In response to growing demand for more and different types of support for NC school districts, the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) began an initiative to redefine and redesign the way we deliver assistance. To support us in this effort, we were fortunate to have secured the services of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a management consulting firm with expertise in public education reform. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing the funding for the project.

Progress made to date

  • Consultation with over 300 stakeholders including superintendents, district staff, principals, teachers, and community leaders
  • Extensive review of DPI’s existing assistance efforts
  • Research on best practices of other states, districts, and countries
  • Development of a redesigned framework for assistance
  • Development of a comprehensive, transparent screening process in order to better prioritize deployment of State resources for assistance
  • Development of a system to broker and provide better coordinated and customized services for schools and districts
  • Development of a system for monitoring feedback from districts on personnel and services provided by the Assistance Redesign Project
  • Development of a Comprehensive Needs Assessment with a Self Assessment component for districts focused on identifying the root causes of performance issues and key areas for capacity building
  • Implementation of roundtable discussions at the Department of Public Instruction and regionally to discuss Needs Assessment findings and development of customized services
  • Identification of possible professional development opportunities offered through DPI
  • Implementation of Assistance Redesign Project pilot in two school districts
  • Employment of District Transformation Coach (DTC) in each pilot district, Regional Support Lead (RSL) in one pilot district, and School Transformation Coach (STC) for one pilot transformation school

Key findings to date

  • DPI faces internal and external challenges in serving underperforming schools and districts, and in addressing the root causes of underperformance.
  • Of the various root causes of low student performance identified by stakeholders, one of the most commonly cited relates to difficulties in attracting, developing, and retaining capable professionals in challenged schools and districts.
  • DPI is only one among many players providing assistance to NC schools and districts; these players and their efforts are largely uncoordinated.
  • Other states, districts, and countries are developing new and innovative ways to assist underperforming schools at scale, but few models have proven to be consistently effective.
  • An evaluation of DPI's current assistance efforts reveals a need to shift:
    • From a system of multiple state and federal criteria that trigger automatic assistance to a more integrated framework that will help DPI to prioritize deployment of resources
    • From an exclusive focus on schools to a focus that includes building district capacity to support schools
    • From "one size fits all" to more customized assistance
    • From addressing symptoms to targeting root causes
    • From providing temporary solutions to creating sustainable, lasting improvements
    • From delivering assistance of varying quality to providing assistance that is consistently excellent
    • From inconsistent monitoring and evaluation to rigorous assessments of effectiveness

Products in Development

  • A set of services offered by DPI that builds on existing strengths and seeks to create more lasting and sustainable change
  • Online Clearinghouse site for professional development to go live July 1, 2008
  • A reporting system/protocol for conveying Needs Assessment findings
  • A procedure for developing a school improvement/strategic plan based on the Needs Assessment findings
  • Collaboration with Cambridge Education to streamline and refine Needs Assessment process
  • Identification of four new districts for collaboration and implementation of Assistance Redesign in the school year 08-09