One of the federal programs’ mandatory requirements is conducting an annual comprehensive needs assessment (CNA). Many districts annually offer a survey to faculty, students, and parents and consider this their comprehensive needs assessment. In reality, the CNA is more than a survey. A good comprehensive needs assessment includes data that enables an efficient review of the current year and prior years’ successes and challenges. 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?
The CNA survey is a beneficial tool. Based on the chosen questions, the survey can 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 conducting 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 administer 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, 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 carrying the responsibility 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 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 it 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.
This year Title IV stakeholder engagement seems to be a priority. Title IV stakeholder engagement can be a part of your CNA survey. The key is to ensure you have questions on the survey that directly address the three categories in Title IV – well-rounded education, safe and health, and effective use of technology. These questions should provide feedback that directs the spending of Title IV funds. Other data should be considered when developing the survey and subsequent report. Consider data such as number of dual enrollment classes, access to ACT/SAT testing, chronic absenteeism, dropout rates, availability of school nurses, counselor, etc. This data can be provided to include in the report. Federal regulations only require Title IV surveys every three years; however, it doesn’t hurt to include these questions on your annual CNA.
Many Federal Program Directors conduct their annual survey at this time of the year. However, the requirement is that there is an annual CNA. As long as you do one, you can do it at any time of the year.
Good luck in conducting your CNA. May it yield beneficial results.