Evaluations come in many forms, ranging from those run by a team of external evaluators to researchers who collect and analyze data over a period of several years to simple data collection efforts by school mental health staff and partners. The scope of your evaluation will depend on the resources you have available, the questions you want to answer, the demands of your funders, and competing priorities.
Because resources are limited, schools implementing school mental health programs will eventually want to know that the school mental health investment is a good value.
The most important thing to remember as you develop your evaluation plan is that you need to create a plan that is realistic for your team. You don’t have to measure everything! In fact, without a sufficient budget and staff capacity you are likely to get overwhelmed if you try to document everything. Instead, it is best to check in with your stakeholders and prioritize what matters most to them and make sure that staff are properly trained in order to effectively capture the data identified.
Outcomes to Track from the School’s Perspective
- Improved academic performance
- Improved student behavior
- Improved school climate
- Increased teacher satisfaction and reduced turnover
- Increased parent participation in school activities
- Increased parent and student satisfaction
- Increased attendance
- Graduation rates
- Decreased suspensions and expulsions
Outcomes to Track from the County Mental Health Agency Perspective
- Improved student mental health outcomes such as reduced rates of students reporting depression and anxiety
- Increased student report of knowing how to access services if they have a mental health need
- Increased teacher report of knowing how to access services and supports for their students
- Increased rates of students identifying a supportive relationship with an adult on campus
- Decreased student report of loneliness
- Decreased rates of students experiencing suicidal ideation
In addition, these questions may help start conversations amongst you and your team
- What is going to be the most compelling evidence for them that you are being effective?
- What are you required to track for your funders?
- What data are already being gathered (e.g., service delivery) that can tell your story?
- How can you collect other evidence in a way that is the least burdensome but the most likely to capture your outcomes?
This resource provides an overview of evaluation for school health center services, with an emphasis on what you should consider in the early stages of planning and start-up. Although specific to health centers, it includes helpful information about data sources and different strategies for evaluating impact of school health services. (California School-Based Health Alliance)
An example of one county’s evaluation efforts. Recent results can be found in this Alameda County School Health Centers Evaluation Findings report and the Alameda County School Health Center Infographic. (Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities)
State and Local Mental Health Report Cards
Developed by UCSF’s School Health Services Research & Evaluation Team, these state and local mental health report cards include templates for districts or schools to input their CHKS mental health data from the “core” module for reporting and information sharing. The templates include outcomes of interest to both schools and mental health agencies. (California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS))
- Compare Your 7th Graders with CA Youth
- Compare Your 9th and 11th Graders with CA Youth
- Compare 11th Graders from Multiple Schools in Your District with CA Youth
- Compare Your 7th, 9th, and 11th Graders (no state comparisons)
This includes templates and examples of ways to report outcomes for student wellness data. A district or school can input their unique data into the report card to use for reporting and information sharing. The template includes outcomes of interest to both schools and mental health agencies. (UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies)
This is the largest statewide student survey of resiliency, protective factors, risk behaviors, and school climate in the nation. There is a “Learning From Home Survey” to assess remote learning impact on students and families. The CHKS Core Module has been expanded to help schools and districts better understand how best to support students’ social, emotional, and academic needs. In addition, West Ed is making the Mental Health Supports (previously Cal-Well) module available for any school or district in California to add to their CHKS administration. Developed by UCSF’s School Health Services Research & Evaluation Team and the California Department of Education, this module measures students’ mental health, the availability of adult and peer social supports, access to mental health services, and openness to utilizing mental health supports and services.
School Staff Surveys
The California School Staff Survey assesses the perceptions and experiences of K-12 teachers, administrators, and other school personnel (intended for all grades).
The Project Cal-Well School Staff Survey specifically asks about teachers’ perceptions of student mental health, available supports, and self-efficacy to support students’ mental health needs.