It’s time for LEAs to start planning for use of federal funds for the FY22 school year. This is a time to look ahead and project how we will spend our federal dollars based on the LEA’s needs. It’s a time of gathering data to enable an efficient review of the current year and prior years’ successes and challenges. This is especially relevant in light of COVID and its impact on our students’ learning. So how does one go about gathering and sorting the data that yields the necessary information while at the same time meeting all federal guidelines in planning?
One thing most Federal Programs Directors do is conduct a needs survey. Based on the questions chosen, the survey can both evaluate the current program and provide input into the planning process. This survey goes out to all stakeholders, i.e., parents and community, teachers, and students. Since there are no guidelines for how to conduct the needs survey or the format in which it should be conducted, LEAs have a variety of options available to them. Some Federal Programs Directors conduct their surveys in-house using a district created survey such as google forms, while others utilize an outside firm to conduct their survey. In my experience as Federal Programs Director, I have done both. The in-house survey generally costs nothing except time. It takes time to create the survey, dispatch the survey, encourage completion of the survey, analyze the data, and present the data. I found that as Federal Programs Director, this time – my time – was costly. The alternative of an outside company being responsible for all the processes of conducting a needs assessment survey was necessary for me to consider. I found Education Resources, a company that would work closely with me to develop the survey, administer and monitor the responses, analyze the data, and write a summary report all for a reasonable cost. In addition, all the information was aligned with the State Department application requirements making completion of the federal application much easier. As a bonus, the reports are presented in a 4-color format ready for presentation to superintendents, school boards, and all stakeholders. Education Resources can go beyond the questionnaire and take much of the data the LEA has available and include in the report. The company works very closely with the Federal Programs Director to meet the needs of the LEA; they want to make the Federal Programs Director’s job a little easier.
Regardless of how you choose to administer your surveys, you want to be sure to include questions that meet federal requirements and eliminate or reduce the number of surveys that need to be administered. There are no required questions, but there are grants which require input from stakeholders. I always try to include questions regarding parent input on the 1% parent and family engagement funds on the parent survey and questions about homeless students and barriers on the teacher survey. I also include Title IV questions on all the surveys. The State’s monitoring instrument is one resource I have used for deciding questions to include which yield evidence of input and planning.
Once the surveys have been administered and data received, the comprehensive needs assessment planning process can get into full swing. I will address the planning process next time. Till then…