Now it's time to put your data in context. A school needs assessment is about incorporating your hard data on student achievement into the global picture of your school, getting input from staff, students, and community on other factors that influence student success, such as school climate and culture, student engagement, and parent involvement. This process will help you clarify your school vision of success, identify the areas of highest need, and set you on track to select a program that achieves your goals.
A needs assessment is also a terrific way to get buy-in and support from your school community from the very beginning by setting them at the heart of the planning process. The diagram below is an illustration of the process for conducting a needs assessment, developed from the federal Title I guidelines. Click on the arrows for more information about each step.
Schoolwide Planning Team
The schoolwide planning team is led by the principal or key administrative staff, and consists of core community members that can help shape the school vision and be catalysts for process and change. Suggested members include teachers, district administrators, curriculum specialists or other professional staff, parents, and community stakeholders. Schools considering an arts-based strategy might ask a district visual and performing arts coordinator to sit on the schooled planning team. You should also consider whether a school committee already in place for school site planning can be the core members of your planning team. The school planning team will ultimately be responsible for planning, communication, and accountability, so choose your members carefully and for maximum impact! Back to chart
Vision for Reform
When embarking on your vision for reform, think about your committee trying to answer the question, “What does success look like?” To get the most out of the needs assessment, it is crucial to understand the vision of success, and the differences between that vision of success and what currently exists. Consider asking questions like, “What is our purpose at X School?” “What are our expectations for students?” “What are the responsibilities of the adults who work here?” “How important are collaborations and partnerships?” “What is our commitment to continuous improvement?” Be prepared to listen. You are creating a vision for your school culture. Back to chart
Your school profile is a 360 degree view of your school’s current status — a benchmark against which you can measure change when your vision is realized. The school profile includes the student achievement data you have already collected, but adds other material to flesh out the picture, including some or all of the following: student demographic data, attendance records and office visits, teacher qualification and professional development, descriptive data about school assessment processes and interventions, parent and community involvement, non-academic measures of school improvement. For the school profile, it may be useful to distribute a survey instrument that collects related data from key community stakeholders, including parents, staff, students and community members. Back to chart
In this step, your school planning team will analyze the combined results of quantitative and qualitative data collected. Looking at the data will give you the clearest evidence of where there are gaps between your school vision and its current status, and reveal the issues which may be impacting student achievement. As you analyze your data, asking the following questions may be helpful:
Does the evidence gathered support our assumptions about school strengths and needs?
Are there information gaps?
What priorities does the information suggest? Back to chart
Targeting Areas of Need
Following on from the data analysis, your planning team should be able to draw conclusions and put forth several areas that you designate to be of the highest need. It may be useful to have other stakeholders at the administrative or district level, if they are not already on your team, review these conclusions to see that they share the same clear connections. These will be the areas of need that you focus on in choosing a research-based strategy for your schoolwide program.