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How can state education agencies build their capacity?

Supporting the National Center on Building State Capacity and Productivity

Challenge

State education agencies (SEAs) face the daunting challenge of improving student performance with diminishing financial resources.

The U.S. Department of Education established the Building State Capacity and Productivity (BSCP) Center to provide assistance to SEAs throughout the country as they adapt to reduced fiscal resources, tremendous leadership turnover, and increased demands for greater productivity.

Westat’s National Center on Building State Capacity and Productivity (BSCP Center) provides technical assistance to SEAs that builds their capacity to support local districts and schools by providing high-quality information, tools, and implementation support.

One of the Center’s main goals is to provide free assistance to states as they implement the recently authorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Solution

Westat provides assistance to states across 5 themes:

Comprehensive Center Network. BSCP created the Comprehensive Center Network (CC Network) website to bring together a compilation of 700+ resources developed by 23 Comprehensive Centers and 200+ projects currently underway in states across the country and make searching by state or topic easier. The CC Network site also helps ED-funded centers to collaborate and network, bolstering their ability to meet the needs of their clients.

SEA of the Future. We provide publications and podcasts that describe how states are adapting to the new dynamic and complicated environment. These resources help SEA leaders guide changes for their organizational culture and practices to successfully address challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

Strategic performance management. We developed an implementation manual and provide intensive support to states as they become adept at planning and managing their agencies’ performance. We also work with a cohort of state leaders to learn together about the most effective approaches to transitioning from compliance orientation to performance management.

Strategic communications. Through establishing a cross-state working group, we help states learn from one another about how to improve their communication processes, both internally and externally. Because of the implementation of ESSA, the scope of our work will expand to include communications to support stakeholder engagement and provide accurate information about ESSA. Learn more about the Comprehensive Center Network. 

System productivity. For public education, raising productivity means finding ways to improve student achievement with the money at hand. Productivity is a new topic for SEAs and requires a new set of tools toward managing and designing a responsive and sustainable education system. Our efforts focus on developing mindset and building leaders’ capacity to:

  • Recognize productivity improvements that exist in education
  • Understand how SEA and state leaders can affect productivity
  • Take action to drive productivity improvements in their system

Results

Westat has accomplished the following outcomes, with publications on these activities available on the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center website:

  • Through webinars, publications, and consultations, we have shared a range of actions states can take to help districts and schools to maximize outcomes with the resources they have at hand. Our approach is to help SEAs make more efficient use of scarce resources, implement a continuum of supports and interventions, select effective external partners, and monitor progress.
  • States benefit from intensive support. We created and disseminated a detailed strategic performance management manual and toolkit. Since disseminating the manual, we have been working with 2 SEAs to use the process in developing their strategic direction and performance management systems.
  • Responding to the increasing need to help states become more capable of performance management, we led representatives from 10 SEAs and 6 Regional Comprehensive Centers through a series of steps to use performance management in their organizations.
  • We have helped states improve their communications strategies and processes through 2 benchmarking processes.
  • SEAs have requested our assistance, with our consultations doubling annually. We documented this assistance in Solutions, a publication series.
  • To help state leaders envision a new direction for the work of SEAs, we have produced 6 editions of the SEA of the Future in which we provide in-depth examinations of different aspects of the SEA.

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