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National Evaluation of the Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers

NCEE 2011-4031
August 2011

The Comprehensive Centers Program

In its authorization under the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002, the Center program was given an overall charge of supporting state and local NCLB implementation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED), using discretion provided in the legislation, established two major program features that differed from the design of Comprehensive Center programs under prior legislation:5

  • First, the primary focus would be on assisting states to carry out NCLB responsibilities and helping build state capacity to deliver assistance to schools and districts; ED specified that Centers could only work directly with districts or schools under special circumstances.
  • Second, awards would be made to 21 Centers to establish two-tiers of technical assistance with 16 RCCs and 5 CCs. They were instructed to work as follows:
    • Each RCC was charged with providing ongoing assistance directly to states in its region ("frontline assistance"), serving the needs of either one large state or a group of two to eight states and other jurisdictions.6 The RCCs were also expected to deliver technical assistance to their assigned states, addressing the needs and building capacity of the states to assist their districts and schools.
    • Meanwhile, each CC would work on a nationwide basis to provide in-depth knowledge of the content and research within a particular substantive area: Assessment and Accountability, Instruction, Teacher Quality, Innovation and Improvement, or High Schools. CCs would facilitate access to, and use of, existing research and practices.
    • The absolute priorities for the two types of Centers indicated that they should work together: Regional Centers should draw information and resources from Content Centers as well as other sources; and Content Centers should both supply knowledge to Regional Centers and "work closely with Regional Centers to provide technical assistance to States."
5 Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year 2005. Federal Register. (2005, June 3). 70(106), 32583–94.
6 The nonstate jurisdictions that the Centers were to serve were the following: the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap), Guam, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau. Throughout this report, the term "state" will be defined to include the 50 states as well as these other jurisdictions.