Promoting Evaluation Equity for Communitywide Impact

What does it mean to promote greater impact through evaluation equity? For the evaluation team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute, the COVID-19 pandemic adds even greater urgency to the question. UNMC MMI is a regional leader in education evaluation, and the Learning Community’s longtime, independent partner.


The MMI team is growing to gain insights that improve learning for children, in and out of school. In addition to skilled facilitators in family and community engagement, the 32-member staff also includes experts in statistics, pediatrics, and public health. Dr. Jolene Johnson, director of education and child development, says exploring evaluation practices through an equity lens can lead to powerful change.

social emotional learning, student outcomes

UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute Takes the Lead in Evaluation Equity

Dr. Jolene Johnson promote Data Equity, UNMC Munroe Meyer Institute

Dr. Jolene Johnson from UNMC Munroe Meyer Institute leads the data equity advisory group.

The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties is part of a new evaluation advisory council led by MMI and supported by the Preschool Development Grant. The 11-member statewide stakeholder group brings together individuals with a variety of lived experiences. Dr. Johnson says MMI, working in collaboration with Buffett Early Childhood Institute, will take a learn as we go approach. She expects member observations to inform evaluations right away.  Where to start? The group will first look at key questions for greater evaluation impact.

  • How do we ask questions?
  • Are stakeholders involved?
  • Are families and caregivers involved?

More Inclusive in Sharing Outcomes

The future of educational evaluations is more community-oriented, with outcomes shared more broadly. In the last year, Dr. Johnson has seen how community facilitators enhance focus group discussions with cultural observations that might otherwise be missed. In the end, the evaluation process can build a shared understanding of early childhood education and how children experience learning in every setting.

Kids painting sand with a water dropper
Partners in Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement 

In the Learning Community, fall is a time for council members and staff to review annual evaluation outcomes. The report is part of a year-round process to support data-informed decision-making. As always, the ultimate goal is achieving the best possible benefits with every funded program.


Since 2011, when UNMC MMI first introduced evaluation as a teaching tool, the Learning Community and its partners have come a long way. Today, Learning Community partners take pride in a culture of continuous improvement where everyone learns together. 

Drl Jolene Johnson, data equity
Learning Community Coordinating Council and partners join a data walk to understand how data reveals opportunities for greater impact.

Measuring What Matters

In Learning Community supported programs, measuring what matters means taking another look at the best way to conduct evaluations.  As an example, MMI evaluators offered preschoolers the choice of their native language or English in recent assessments. Dr. Johnson stresses the importance of providing children an opportunity to demonstrate what they know.

“We want to measure skills and strengths, not how well a child understands directions.”
-Dr. Jolene Johnson
Social emotional learning, evaluation equity

About the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties
The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties is an educational subdivision focused on outcomes and opportunities for children and families. It achieves impact through a collaborative network of metropolitan area school districts and community organizations. Independent evaluations demonstrate consistently strong results in early childhood education and family engagement. Recognized nationally for advancing a two-generation approach, the Learning Community creates opportunities to address the needs of children and families together. A 12-member Coordinating Council, elected by the public, guides policies to challenge the opportunity gap and strengthen our communities. Visit:

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