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Evaluation of the Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers for Fiscal Year 2012 Grantees

Contract Information

Current Status:

This study has been completed.

Duration:

September 2013 – November 2019

Cost:

$7,861,244

Contract Number:

ED-IES-13-C-0059

Contractor(s):

IMPAQ International

Contact:

The Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers is a federal grant program authorized under the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002. The purpose of the Centers is to help State Education Agencies (SEAs) build capacity to implement state-level initiatives and to support district- and school-level initiatives that improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, and improve the quality of instruction. As of 2018, there were 15 Regional Centers that provided technical assistance to specific states and 7 Content Centers that provided content-area expertise in seven topics: standards and assessments implementation, great teachers and leaders, school turnaround, enhancing early learning outcomes, college- and career-readiness and success, building state capacity and productivity, and innovations in learning.

Since 2002, two sets of Centers have been funded, one starting in Fiscal Year 2005 and one starting in Fiscal Year 2012. The 22 Centers from the Fiscal Year 2012 cohort received a total of nearly $350 million in federal funding between 2012 and 2018. The Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002 mandates a national evaluation of the program. The Institute of Education Sciences previously conducted an Evaluation of the Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers for Fiscal Year 2005 Grantees. The current evaluation focused on the Fiscal Year 2012 grantees.

Design

  • How did the Centers define capacity building in their theories of action?
  • How did the Centers assess the needs of their constituents and develop work plans to address those needs?

Implementation

  • What strategies did the Centers employ to achieve their outcomes?
  • To what extent and how did the Centers collaborate with each other?
  • What challenges did the Centers face and how did they respond?

Outcomes

  • Did the Centers achieve their expected capacity-building outcomes and how did they know?
  • What strategies were perceived to be most effective and why?

All 22 Centers were included in the sample. Data on the Centers' technical assistance design, implementation, and outcomes were collected over three years (from 2015 to 2017), primarily through: (1) the Centers' work plans and technical assistance activity data; (2) interviews with staff from each Center; (3) interviews with technical assistance recipients; (4) surveys of Center staff; and (5) surveys of technical assistance recipients. This approach yielded rich and diverse data that were analyzed and summarized using qualitative research methods and simple quantitative tabulations.

  • States that received technical assistance reported improvements in their capacity, particularly related to building knowledge and skills.
  • Centers shared similar approaches to the design and implementation of their work. Common principles of capacity-building included fostering ownership, long-term change, and organizational process changes. Common strategies to implement these principles included thought partnering, cross-state sharing, and modeling new practices.
  • Centers and states considered multiple forms of assistance to be instrumental to building capacity, including support for gathering stakeholder input on policy, strategies for navigating transitions in state leadership, and various products and tools.
  • Centers and states pointed to a few areas for program improvement, including clarifying the role of the Centers and expected outcomes related to their work with local education agencies.

The final report, titled National Evaluation of the Comprehensive Centers Program Final Report, was released in October 2019.

A restricted-use file containing de-identified data is available for the purposes of replicating study findings and secondary analysis.