State Monitoring of School Improvement Grants JOURNEYS

By Lenay Dunn / November 12, 2013

Amargosa-Journey-9-20-13-1072-300x225.jpgThe state role in supporting school turnaround includes monitoring compliance, implementation, and progress. In fact, a stipulation of federal funding is that states must have a monitoring process in place.

In Nevada (home of Amargosa School), the state has a monitoring process that goes beyond a surface level assessment of compliance with School Improvement Grant (SIG) requirements. The Nevada Department of Education (NDE), in collaboration with the West Comprehensive Center at WestEd, developed a handbook and site visit process to provide both monitoring and implementation guidance for SIG. The goal of monitoring is to assess both how the school and district are implementing their plan and the progress they are making on that plan. NDE uses this information to provide customized assistance and support.

The foundation of Nevada’s monitoring process is a set of district and school indicators. The indicators integrate the federal requirements for SIG models with Dean Fixsen’s research on implementation. The indicators are set into a rubric with four performance levels. NDE staff determine the performance level for each district and school through data collected by interviews, focus groups, surveys, and document review. The handbook emphasizes the need to triangulate data-in other words to base conclusions on a holistic examination of various forms of data. This requires a comprehensive data collection approach.

Amargosa-Journey-9-20-13-1010-300x225.jpgTo collect this data, NDE sets up a monitoring schedule in the beginning of the school year for each SIG/Priority school and associated district. The frequency of site visits vary from twice a year to quarterly (based on SIG funding and identification timelines). Site visits last approximately three hours-one hour with teachers, one hour with the principal, and one hour with the district-to talk with each group and better understand how they are implementing their plans. NDE provides the questions ahead of time for several purposes including: 1) district and school staff know what to expect so they can relax a bit more during the interviews and 2) the questions provide insight into NDE’s expectations for what needs to be done to ensure effective implementation.

As a part of the site visit, NDE also requests various documents such as professional development schedules, hiring policies and procedures, coaching feedback reports, or survey reports to inform their assessment of school and district progress towards the plan. Site visits are a chance for school and district administrators to honestly reflect on where they are and where they want to go.

Less than two weeks after a site visit, NDE provides the district and school with reports on their progress and specific suggestions for compliance and implementation improvement. While schools and districts often focus on the numerical ratings (on a scale from 1-4) NDE emphasizes the recommendations and suggested next steps. This more qualitative feedback can provide a roadmap to earning better ratings at the next visit, but ultimately the feedback aims to improve the implementation of the school and district turnaround.

For more information, check out NDE’s monitoring handbook below.

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About the author

Lenay Dunn

Lenay Dunn is a Senior Research Associate at WestEd and a staff member of the Center on School Turnaround. She is on the Journeys content team and is a blog contributor.

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