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GYO Program Sustainability

Candidate and Partner Feedback

As the GYO Development Process illustrates, the sustainability of Grow Your Own (GYO) programs is rooted in ongoing, cyclical program evaluation. GYO program leadership are encouraged to develop evaluation procedures that include continuous collection and analysis of program data (See Candidate Tracking) along with candidate, alumni, and partner feedback to inform program adjustment. 

Feedback questionnaires can be general, asking respondents if they feel the GYO program is improving and diversifying the community educator pipeline, or questionnaires can be specific, asking respondents to point out program features that are working well, areas that could use improvement, and suggestions for program refinement. Questionnaires can also be customized for different stakeholder groups and the method of feedback collection.  

Feedback groups should include a range of stakeholders involved in GYO program operations, including current and potential candidates, program alumni, and candidates who may have left the program to pursue other professional fields. Local Education Agency (LEA) respondents could include school and district leadership, human resources staff, guidance counselors, and cooperating teachers. Community respondents could include parents and community organizations, and higher education respondents could include educator preparation program leadership, professors, and supervisors for candidate fieldwork.  

Feedback collection tools can be varied to account for respondent availability and comfortability, and to allow for free expression and honest feedback. Regular, standing meetings with GYO program partners and candidates are natural opportunities to collect feedback. Meetings can also be supplemented with additional feedback tools such as surveys, focus groups, and candidate cohort meetings. To encourage openness, focus groups can be held in neutral or virtual locations (e.g., at coffee shops rather than school-based meeting spaces) and neutral GYO program staff members can host cohort meetings rather than course professors. Anonymous online surveys are great options for those who prefer to share feedback privately. 

GYO program leadership should review all feedback received in a timely manner and routinely discuss potential program improvements based on feedback analysis. These discussions could fold into the Design phase of the GYO Development Process, possibly prompting a redistribution of the Needs Assessment or Network Inventory forms, or the expansion of program Entry Points to increase GYO candidates. Feedback could also address Implementation phase features such as increased access to financial support or suggestions to improve cohort mentorship.

Candidate Tracking

Tracking candidate progression throughout Grow Your Own (GYO) programs and beyond is important to accurately evaluate program success. Starting with candidate recruitment, GYO programs can take note of potential candidate demographics (e.g., gender, age, race/ethnicity, educational background, etc.) and compare the data to that of enrolled candidates, program alumni, and those who leave the program. Demographic differences across the enrollment phases can illuminate potential gaps in recruitment and program support. 

GYO programs are also encouraged to track candidates’ post-program education and employment experiences, such as the higher education institutions they attend, degree programs they enroll in, certifications they receive, career paths they pursue, and the communities, schools, or companies where they work. When possible, it is helpful to also collect this information from candidates who leave GYO programs prior to completion, for some continue to pursue education careers and this information can be helpful in evaluating GYO program design and implementation. 

Tools for collecting tracking data are similar to those used for collecting candidate and partner feedback. Anonymous surveys can be distributed to GYO program stakeholders such as Local Education Agencies (LEAs), Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), and potential, current, and past candidates. When available, assessment data can also be informative, including candidate certification testing as well as their students’ state assessment data. Continued cohort meetings are not only opportunities to track post-program alumni experiences but also valuable spaces to provide continued mentorship and support. 

Demographic data and post-program experiences should be analyzed alongside candidate and partner feedback for a holistic evaluation of GYO programs and an informed platform from which to implement needed adjustments in program design and/or implementation.

Share Your Programs & Events

Successful Grow Your Own (GYO) programs are sustained through continued growth in each of the Essential Elements of GYO Programs: Partnerships, Wide View of Education, Clear Program Pathways, Community Recruitment, and Candidate Support. Sharing GYO programs and events through multiple public communications can increase program enrollment, inspire other communities to develop or expand their own GYO programs, increase partnerships, and potentially lead to additional program resources. 

Local Education Agencies (LEAs) can include GYO program information on school and district websites. Extracurricular GYO programs can be added to club and activity pages, while academic GYO programs (e.g., Career and Technical Education (CTE), dual enrollment education courses, etc.) can be added to curriculum and instruction pages. GYO recruitment efforts for certification progression and career changers can be included on human resources pages, and all GYO program events and activities can be included on LEA news and announcements pages. LEAs are also encouraged to include GYO program information on their social media pages to increase public outreach further. 

GYO programs can also reach out to local news media, including newspapers and news stations, to publicize upcoming events and activities. Local news radio and podcasts are other public platforms to reach wider audiences. LEAs are also encouraged to consider participating in research articles with their Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) partners. LEA partners could co-research, co-write, or volunteer as research participants. Along with journal publications, GYO programs can also submit articles to popular education magazines and websites.