerPoint presentation, a fact sheet, or direct assistance from management partners on how to effectively communicate with administrators.
· Consider developing a train-the-trainer model in which individuals such as community partners are trained to facilitate TTEC workshops in their region. This would help regional schools/educators see these management partners as resources to continue to tap for support. This has been very successful in one region where educators implemented training for their peers.
· Given ATC’s limited staffing, and the regional distribution of management partners, it seems valuable to explore using and supporting the ATC partners more fully as a step toward sustainability and program growth. The management partners are already in place, and many of them have deemed public education an important goal, albeit to varying degrees.
o Consider providing some kind of capacity building grant for management partners to tap into to expand their ability to integrate TTEC into their job responsibilities.
o Offer trainings designed for community partners so that they more fully understand their responsibilities and they can determine how TTEC ties into their existing work.
· Consider assessing educators’ understanding of applying place-based education and TTEC curriculum to meeting testing standards. Provide additional training and support to those educators who need it in this area.