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Comprehensive Needs Assessment Made Simple

April 17, 2018

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The needs assessment process, which is required for schools implementing federal and state programs using ESSA (Title I, II, III, IV) and State Compensatory Education funds, is useful for all school leadership teams as an ongoing part of continuous improvement planning. Conducting a comprehensive needs assessment (CNA) is a vital task for school leaders, though some shy away from the process assuming the task is fraught with complexity. 

TCSA has helped ease your anxiety as you follow this simple, step-by-step assessment process.  

1. Determine your Purpose

Are you conducting a comprehensive needs assessment as part of a requirement for state or federal funding? Or, are you reviewing performance as a whole to develop a shared understanding of the school's weaknesses and programmatic or organizational needs? Be sure to share your purpose and hoped for outcomes as you engage others in the work.

2. Identify your Team/Committees

As a best practice, representation from several stakeholder groups is best. Identify a few parents and appropriate staff members to participate. Differing views and perspectives will shed light on the nuances of current engagement and programmatic implementation and will help shape the improvement plan. 

3. Review Data, Organizational Activities, and Observed Strengths & Weaknesses

Within the member portal leaders can take the Quality Framework self-evaluation, providing insights into ten systems of school functionality and health.  Additionally, an extensive data pack is available. Once the self-assessment is complete and submitted, review the results under the Quality Framework Reports section of the portal. The QF report will highlight critical areas needing attention as well as spotlight exceptional performance. 

4. Determine Action Plan and Next Steps

Once the gaps have been identified, determine the areas of focused improvement. It is important to narrow the efforts to a few key areas, since research tells us that having too many goals diminishes the likelihood of reaching the desired outcomes. Note that the QF report also includes a "Next Steps" report option which enables teams to choose areas of focus and print a related report that includes improvement recommendations for those areas.

5. Identify Goals, Targets, Owners, Follow-Up Dates and Process

The final step is to ensure that each area of improvement has clearly defined owners and expectations for ongoing follow-up and accountability. Each outcome target should have measurable and time-bound expectations along with ongoing follow-up steps to monitor progress toward goals.

The comprehensive needs assessment process is critical and made simple by the tools provided FREE to member schools. For more information, or for assistance in leading your team through this process, contact Laura Kelly, Director of Quality Services, at

512-584-8272 | 3005 S Lamar Blvd, Suite D-447, Austin, TX, 78704