Building Community Partnerships through Assessment and Evaluation Services

Building university partnerships with outside entities is a central tenant at BGSU. The Center of Assessment and Evaluation Services (CAES) housed in the College of Education and Human Development has taken this university mission to heart. 

In January 2013, Drs. Rachel Vannatta Reinhart (featured top right) and Toni Sondergeld (featured bottom right) took over as co-directors of CAES and have been working diligently to build stronger partnerships with K-12 schools, districts, and other community agencies through collaborative grant-writing efforts, assessment literacy training and program evaluations

Sondergeld webCAES has been in existence since 1999, and under its new directorship there has been an increased focus on relationship building with outside organizations. According to Dr. Reinhart, CAES co-director, “CAES is committed to developing partnerships to assist organizations in using data to be more effective. To do this, we utilize the talents of BGSU faculty and students from a variety of disciplines.”

Responding to a recent state initiative, CAES has collaborated with Ohio school districts to develop state Straight A Fund grant projects. This grant program is the largest statewide competitive innovation fund in the history of American education. Straight A Fund grants serve as startup funds for the most creative and forward-thinking ideas coming from educators and their partners in the public and private sectors. Successful projects had to demonstrate that they would improve student achievement, reduce spending and target more resources to the classroom. 

CAES is involved in a total of $2,877,909 from Straight A Fund grants to work on different educational initiatives.
Ohio’s school leaders enthusiastically responded to the first of two rounds of funding, with 420 organizations submitting 570 applications. While only 24 schools and consortiums were awarded these grants in December 2013, CAES collaborated in the conceptualization, writing, and now facilitation of evaluation and professional development services for three of the winning grant applications. Collectively for round one, CAES is involved in a total of $2,877,909 from Straight A Fund grants to work on different educational initiatives

Dr. Stacey Rychener, CAES Grant Specialist, an integral member of the CAES grant writing and evaluation team, stated, "It is exciting to work with 13 school districts across Ohio to implement these three Straight A grants. Through these projects, CAES will be providing a variety of services including the training and evaluation of: assessment development, online and blended learning instruction and digital texts for core instruction courses.”

While partnering with others (schools, districts, BGSU faculty) to prepare grant proposals and their respective evaluations is a central focus of CAES, another recent initiative Drs. Reinhart and Sondergeld have actively undertaken is delivering Assessment Literacy training to Ohio K-12 teachers and administrators. In December of 2012, Ohio adopted a new Teacher Evaluation System that placed a strong emphasis on the assessment of student growth. This new state policy meant that many teachers in Ohio would be required to create standards-based, pre-post assessments and use the results to drive instruction. 

About the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System Dr. Sondergeld, CAES co-director, said, “When we first became aware of House Bill 555 we realized most K-12 teachers and administrators in Ohio were going to need additional support in developing these high quality student-growth measures since the major focus of traditional teacher preparation is on teaching and not assessment.”

Since the spring of 2013, Drs. Reinhart and Sondergeld have worked with more than 1,000 K-12 teachers and administrators from educational entities across the state of Ohio. Their training provides participants with practical skills that focus on best practices for classroom assessment development, implementation and basic interpretation of results. 

Dawn Henry, director of teaching and learning, Oregon City Schools, said about their assessment literacy training, “Once teachers see how item design impacts student performance, they can’t go back to writing assessments the way they did before. They can’t ‘unsee’ what they’ve learned. They not only want to change their own assessments, but change poor items and assessments written by others.” 

“The professional development that CAES facilitates is of the highest quality and one of the most beneficial and relevant learning experiences our teachers and myself have experienced.”  –Dr. Jamie L. Hollinger, principal, Liberty Center Middle School
“The professional development that CAES facilitates is of the highest quality and one of the most beneficial and relevant learning experiences our teachers and myself have experienced,” said Dr. Jamie L. Hollinger, principal, Liberty Center Middle School.

Drs. Reinhart and Sondergeld have shared their assessment literacy training process and evaluation findings locally at an educational reform conference sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education. Additionally, they have presented on their assessment literacy work internationally at a conference on education, research and innovation in Seville, Spain.

CAES has also played a key role in program evaluations for schools and community organizations. Recently, CAES has partnered with multiple school districts on evaluating the impact of their 1:1 Technology Initiatives. Schools across the country are working on getting technology into their students’ hands to improve student learning. But how do we know these tech initiatives, which are often quite costly to school districts, are actually effective? CAES collaborates with districts to help them answer this question. 

Claire Grantier, Sandusky City Schools technology facilitator, said, "The vast amount of data provided by CAES has opened administrative eyes to the varying needs of Sandusky City School's educator professional development as we grow through our 1:1 Initiative. Our educators welcome the gentle but informative nature of the CAES Staff and the research they provide."

Drs. Reinhart and Sondergeld assert that collaborative and individualized services are central to their center’s recent successes. “We take pride in the relationships we are building. Any work we do truly is a team effort. Our partners know the intimate details of their organizations better than we ever could, so it’s critical to gather as much information from our partners at the onset of our work with them. We then use this information along with data collected to develop a practical and collaboratively built plan of action,” said Dr. Sondergeld.      

For more information on collaborating with BGSU’s Center of Assessment and Evaluation Services, contact ( or Dr. Toni Sondergeld (