As part of the criteria for evaluating LEA subgrant applications, each SEA was required to explain how they would determine whether an LEA applicant had demonstrated the commitment and capacity to use the SIG funds to support Tier I and Tier II schools.14 SEAs' strategies for identifying evidence of LEA capacity varied in specificity and breadth. For example, 20 states plan to use the LEA applications for SIG funds as the primary evidence of LEA capacity; in these applications LEAs are to self-report on their own capacity levels. Other states plan to use approaches that would involve sources of information beyond applications, such as a district audit or needs assessment, indicators of past performance (whether academic or financial), SEA-designed rubrics, or plans for SEA staff to meet with LEA administrators to ascertain capacity (see Exhibit 6).
For example, in the spring of 2010, the Kentucky SEA conducted audits in all LEAs that had Tier I or Tier II schools. Using the state standards for school improvement and a survey of working conditions, the Kentucky audit team was required to provide data regarding each LEA's capacity to support SIG interventions in Tier I and Tier II schools. In Maryland, LEAs applying for SIG funds are required to conduct a needs assessment for each SIG-eligible school as well as a self-assessment that articulates the strengths and areas of need of the LEA.
Fifteen states plan to review LEAs' past performance or history as a factor in determining LEA capacity, including prior academic performance, management of grants, and past efforts to recruit effective principals. For example, the Alaska SEA will also consider evidence of the LEA's previous actions taken to improve achievement in its schools, any growth in student achievement, and use of federal grants awarded to the LEA within the past two school years.
In determining LEA capacity, nine states require that the LEA submit evidence of engagement on the part of community stakeholders, including parents, unions, or the local school board. Seven states plan to meet with LEA staff to determine their capacity to support SIG schools. For example, in Arizona the SEA plans to meet with the LEA team to develop qualitative reports of LEA capacity. This information will supplement the LEA's application and claims of capacity.
In order to synthesize the evidence of LEA capacity, fourteen states developed rubrics to assess LEA capacity during the SIG application review. For example, Arizona developed a rubric for Capacity and Commitment which covers five areas reflected in the Arizona Standards for District and School improvement. The five categories include: 1) LEA and School Leadership; 2) Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development; 3) Classroom and School Assessments; 4) School Culture and Climate; and 5) Communication and Resource Management. The LEA must then meet a minimum score to be considered as having capacity to support school improvement.