Get Your Facts Straight

Don't be caught unprepared when your grant application calls for data.

Successful grant applications use data to build a solid case for why a proposal should be funded. There is no scarcity of data in most of today's school districts thanks to increasingly sophisticated management systems; yet educators often end up scrambling to collect data that should be readily available. Creating a data library is an effective way to prevent this frantic dash for information.

Identify commonly required data elements. Individual grant programs will have some very specific data requirements; however, there are certain data elements that are almost always requested. That data includes student and community demographics (ethnicity, primary language, participation in special education programs, parent education levels); attendance records; discipline rates; student achievement indicators (standardized test scores, grade point averages, graduation rates); staffing levels; equipment inventories; and titles for adopted curricula.

Collect and organize the data. Chances are the data you need is available but probably not in one place. Create a master chart that lists the common data elements you will gather. Next, collect and organize the information. Paper documents can be labeled and placed in a central location, and electronic files may be saved in one clearly named folder on a conveniently located computer. Add notations to the master chart identifying where the information is and in what format. If a special report needs to be generated through the student information or data management system, identify the name of the report and who can generate it. As updated data becomes available, add it to the library.

Keep staff informed. Building and maintaining a data library is not a one-person job. Plan to engage staff from the beginning to identify common data elements and collect current information. Once the library is established, distribute copies of the master chart to teachers, program specialists, and other staff, and ask for their assistance in keeping the information up-to-date.

A data library comes in handy for more than just grant proposals. Program evaluations, reports, and plans all require this same information. Save yourself time and energy by getting started on your data library today.

Susan Brooks-Young is an educational consultant and writer.