The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

School Social Work Effectiveness Evaluation Tool (SWEET)

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Laura Richard, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS
Judith L. F. Rhodes, PhD, Assistant Professor/Research, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
Oral Paper

School Social Work Effectiveness Evaluation Tool (SWEET)

Purpose:  A state university was contracted to develop a value-added measure for school social workers for the state department of education to complement a mandated annual teacher evaluation.  At the beginning of the project, the state had approximately 454 school social workers with no specific evaluation being used to measure the effectiveness of school social work services.  Having the ability to evaluate school social work effectiveness is congruent with federal directives beginning with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

Methods:  A statewide survey was administered electronically. The entire population of school social workers was surveyed (N = 454) and the response rate was 78%.  The 46-item survey was designed to obtain demographic information from respondents and to ascertain their role in the particular school district they served.  The survey inquired about the types of activities in which school social workers were involved, including how many and what types of students were served; and types of support received. 

Results:    The practice approaches chosen as frequently engaged in by school social workers were assessment and evaluation, case management, direct services, indirect services, and professional development and supervision.  The primary goal of school social workers’ work with students was to improve discipline and social skills.  Over half of the social workers provided response to intervention for behavior.  In tracking intervention progress, the tracking methods used most were school system data and teacher or administrator reports.  Researchers used this and other data gathered in the survey to inform a consistent role definition and conceptual model for the practice of school social work.  The definition and conceptual model then informed the development of a comprehensive evaluation tool for school social work.  An objective web-based database and a subjective observation protocol (rubric) were drafted.  It was recommended that school social workers be evaluated on the rubric with information gathered from students, supervisors, and administrators at the social worker’s school with additional information provided by a statistical analysis of the database information to show the effect of services on individual students, schools, and districts.       

Implications:  Development of an evaluation tool for school social work addresses the needs that many school social work researchers typically address conceptually:  the need for school social work accountability and a way to provide efficient services where the benefits outweigh the costs.  Many prominent school social work researchers indicate that school social work is poorly defined and does not have a legitimate place in the education arena; that school social workers need to document positive outcomes for students; that schools are becoming increasingly diverse and need culturally competent professionals to serve in those schools; and that school social workers need to take on more leadership roles to help their voices and those of their students be heard.  By measuring the effect of school social work services, these areas can be addressed and enhanced.