Maybe you have a line of plaques in your hall by which you judge the success of your FFA chapter. Perhaps you poll your students every once in a while to see if you’re offering classes they want.
How do you evaluate your total program?
“We’re caught in a whirlwind most days. Unless you set aside time to gauge where you’re at and work on making that change, it might never happen,” said Tony Small, Senior Director, Partner Services Division, National FFA, and member of the National Quality Program Standards formation task force.
The National Quality Program Standards for Secondary Agricultural Education (NQPS) is a standardized way to evaluate your total agricultural education program, from facilities, to curriculum, to leadership, to marketing. Currently in its third year, nineteen states have piloted NQPS, with largely positive feedback.
NQPS is not only a set of standards, it’s an active evaluation tool that can be used to take an in-depth look at everything the ideal ag program should offer and return a numerical score.
“The rubric is built tough enough you’re not going to score real high in every area,” said Small. The idea is to help programs identify their strengths and weaknesses in a concrete way.
“It’s not evaluation of the teacher, but a guideline of here’s the things you should be doing,” said Chad Massar, a Montana ag teacher. Montana was one of the original states that piloted NQPS. “It requires some time, but I think it helps you decide where you need to put effort.”
How it works
The first time is the most challenging, said Massar. “I was lost and confused. There are a lot of questions where the terminology wasn’t something I could understand. My advice would be to skip a question you don’t understand and call someone for help later.”
Because he is a pilot program participant, Massar completed his evaluation using an electronic system that also links teachers directly to suggestions for improving each standard area. “The second time, it probably took me three hours,” he said, “but I was going in and looking at hints from the LPS manual as I went along.”
Those hints Massar was using are a very important piece of the tool, according to Small. “It’s one thing to say, here’s what we need to do, but it’s another thing entirely to say, ok, here’s how we’re going to do it.” The NQPS committee is currently in the process of collecting a set of best practices for each standard that will eventually be available to everyone.
Small suggests programs revisit their evaluation at least every other year. “You need to revisit those areas you’re working on and see how you’re progressing toward that goal.”
That didn’t happen by accident.
At the same time Small and his NQPS taskforce were working, the CASE committee was looking for a curriculum that would meet the new national standards of a quality agricultural education program. CASE curriculum is designed to meet AFNR Career Cluster Content Standards.
Using these three tools in concert will help any agriculture program work towards meeting today’s demand for excellence in education.
Denise Emmons, an ag teacher in New Jersey has both completed the NQPS evaluation and implemented the animal science CASE curriculum into her program.
“It’s extremely beneficial,” she said about NQPS. One thing the evaluation helped her realize was the need to strengthen and update her program’s curriculum. After hearing about CASE at her fall ag teachers’ meeting, Emmons decided to try it.
“It’s so up to date and relevant to the students we have,” she said. “I loved the layout of the course. We used to take animal science and apply some science concepts, but now we’re taking science concepts and relating it to animals.”
How to Get Started
Anyone who is interested in the NQPS evaluation can find it on The National Council for Agricultural Education’s website: www.teamaged.org/council. You can also contact your LPS staff person for help getting started.