National Evaluation of the Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers

Technical Assistance and Scale-Up of Innovative Programs
Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education
PSA Director
Brenda J. Turnbull

This multi-year national evaluation produced a final report that included findings on the Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers, a federally funded program that provides technical assistance to states in connection with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. PSA, Branch Associates, Inc., and Decision Information Resources, Inc. conducted the evaluation for the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

NCLB places significant demands on states, calling on them to direct and support their districts and schools in closing achievement gaps, with particular attention to the districts and schools where achievement continues to fall short. The Comprehensive Centers are charged with building the capacity of states for carrying out their NCLB responsibilities. The Center program was designed to supply ongoing technical assistance to states in using research knowledge and promising practices.

The evaluation determined the extent to which Centers met their own objectives and enhanced state capacity to support district and school improvement. The evaluation also determined how the Centers operated and provided needed data for ED’s three program performance measures on quality, relevance, and usefulness of Center services and products.

The evaluation gathered information annually on the Center program for the years 2006-2009 from data sources that included:

  • Center documents such as management plans and project inventory forms
  • Interviews with Center staff members regarding Center goals, priorities, and activities
  • Expert panel reviews of sampled Center projects to determine each project's technical quality
  • Surveys of project participants to determine each sampled project's relevance and usefulness
  • Surveys of senior SEA managers to determine state technical assistance needs, what Centers provided, and whether it met state needs

More on findings and methodology can be found in the final report.