• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2006 • Dr. Bradley Scott

The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity provides technical assistance and training in many forms to serve public schools in its service region, including charter and magnet schools. The center is the equity assistance center funded by the U.S. Department of Education to serve Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. This article describes one technical assistance strategy that assists school personnel to transform educational policy and practice and to create significant impact in support of student success in schools.

The focused educational assistance (FEA) technical assistance approach is a strategy created by the center. The FEA provides local education agencies (e.g., public schools), including magnet and charter schools, a set of extended services to address an educational problem, concern or practice to provide greater opportunity for every learner to receive high quality instruction and educational supports to be academically successful.

There are several critical steps in this assistance strategy. Some of these steps involve important commitments on the part of the school district, and others require significant commitment on the part of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity. The district must first demonstrate a willingness and desire to address an educational concern that is denying students an opportunity to receive quality instruction, receive equal education opportunity, or benefit from access to schools and all programs within those schools. The district also must identify a person to be responsible for taking leadership for the district and to allocate time and administrate the district’s resources to ensure the issue is addressed. The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity commits 15 to 20 days of services and technical assistance to the effort at no cost to the district, including staff time, travel, technical and clerical support, and other resources that are necessary to complete the FEA.

The district and the center work together to clearly describe the problem or educational concern being addressed. Collaboratively, they specify goals and outcomes for all of the individuals who will be impacted by the activity, including measurable achievement or academic and other outcomes for students, and changes in policy and practices for administrators and teachers or for parents when appropriate.

The school district and the center draft a plan of action for addressing the problem, and all of this information is formalized in an FEA agreement that is signed by the South Central Collaborative for Equity and the district’s superintendent or official designee. This agreement outlines the commitment for both the district and the center and converts that commitment to a dollar figure on the part of both of the entities.

The FEA is a long-term, in-depth activity that also requires appropriate monitoring, data collection and analysis, progress reporting toward goal attainment, and course correction and modification where necessary. The formative evaluation that unfolds during the course of an FEA helps to ensure that goal accomplishment occurs and that the summative evaluation successfully reports goal completion by the end of the activity.

The impact of the FEA results in a tangible product or set of products that remains in the district and has extended usefulness beyond the FEA itself. The FEA also embraces the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity’s approach to equity planning, implementation and evaluation in that it follows a 12-step process to ensure that pre-determined outcomes are reached. The box below presents an example of how the equity plan works in a sample FEA on reading.

The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity has conducted FEAs in all five states in its service area. The FEAs have taken many forms, including: sheltered instruction observation protocol (SIOP) implementation in Texas; community-based equity assessment in Texas; IDRA’s Focusing on Language and Academic Instructional Renewal (FLAIR) program implementation in reading in Louisiana; gender equity also in Louisiana; implementation of a multicultural framework in staff development to support student success in New Mexico; parent leadership in New Mexico; unitary status planning in Arkansas; English as a second language (ESL) classroom strategies in Arkansas; service learning in Oklahoma; and meeting civil rights requirements under the law in Oklahoma.

The FEA strategy has proven to be an excellent way to create, measure and document impact in educational areas of concern. School districts in these five states are eligible to request such assistance by contacting the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity and by being committed to creating success for all learners regardless of their race, gender or national origin.

The center commits to nine FEAs each year, and they are established on a first-come first-serve basis.

School districts interested in such assistance to meet requirements under No Child Left Behind and under the Civil Rights Act or Title IX should contact IDRA to request such technical assistance.

Sample Equity Plan for Focused Educational Assistance

Equity Assistance Center Activity or Strategy
Sample: Reading FEA
Stage 1: Identify Goals or Outcomes for Students, Staff, Parents, etc. State goal or outcome: Reduce the achievement gap in reading for minority and English language learners.
Stage 2: Assess Needs Assist the district to determine current status in the persistent barrier or area of concern.
Stage 3: Select a Scientifically-Proven Instructional Program Assist the district to review research to determine what works for the population in question.
Stage 4: Set a Self-Improvement Plan Assist the district to select a researched-based program and develop an action plan for implementation to address the area of focus.
Stage 5: Determine the Self-Monitoring Plan Assist the district to create local self-monitoring mechanism that clearly documents changes and impact in the area of concern.
Stage 6: Acquire Support Assist the district to determine and identify resources to carry out the local plan including identifying the IDRA SCCE support through technical assistance and training as identified in the FEA agreement.
Stage 7: Implement the Plan Assist administrators, teachers and other stakeholders to implement the local plan, including providing technical assistance, guidance and problem-solving as needed according to the FEA agreement.
Stage 8: Follow-up Provide periodic on-site support to ensure the implementation and maintenance of newly implemented activities.
Stage 9: Conduct Evaluation Assist the district to collect, analyze and interpret data on the equity innovation or strategy that is implemented.
Stage 10: Redefine Needs Assist the district to redefine needs as a result of the FEA activity and establish a new level of change, including new changes in academic and other outcomes for the student population.
Stage 11: Design Modification Assist the district to determine any necessary program modifications as a result of local evaluation and other changes.
Stage 12: Implement Modification Assist the district with the implementation of new activity as a result of the local evaluation or because of changes that have occurred, such as reductions in the persistent gap or barriers to equity.
Source: Intercultural Development Research Association.

Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in the IDRA Division of Professional Development and directs the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2006, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2006 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]