Providing High-Quality Technical Assistance across the Region

October 15, 2016

State education agencies (SEAs) in the Northwest face many challenges and competing priorities, but a few have risen to the top of the list in the past few years, including how to improve education for American Indian/Alaska Native students, promote college and career readiness, ensure educator effectiveness, and support low-performing schools. The Northwest Comprehensive Center (NWCC) works closely with SEAs in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington to identify the most pressing concerns in the region. Accordingly, these four high-priority areas will be the focus of NWCC’s technical assistance (TA) work in the final year of the current five-year contract.

Part of a national network of comprehensive centers, the NWCC’s charge is “to provide high-quality assistance and resources that are useful and relevant, supporting states’ and districts’ reform efforts for significantly improving student outcomes,” said NWCC Director Mike Siebersma. “That might take the form of working side-by-side to design a theory of action for a new statewide initiative or identifying what kinds of supports the state needs to provide to help districts implement a federal initiative.” In addition to assigning a state coordinator who serves as a key contact for each of the five states, the NWCC also coordinates its work with national experts, other TA providers, and the U.S. Department of Education so that the region can draw on the expertise it needs.

Below is a sample of the recent TA and support we have provided on SEAs’ self-identified priorities:

Assisting the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (DEED)

  • Gathering stakeholder input, research, and resources needed to facilitate the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
  • Designing an evaluation process that contributes to the continuous improvement of the Alaska State System of Support coaching program
  • Supporting the statewide implementation of English language arts and mathematics standards
  • Developing a continuum of supports to help districts implement new regulations for evaluating teachers and administrators

Assisting the Idaho State Department of Education (ISDE)

  • Structuring and facilitating meetings of various teams responsible for writing sections of the ESSA state plan
  • Developing processes and tools to guide district implementation of major state initiatives, including the Idaho Core Standards and the teacher and leader evaluation system
  • Examining ways to align federal programs to maximize service delivery to districts and schools across the state
  • Coordinating a conference for middle-level educators in Northern Idaho as part of a needs-sensing activity to enhance services to low-performing schools
  • Researching best practices to inform recommendations related to early reading for the Idaho literacy work group

Assisting the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI)

  • Providing ongoing support to work groups charged with preparing different sections of the ESSA state plan
  • Creating tools and resources to guide the statewide implementation, evaluation, and sustainability of initiatives to improve graduation rates and dropout prevention
  • Supporting a cross-agency task force focused on American Indian student achievement
  • Providing guidance to districts launching Native language-immersion programs
  • Facilitating internal planning, progress monitoring, and professional learning for teachers as part of the implementation of the Montana Common Core Standards
  • Designing and piloting a project in Wyola that supports the academic language development of American Indian students
  • Providing research and technical assistance to help districts develop and implement high-quality early learning programs

Assisting the Oregon Department of Education (ODE)

  • Forming and facilitating work groups to focus on different areas of ESSA and gathering stakeholder input to inform the state plan
  • Designing and delivering professional development in Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation
  • Helping with the creation of a review process for instructional materials that aligns with the CCSS
  • Developing, piloting, and evaluating an educator-effectiveness system that prepares and supports pre-K–20 educators along the career continuum
  • Implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the Continuous Improvement Network, which supports the state’s focus and priority schools
  • Researching and documenting promising practices of districts that are using assessments to improve student learning
  • Planning and facilitating meetings of the Governor’s Council on Educator Advancement, which is charged with making recommendations for coordinating a comprehensive system of support for all Oregon educators

Assisting the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

  • Examining school-level practices in programs that are supported by Learning Assistance Program funds and using research to identify possible areas of improvement
  • Building an understanding of the literature on effective practices aligned with the requirements of Title II, Part A; developing a theory of action and logic model; and identifying strategies for encouraging the use of effective practices by schools and districts
  • Conceptualizing and developing the state’s plan to ensure equitable access to excellent educators
  • Distilling the research into briefs on topics including Leadership Qualities of Effective of Principals and Qualitative Factors That Affect Teacher Distribution
  • Developing and implementing a cross-agency strategy to support local education agencies in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline
  • Planning for, implementing, and evaluating the Washington State Fellows Network—a cadre of English language arts, math, and science coordinators responsible for providing professional development

In addition, the NWCC has been leading two long-term regional initiatives:

Improving education for American Indian and Alaska Native students

One of our highest priorities is helping state education staff members increase their capacity to plan and implement policies and practices that improve educational outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native students. Our approach to this technical assistance entails facilitating a community of practice for our region’s SEA Indian education coordinators so they can share resources and lessons learned, as well as building individual SEA capacity through state-level projects that have regional implications.

Developing the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) Network

Partnering with state education leaders and a team from Boston College, we’re facilitating and growing a network of rural schools that share common problems of practice. Members—currently teachers and leaders from 20 communities in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington—are collaborating on ways to address issues of student engagement and college and career readiness.

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