Here are some one-liners I’ve used:

  • To teacher friends: I do behind-the-scenes administrative stuff like analyzing standardized test scores. I bet there’s someone at your school or in the district office with a similar job.
  • To the real behind-the-scenes data analysts: I’m like a data coach. I analyze a lot of the stuff myself but mostly I teach people how to understand it. I bet there’s a data coach in most of the schools in your district with a similar job.
  • To the real data coaches, like instructional specialists: I crunch numbers.
  • To people at bars: I crunch numbers.
  • To my mom the former teacher: I crunch numbers.
  • To the real number-crunchers, aka. my dad the economist: I have no idea what you’re doing on SAS right now but it looks awesome. When I grow up I’ll learn to really crunch numbers…
  • To my husband with the non-office job: I push papers. Don’t worry, I’ll be home in time for dinner.
  • To my public policy friends taking the obligatory program evaluation course: I teach people to make logic models. Friends: “My professor said we’re skipping those. Not enough space in the syllabus.” Nevermind then…
  • To the social workers, GED instructors, youth workers, and mental health counselors at my youth center: I’m going to teach you how to collect useful information about your youth and your program so you can make decisions using that information.
  • To the external evaluators: I’m an internal evaluator.
  • To the external evaluators who think basing big decisions on results of an internal evaluation is unethical: That’s why we hired you.

What do you tell people in just a few seconds? Evaluators do all these things and so many more. Can you really boil such a dynamic field into just a few words?

— Ann Emery