Needs Assessment

Analyze the situation using the best data you have available and cite where possible. Show both the strengths and weaknesses of the current situation.

The Needs Assessment provides:

  • A situational analysis of problem and how you intend to address it
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the current situation

Sample #1

Needs Assessment

This flood happened in one of the neediest of New Mexico communities. The population is comprised of the following ethnic groups: Hispanic (79.2%); White Non-Hispanic (18.8%); two or more ethnicities (2.4%), and American Indian (1.6%). The estimated median household income in 2005 was $21,100. Unemployment ranges are just under 16% and rising in the current economy. Levels of poverty in these areas are some of the state’s worst. An estimated 23% live below the poverty line earning a median annual income of $13.999. In spite of these challenges, the people of Target have come together and formed a group aimed at restoring their town, the Target Area Recovery Team (TART).

A needs assessment conducted by the Target Area Recovery Team (TART) tasked with long-term recovery identified a minimum $204,000 worth of unmet basic materials needs. This figure does not include supervisory or labor costs associated with rebuilding damaged homes. Education challenges are many. Out of the nine-hundred and thirty total people living in Target only, ninety-one residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (US Census, 2000). For students in grades 9-12 the dropout rate is 9.7%, nearly twice that of the state’s average of 4.9% (New Mexico Department of Education, 2007). The school district’s student achievement scores are also some of the lowest in the state. On last year’s state report card only 16% of the 8th grade students in Target showed proficiency in mathematics (New Mexico Department of Education Web Site, 2009). The nearly 500 commercial and residential buildings were adversely impacted by an arroyo (natural drainage) breach that sent waist-high water roiling throughout the downtown where many of the adobe homes sit. Much of the water collected in an historic residential area west of Franklin Street. This neighborhood features charming and unique 1930s and 1940s-era homes constructed using sun-dried clay, sand and straw (adobe) bricks.


Sample #2

The Math Achievement Plan (MAP) evaluative research will study the replication and adaptation of the model based on the original Your Town Math Initiative (YTMI) model but modified over the next three years using a process of design-based research. The original mixed effects linear model would also continue to be used to study the empirical answers to specific research questions based on the model. The proposed work will be done in a larger district with more diverse demographics through a partnership with district leaders and teachers and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educators and researchers.

This district, Your Town Public Schools, represents the changing national trends in student population. While states like New York and Texas struggle to meet the needs of diverse learners the changing demographics bears out the growing challenges for schools in all states including Wisconsin and Ohio (NCES, 2006).There is a need for effective capacity building models for mathematics achievement that can inform others in the broader mathematics community and contribute to expanding the quality, quantity and diversity of students who will have the mathematics background to enter the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. The theoretical framework for this systems model is included in the rationale section below.

The following proposal describes how a systems model for building capacity that was shown to be successful during the YTMI initiative could be adapted for use nationally in other districts. A significant component of this proposal is to continue to expand the evaluative research begun during the student outcomes study and to use a continuous improvement process involving design-based research to further strengthen a capacity building model. This will be made possible by a strong, existing collaboration between educational researchers, mathematicians, mathematics educators and school district leaders with extensive experience over the last 10 years in building the capacity of districts for success in mathematics teaching and learning.

While the YTMI was successful in closing the achievement gap for Hispanic students in a 94% Hispanic district, we want to know if the same research-based systems model for building capacity can work in a district of mixed ethnicity where Hispanic students are currently scoring as much as 20% below Anglo students in the district by eighth grade.

This research effort will provide the opportunity to produce and disseminate new knowledge in the form of research findings, research tools, and a tested building capacity model that could positively impact student’s mathematics learning across the country. In addition, we would like to find out if a focused professional development plan based on the building capacity model can be applied and tested in supporting full implementation of the K-8 NSF math curriculum in the Fall of 2007 and if this can be done through an intensive three year effort. Full implementation will include developing and coordinating all parts of the system, including curriculum alignment with teaching and assessment, the development of additional formative assessments, intense PD in mathematics content and teaching mathematics, support for administrators in the implementation process, and the integration of significant school-based support for teacher collaborative efforts (see REFERENCE). This proposal would provide the funding for researching these efforts while the district and other grants are providing funds for the implementation of the same standards-based curriculum used in the YTMI.

A sustainable model that results in closing the persistent achievement gap for under-represented minority and low-income students in mathematics has potentially significant national value to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. As the national demographics of our student population becomes increasingly diverse, it is imperative that educators address the achievement gap and make it possible to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of students capable of studying in STEM fields and eventually entering the national STEM workforce. A number of publications and reports (“Waiting for Sputnik”- Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future” – National Governors’ Association, as well as the developing American Competitiveness Initiative call for urgent action to improve the preparation of our nation’s youth to work in STEM fields.

Ethnically and linguistically diverse students are the largest growing proportion of new public school students with Hispanics being the largest growing “minority” population in the United States (US Census Bureau, 2000). Students from these populations are not achieving at the same rate of success in math as other populations (NCES, 2002). National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, 2004) data indicates that at the national level the achievement gap for ELLs, various ethnic groups, and low-income students is not closing (Haycock, 2001). Hispanic students fall behind their Anglo counterparts in math at all grade levels (NCES, 2002), have lower participation rates in advanced math courses in high school and college, and are underrepresented in STEM related fields which require a strong background in math.

While mathematics is only one component of STEM education, knowledge of mathematics impacts deeply the study of science, technology, and engineering. In fact, in an interview with engineers for an NSF project (Bridges Project, 2002) when asked about what students needed to know to enter engineering in university, consistently, the engineers suggested that an understanding of mathematics and especially mathematical reasoning was an essential component to the study of every STEM discipline. It is a lack of mathematical knowledge that keeps children from studying further in the STEM fields (Moses & Cobb, 2002).

An important value of the proposed study would provide information about how a systems model for building capacity for mathematics learning can work in a larger district with mixed ethnicities and what level of effort and time are necessary to make such a model sustainable. One of the major findings of the YTMI is that the problem does not lie with the children, their ethnicity or their income level, but with their lack of access to a system that provides all students with the opportunities to learn a rich and challenging mathematics curriculum. The YTMI demonstrated what was first discovered in the effective schools research (McInerney, Dowson, & Van Etten, 2006), that schools can have a significantly positive effect on student learning, despite the fact that students are economically disadvantaged, have learning needs in terms of language and need to become part of an academic culture.