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Evaluating the Implementation of Networked Improvement Communities in Education: An Applied Research Methods Report

Region:
Midwest
Description:

The purpose of this study was to develop a framework that can be used to evaluate the implementation of networked improvement communities (NICs) in public prekindergarten (PK)–12 education and to apply this framework to the formative evaluation of the Minnesota Alternative Learning Center Networked Improvement Community (Minnesota ALC NIC), a partnership between Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, the Minnesota Department of Education, and five alternative learning centers (ALCs) in Minnesota. The partnership formed with the goal of improving high school graduation rates among students in ALCs. The evaluation team developed and used research tools aligned with the evaluation framework to gather data from 37 school staff in the five ALCs participating in the Minnesota ALC NIC. Data sources included attendance logs, postmeeting surveys (administered following three NIC sessions), a post–Plan-Do-Study-Act survey, continuous improvement artifacts, and event summaries. The evaluation team used descriptive analyses for quantitative and qualitative data, including frequency tables to summarize survey data and coding artifacts to indicate completion of continuous improvement milestones. Engagement in the Minnesota ALC NIC was strong, as measured by attendance data and post–Plan-Do-Study-Act surveys, but the level of engagement varied by continuous improvement milestones. Based on postmeeting surveys, NIC members typically viewed the NIC as relevant and useful, particularly because of the opportunities to work within teams and develop relationships with staff from other schools. The percentage of meeting attendees agreeing that the NIC increased their knowledge and skills increased over time. Using artifacts from the NIC, the evaluation team determined that most of the teams completed most continuous improvement milestones. Whereas the post–Plan-Do-Study-Act survey completed by NIC members indicated that sharing among different NIC teams was relatively infrequent, contemporaneous meeting notes recorded specific instances of networking among teams. This report illustrates how the evaluation framework and its aligned set of research tools were applied to evaluate the Minnesota ALC NIC. With slight adaptations, these tools can be used to evaluate the implementation of a range of NICs in public PK–12 education settings. The study has several limitations, including low response rates to postmeeting surveys, reliance on retrospective measures of participation in continuous improvement activities, and the availability of extant data on a single Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle. The report includes suggestions for overcoming these limitations when applying the NIC evaluation framework to other NICs in public PK–12 education settings.

Publication Type:
Tools
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
March 2021