826 National is a network of eight writing and tutoring centers across the U.S. that offers a variety of programs–free of charge–including after-school tutoring, in-schools projects, field trips, creative writing workshops, and student publishing opportunities. We provide under-resourced students, ages 6-18, with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills.
Our mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. Last year, our tutoring centers–located in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC—served more than 31,000 students.
We’re also well known for our whimsically themed physical spaces. Each of our centers is fronted by a wacky storefront to welcome in the community and raise funds for our programs, ranging from our original Pirate Supply Store in San Francisco to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. and the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute.
Besides being carefully designed and academically rigorous, our writing programs are meant to stretch the boundaries of our students’ creative potential and help them explore their voice. Whether the task at hand is creating a diabolical archenemy for their main character during our signature Storytelling & Bookmaking workshop or investigating the origins of their family’s most treasured narratives during a publishing project or writing workshop, we engage our students through relevant and interesting explorations of how to powerfully communicate.
Since project-based learning is a key component of our model, all programming ends in a student-authored publication such as a chapbook, newspaper, magazine, podcast, film, or professionally bound book. The publishing component creates a lasting example of each student’s accomplishment, allowing them to share and remember their joy, pride, and hard work. Last year alone we published more than 1,000 individual student publications of various kinds.
Across our network of writing and tutoring centers, we use SurveyMonkey as a main component of our program evaluation strategy. Each year we assess our programs for quality and impact. Surveying the students, teachers, and parents about their experience with us is a key element of that cycle. We hope to impact our students’ lives both academically and from a youth development perspective, so we survey them about everything from their confidence and excitement in completing a writing assignment to their pride in becoming a published author.
We also like to investigate any shifts in our students’ attitudes toward reading, writing, homework, and literacy after experiencing our programs, which we measure by analyzing their responses on pre- and post-program surveys. Gathering data from parents and teachers helps us to confirm the student improvements we find and also gauge the effectiveness of programs in aiding families and schools.
Collecting this data is crucial to our work; not only does it help us ensure program quality and identify improvements each year, but it also provides necessary information for presentations to funders and partners. Each year we must garner immense support from different sources in order to keep our programs growing and free, and data obtained through these surveys plays a large role in that process.
SurveyMonkey makes it extremely easy and cost-effective for us to survey and analyze responses from hundreds of teachers and students each year. Some of the features we find most useful include their survey templates, results breakdown PDFs, and the user-friendly question design experience.
Thank you, SurveyMonkey, for helping us make this work possible.
Ryan Lewis is the Director of Research and Evaluation for 826 National.
Want to get involved in helping students master their communication and writing skills? Visit 826 National today!