Case Example: The Minnesota Humanities Center’s Education Strategy in Partnership with Omaha Public Schools.

A multi-year collaboration to close the achievement gap in Omaha Public Schools.

Nora Murphy, PhD – Team Lead

Keith Miller – Team Lead

  • Developmental Evaluation
  • Principles-Focused Evaluation
  • Qualitative methods (interviews, focus groups, observations, Survey of Literature, reflective practice, case studies, offering reports)
  • Quantitative methods (Surveys, data analysis)
  • Arts-based evaluation (spoken word poetry, 2D & 3D art, kinetic sculpture)
  • Evaluation Capacity Building

Project Description

TerraLuna Collaborative has been conducting a developmental evaluation of the Minnesota Humanities Center’s Education Strategy in Omaha Public Schools since 2012. The Minnesota Humanities Center’s Education Strategy in partnership with Omaha Public Schools offers multiple professional development works in Omaha Public Schools for educators seeking to implement the Humanities Center’s four core values in their schools and classrooms, develop greater understanding and empathy with their students, and collaborate with professionals across Omaha Public Schools. These professional development offerings are guided by four core values:

  • Build and strengthen relationships
  • Recognize the power of story and the danger of absence
  • Learn from and with multiple voices
  • Amplify community solutions for change

Developmental Evaluation is a distinct approach to evaluation that is appropriate when a program or model is adapting and developing its work in a complex environment and engaged in major systems change efforts (Patton, 2011). The evaluation approach focuses on how changes have developed and how they fit into the larger context of education and relationships in the Omaha Public School District. It is also designed to involve multiple stakeholders in various ways throughout the evaluation process through development of the plan, refinement of the evaluation questions, implementing the evaluation, analysis of the data, and making sense of the findings. The involvement of stakeholders increases the evaluation’s relevance, rigor and credibility. Together, through the developmental evaluation process, the stakeholders capture a story.  This story tells us about what is getting developed and where there’s variation in what gets developed for learning and accountability to impact.  


The Innovation

The Education Strategy is a nimble and dynamic co-creation of the Humanities Center and Omaha Public Schools. The Education Strategy is not a pre-defined training model parachuted into a district to save the day. The Education Strategy succeeds through flexibility, innovation, and by responding to emerging needs and opportunities. As a result, the Education Strategy has evolved and adapted.  At TerraLuna, we track the Education Strategy’s changes and results at all levels.  We capture narratives of expectations and hopes, observe the Education Strategy as it evolves, then report the results. We work with stakeholders to interpret events and judge outcomes.

History of our Partnership

The evaluation partnership of the Education Strategy has evolved over the last two years.  TerraLuna has diligently worked with current Omaha Public Schools guidelines and standards for conducting evaluation and research within the district.  Parents, educators, community leaders, administrators, and the Omaha Public Schools Research Division have supported our evaluation work.  The Omaha Public Schools Research Division has been helpful in responding to special requests for data and amendments to our approval.  On occasion, we have engaged Omaha Public Schools administrative stakeholders through our Evaluation Advisory Council to help shape and structure various evaluation activities.

However, our evaluation partnership has been focused on supporting the work of the Humanities Center’s Education Strategy. The partnership has developed into a strong responsive relationship with the Minnesota Humanities Center and its consultants.  The Education Strategy and its various team members have played critical roles in shaping the purpose and scope of our evaluation activities.

TerraLuna has applied a developmental evaluation lens to its activities with the Minnesota Humanities Center.  Both organizations genuinely and successfully collaborated. Moving forward, our developmental evaluation efforts will

  1. Engage more deeply with Omaha Public Schools’ evaluation needs,
  2. Track the expansion of the Education Strategy, and
  3. Engage the arts as an evaluative tool.


How we work

Regularly-scheduled meetings with key staff involved in evaluation efforts for the Minnesota Humanities Center, Omaha Public Schools, and the Sherwood Foundation ensure that TerraLuna develops a targeted and nimble evaluation system that supports ongoing decision-making while anticipating and responding to change. These meetings enable TerraLuna to gain a deep understanding of the various programmatic and evaluation activities within Omaha Public Schools. Our work fosters evaluative thinking among Omaha Public School educators, and helps them integrate evaluation systems into program operations.  To that end, we work with staff, leadership, parents, and community voices to identify evaluation needs, provide resources, and support organizational evaluation capacity building.

The Team

We organize in project teams.  The flexible team structure allows our consultants to manage their workloads and responsibilities.  This structure benefits our clients by drawing from each team member’s skills and capabilities. 

Nora Murphy, PhD. Lead Evaluator.

Nora’s roles are to: 1) provide oversight and strategic guidance to the evaluation team, 2) support relationship management with senior stakeholders at the OMAHA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and the Humanities Center, and 3) facilitate evaluation use and reflective practice. She will step away from day to day project management responsibilities including: 1) managing budgets, 2) meeting reporting requirements, and 3) travel to Omaha for site visits.

Keith Miller. Lead Evaluator.

Keith is the collaboration point between TerraLuna and Omaha Public Schools with an emphasis on the Research Division, school principals, and the school action teams. He provides ongoing strategic, methods, writing and synthesis support to team members.

Kirsten Anderson

After two years of working on the Education Strategy’s evaluation team, Kirsten will continue to manage survey development, administration, analysis and reporting.  She will also take the lead in developing various instruments that we hope to use in the coming future. Her specialties and interests include survey design and analysis, innovative data visualization, participatory evaluation, and Evaluation Capacity Building.

Andy Johnson

Andy designs and implements arts-based evaluation strategies and training. Andy connects neuroaesthetics (the science of how our brains perceive and produce art) with spoken word poetry, visual art, sculpture, and other art genres to uncover subconscious inferences and associations that affect the Education Strategy. His other duties include researching, writing, and editing the Survey of Literature, Offering Reports, case studies and other documents.

Sheila Nezhad

Sheila manages the qualitative dataset for this project, including deidentification, coding, and database management. Sheila also writes and edits Offering Reports and other documents.

Jeff Severns Guntzel

After a successful 2 years of working on the Education Strategy’s evaluation team, Jeff will continue his work managing the qualitative inquiry and writing of the evaluation findings.  In addition, Jeff will continue to support the SAT team and Liaisons through observations and relationship building.  In addition, Jeff will be managing most of the case study work, key informant interviews, and will provide writing support.


  • Survey of Relevant Literature. Review of academic literature related to the Core Values of the MHC Education Strategy. 2016, 2017 (forthcoming).
  • Offering Reports. Impact analysis of professional development offerings. 2017 (forthcoming).
  • Case Studies. In-depth analysis of partner school engagement with the Education Strategy. Belvedere Elementary School, 2016. Benson West Elementary School, 2017 (forthcoming).
  • Inspiration + Creation + Action: Arts-Based Evaluation Training workshop. Evaluation capacity building training for educators. 2017.


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