HTM Blog

Connecting learning and community.

The Holyoke Tutor/Mentor program connects volunteers to adult education classes in Holyoke.

I love data

I love data ( you might have guessed that from my previous post) I love the way it can make a vague thing concrete and relatable. I like the challenge of setting up the right spreadsheet and formula to show something meaningful. I'll be honest, I appreciate the clear feedback and evidence of our success.

So I had a lot of fun putting together an infographic with the hours data from this fall 

And, yet, I find the data for HTM a bit challenging. True, it's challenging to collect with a constantly shifting group of tutors spread across multiple independent organizations. But that's not the real issue, once it's collected it's not always clear what success looks like (or how to communicate it)

Sometimes that's a question of an unreliable indicator: More people (students or tutors) over the course of a year, for example, can indicate growth(good) -- or high turn over (worrying). More hours of tutoring is undeniably positive, but what level is good? And how do I, or you, or anyone, know what to make of a statement like "HTM volunteers have provided 770 hours of tutoring."?

Yet, I feel good about this data, this year.

I know 770 is meaningful not just because I've been watching it go up, but because I can convert it. More than one and a half extra full time people is substantial. Eighteen thousand dollars in value is substantial.

I know because we're doing better than last year. I didn't have all of the December reports when I put this together, but our November 2016 total is about 60% higher than our November 2015 total.

As coordinator, I know because the chart where I keep track of tutors and requests is nearly full. There just aren't that many empty spots representing classes wanting but not getting tutors.

But, also, and most importantly, I know because a teacher stopped me in the hallway to tell me about her new tutor: "She's basically the perfect tutor" this teacher said, describing the tutor's acts of kindness, the connections she'd found with the students, her contributions to the class.


I love data, but sometimes "she's perfect" tells a lot more than 'she's reported 24 hours as a volunteer.' 

"See? I can't do it!"
Finding hope in the numbers

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Thursday, 14 November 2019

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