June 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 3 // Commentary // 3COM1
Letter to Editor
Response to article by Claude Bennett in February, 1996 issue of the Journal of Extension.
To the Editor:
I read Claude Bennett's article, "New National Program Information System for Cooperative Extension: Lessons from Experience," when it came out in the February edition, and was very impressed. Several faculty and staff members here in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences had recommended it to me as an excellent article. I recently found a few minutes to read it again.
As the person who pulls together the information for federal plans and reports in Pennsylvania, I can attest that Dr. Bennett is right on the mark in his assessment of the problems with past and current systems. It is definitely my experience that "state program staffs . . . (do) not see whether, or how, collection and use of data for national indicators directly reflects, guides, or benefits their respective state program." The federal indicators are sometimes so far removed from the focus of state/local programs that the reporting faculty member has no idea where to find the numbers or even how to make an educated guess.
I commend the article's recommendations for increased communication between states and the federal partner. If the states continue to be responsible under GPRA for gathering data identified at the federal level, it will not be enough to have a few people from a few programs from a few states come to a few meetings. That is why I especially like recommendation #3 concerning state administrators' approval of "proposed program indicators and sub-indicators -- and the resources needed to collect, assure quality, and analyze the indicator data as well as use the resultant program information ." Laying out that whole package for state consideration will be the key to success in the next round.
Things tend to jam up as deadlines draw near, and "nice ideas" such as state administrator approval tend to get lost in the time crunch. It will be unfortunate if that happens again in this round.
I hope to see evidence that the "Lessons from Experience" Dr. Bennett has laid out so clearly and succinctly have been taken to heart by the Extension system.
Information Planning Specialist
Penn State Cooperative Extension
Internet address: firstname.lastname@example.org