Exploring Policy Considerations for Successful Needs Assessments that Drive Improvement
An effective needs assessment process helps local stakeholders and system leaders understand complex system interactions, uncovering strengths and challenges to inform growth and improvement. This approach to needs assessments lays the groundwork for improvement efforts focused on ensuring the educational freedom and success of all students. The four Elements of a Successful Needs Assessment, described in the State Support Network’s Needs Assessment Guidebook (to be released early 2018), provides an organizational approach to the session. Each element includes a panel discussion of State education agency staff, district staff, and technical assistance providers to reflect on how policy decisions and implementation impact the needs assessment process, followed by small group discussion about the policy considerations and decisions impacting the planning and implementation of a needs assessment. The State Support Network is a contract with the Office of State Support at the U.S. Department of Education.
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I have been leading collaborative needs assessment services at AIR since 2006, and in that capacity has worked with schools, districts, statewide programs, SEAs, and the US Department of Education in the development and implementation of needs assessments that have brought education communities together, targeted key challenges, and impacted the education of millions of students. She is the Needs Assessment task lead and subject matter expert for the State Support Network (a technical assistance initiative funded by the Office of State Support at the US Department of Education), where she and her team support SEA and LEA staff as they leverage research-based strategies to go beyond compliance to reflective practice and innovation-oriented action.
I have been coordinating and working with school improvement at the department for nearly 5 years. With ESSA, I determined the need for South Dakota to have a uniform, detailed school level needs assessment that will inform the school improvement plans. We asked AIR to help facilitate and guide the process of creating a document and process that our Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools will utilize with the guide of a School Support Team professional. Schools will determine areas of needs to focus on and create their improvement plans based off the results of the needs assessment.
Carlas McCauley is an expert in school turnaround and improvement. McCauley leads technical assistance for the Center for School Turnaround at WestEd, providing support to the comprehensive center network and state education agencies across the country.