State Capacity for School Improvement: A First Look at Agency Resources
With a continued emphasis from the federal government on accountability for K-12 schools, specifically among the lowest performers, state education agencies (SEAs) have had to take a more direct role in school improvement. However, do SEAs have the capacity and resources necessary to take on this work? A recent report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education attempts to tackle this question by examining functions currently performed by SEAs, how they distribute their funds to various functions, and whether or not they are capable of more school improvement work.
To answer these questions CRPE examined SEAs in eight states: California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, and collected data from each SEA’s website as well as contacted staffers about financial data. While strict generalizations cannot be drawn from eight states, it is important to note that their experiences are reflective of that in many other states and therefore provide insight for other SEAs, including Ohio’s.
Overall, the current state of SEAs’ capacities and workloads paints a grim picture in terms of their ability to be more involved with school improvement. Not surprisingly, almost 50 percent of the staff at SEAs serves in administrative roles (e.g., human resource, financial management, and technology). On the other hand, the distribution of personnel for performance and improvement ranges from 7 to 28 percent. Colorado and California dedicate less than 10 percent of SEA personnel to performance and improvement, while Texas and Tennessee dedicate more than 25 percent of their staff to these functions.
Largely, the investment in school improvement has been relatively minimal. But many states, via Race to the Top (RTTT), School Improvement Grants (SIGs), or their own school turnaround plans, have committed themselves to transforming the worst schools despite facing budget cuts or being short-staffed. So what can SEAs do to fulfill these school improvement duties? CRPE suggests that agencies shift current federally funded positions to school improvement, as well as contract out these services to consultants.
The Ohio Department of Education would do well to examine its capacity to lead school improvement efforts. As a recipient of RTTT and SIG funds it is more important than ever that they take an internal assessment of their capabilities and re-adjust were necessary to best serve the school improvement needs of the state.
Capacity for School Improvement: A First
Look at Agency Resources
Center for Reinventing Public Education
Patrick Murphay and Monica Quijdani
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