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K-State Today

November 18, 2020

OEIE celebrates 20 years of research evaluation, advancing K-State's land-grant mission

Submitted by Patrice Scott

An idea born in the College of Education 20 years ago has grown into a self-sustaining research and evaluation powerhouse that has evaluated more than 360 research projects worldwide totaling half a billion dollars and spawned a successful private business.

The Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, or OEIE, was established in 2000 and provides independent evaluation, applied research and strategic planning services to assist clients in making data-based decisions for program improvement. OEIE helps client researchers in education, government, nonprofits and other organizations demonstrate program impact and accountability. 

Client projects range from individual classroom assessments to the evaluation of multi-disciplinary, collaborations spanning multiple states and are supported by a variety of funding agencies from Kansas State University to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

One of OEIE's data management programs was so successful, it became nationally recognized. Seeds for the PEARS Program, an acronym for Program Evaluation and Reporting System, were planted when K-State Research and Extension approached OEIE to collect data for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Ed, or SNAP-Ed. 

"We had no idea that we would end up with such a powerful system," said Paula Peters, former K-State Research and Extension assistant director of family and consumer sciences. "This system has allowed us to progress with our programming and evaluation in ways that we couldn't have done without it. And, OEIE is so responsive to our always-growing needs. When other states saw what it could do, they wanted it, too." 

To date, 34 states and five statewide Extension programs have adopted PEARS. 

Here are additional ways OEIE has advanced K-State's land-grant mission to improve quality of life through education, research, and outreach:

· Collaborated with 33 K-State colleges and units. "OEIE has fully mastered the three R's: remarkable service, reliable operation, and responsive always," said Steven Welch, K-State professor of agronomy and EPSCoR Track-2 principal investigator. 

· Supported research development for external funding. "When putting together a team to develop a new grant proposal, I always call OEIE and bring them on to the proposal team," said Dan Devlin, director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment. "Their expertise in putting together an evaluation plan always upgrades our proposal." 

· Provided evaluation for Kansas educators. "We would only describe OEIE as a true partner in our venture, mirroring the same interest we had in supporting our students," said Beth Hudson, retired associate superintendent of Geary County Schools USD 475. 

· Trained and mentored graduate students and assistants. "I learned more about research methods, statistical analysis and general office culture than I would have ever imagined," said Megan (Clark) McFarland, who worked at OEIE from 2007-2011. She now serves as the senior planner for the Southwest Missouri Council of Governments' Center for Resource Planning and Management. 

· Shared K-State's excellence with the national research community in 45 cities across 24 states. "The evaluation and assessment portions of our projects have unfailingly received high reviews and have strongly contributed to our success in receiving and maintaining grant funding," said Ray Huhnke, Oklahoma State University professor and project director of Oklahoma's NSF EPSCoR. "The OEIE staff worked hand-in-hand with us to meet the demands of our funder's complicated and ever-evolving reporting criteria." 

OEIE's web-based system that streamlined data collection for several NSF EPSCoR programs was so successful it spawned a spin-off company, Piestar Inc., in 2014 that offers cloud-based tools optimized to support collaborative data and project management systems and more. 

With 200,000 hours of evaluation services and proposal development behind them, OEIE looks forward to providing relevant data and feedback, growing partners and collaborators, and exemplifying the K-State land-grant mission for the next 20 years and beyond.

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