Needs assessment is a valuable tool which allows communicating with the community and identifying essential components that require improvement. Reading skills are among the fundamental learning competencies that schoolchildren should master. This will ensure their future academic success and provide them with the necessary tools for lifelong knowledge acquisition. Reading tests carried out in 2016 and 2017 indicated an issue of low reading performance in Safoa Elementary.
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The purpose of this needs assessment is to identify the problems that contribute to the poor reading performance among pupils and create an improvement plan that would target the issue. This plan should enhance the students’ achievements and ensure stakeholder engagement in the process. The school’s management administered the survey, and it was given to the teachers. This choice was made because they can provide valuable insight into the matter and offer changes to the existing practices that would help improve the reading performance. This paper aims to display details regarding the needs assessment, survey results, and suggest an action plan that would help carry out the improvement.
School Mission and Vision and Identification of Need
The establishment in which the needs were assessed is Safoa K-6 Elementary School. Its vision is to uphold the reputation of a living-learning community. Additionally, the primary objective is to cooperate with stakeholders to inspire the learners and to create a positive culture that would contribute to the mentioned cause. The mission of Safoa Elementary is to provide a strong educational foundation to the students and to ensure that they can reach their academic potential.
Cooperation with the community is the critical component of this approach. Thus, the plan should involve the engagement of all stakeholders to ensure that it complies with the mission and vision statements.
The previous organizational efforts were aimed at providing schoolchildren with the necessary reading skills through standard practices. The regulatory systems that were addressed in the paper are the existing curriculum, instructions, student center practices, and parental involvement. The stakeholders that should be supportive of the project are the staff members, the administration, and the children’s’ families.
As was previously mentioned, the skills assessments have provided an understanding of low reading capabilities. Additionally, most of the pupils in Safoa Elementary are second language learners, which creates another barrier for their reading achievements. According to Anderson (2017), “school systems face unprecedented local, state, and federal accountability for performance and student achievement” (p. 1). This highlights a need to address the issue because reading is among the essentials that one has to master to ensure that they can gain knowledge in the future.
Structure of Assessment and Data Collection
Four initial steps were used to design an adequate tool, which would help identify issues that contribute to low reading performance and create a change plan. Firstly, the leader who administers the program chose the objectives of the assessment. The change agent reviewed essential questions that help identify the educational problem and desired outcomes. Furthermore, questions of whether the survey would address these issues appropriately, should the leader incorporate other methods to collect more information, and timeframe that can be used to carry out the assessment were discussed.
The process of development for the needs assessment instrument began with identifying a proper approach. For this project, the survey was chosen because the tool can be designed in a way that ensures precise and unbiased answers (Glanz, 2014). Additionally, open-ended questions can provide a better understanding of the specific aspects that contribute to the problem.
The second step involved identifying the target population among the stakeholders. The aim was to ensure that the chosen community has an understanding of the existing reading problem and possesses required competency to advise on a possible solution. Subjects in this needs assessment are over the age of 18, and those are teachers from Safoa Elementary who can provide valuable information regarding specific issues that may be obstructing students from performing well in reading tests.
No leading questions were included in the assessment to create a tool that is unbiased (Glanz, 2014). Additionally, they participated in the project voluntarily, and anonymity was guaranteed. Out of twenty-two personnel members, twenty-one completed the assessment. A detailed explanation of the issue, purpose, and possible implications were sent out together with the survey letter. Additionally, potential concerns regarding the politics of the school were addressed as well.
The survey questions were sent out via email to twenty-two teachers from the Safoa Elementary school to collect the data. The process of answering was done by using Google Drive, which allowed receiving the results right after the completion. Twenty one responded provided his or her insight within one week. Likert scale format was used in the process of creating the questions to give the subjects various options to identify nuances of the issue more accurately.
Appendix A presents a visual display of the survey results. Overall, twenty questions in the format of the Likert scale and five open-ended questions were created for this project. To maintain Human subject requirements and ensure that the responder’s personal information remains undisclosed no personal data such as name, position, or other information that could indicate a specific participant was included in the survey.
Another component that contributed to the successful assessment of needs involved designing the survey questions that would specifically target the issue of low reading performance in students. The items were sent to teachers to receive feedback on possible improvements and ensure that the tool is adequately designed (Glanz, 2014). The approach allowed deleting the components that would not contribute to the cause and adding those that were of primary concern to stakeholders. The questions were divided into four sections to group the issues in regards to a specific topic. Finally, the survey was carried out and feedback from the stakeholders was assessed for further examination. The purpose of the project was explained to the participants.
Data Analysis and Summary of Results
Data were analyzed by applying frequency distribution to identify the most common answer, which helps enhance an understanding of the existing problems. Information and its interpretation from the survey’s questioners were categorized. Appendix A presents study results that were collected from the teachers and consists of graphs that display frequency distribution for the collected answers. The following paragraphs give an interpretation of the answers provided by 20 responders of the survey.
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The first section of the survey assessed the primary information regarding age, gender, and experience level. The data provides insight into the existing human resources that Safoa Elementary employees. According to the results, all teachers at this school are male; most of them are in the age group of 26-30 and 36-40. An essential component to this survey is the level of experience because individuals that have been in the organization for a more extended period are more likely to provide experience-based advice that can be used in this project (Glanz, 2014). The respondent’s answers indicate that 30% of employees have worked in the educational field for four to six years. Based on this it can be concluded that Safoa’s staff members have sufficient experience.
The next section of the assessment was created to identify current approaches that Safoa takes towards its teaching practices. Most responders state that the current reading curriculum corresponds to the needs of the students. Additionally, they indicate that they feel confident when teaching in correspondence to the existing practices. Sixty-five percent of the responders received training that prepared them for applying the curriculum.
Sixty percent agree that the current practice links old knowledge to the new experience. This section provided an insight into the teacher’s view on the matter. Based on these answers it can be concluded that most employees are satisfied with the existing practices. This would indicate that from the teacher’s perspective, no changes to the curriculum should be made; thus, a change strategy should focus on other aspects that contribute to reading skills development.
Instructions and Resources
The next section focused on the strategies that are employed within classrooms to enhance learning. The results are especially valuable to this project because they indicate a serious problem that should be addressed.
Primarily, sixty percent of responders stated that the existing instructions do not correspond to the needs of the students. Furthermore, seventy percent pointed out that they have not received training that would enable them to apply a different instructional strategy. Then, lack of various resources and inability to implement them within the curriculum is indicated by the fact that sixty-five percent of teachers do not think that the library provides a sufficient amount of resources.
Other problems that were found during this survey are the fact that teachers do not feel confident in providing educational interventions for students that struggle to keep up with the existing demands. This aspect requires additional attention from a leader because ensuring that educators are capable of applying different methods that suit the diverse needs of children is essential for productive learning.
Other resources that could enhance reading skills such as audiobooks are not employed in classrooms, which is displayed by sixty-five percent of responders. This leads to a lack of motivation for schoolchildren because they do not have a choice of approach to reading. Blogs, podcast, and games are not used by fifty-five percent of the individuals. These problems may be due to a lack of such resources in classrooms, which was cited as a reason by sixty-five percent of responders.
Based on the replied from this section it can be concluded that teachers lack training and instructions that would enable them to apply various approaches and techniques. In this way, they would be able to address the different needs of students in regards to reading and enhance their skill level. Additionally, the school’s leaders should consider investing in more resources for classrooms, that would enable educators to play audiobooks, podcasts, show blogs and apply other methods.
This part of the survey was designed to identify whether teachers ensure that pupils provide feedback to each other and engage in activities apart from those offered by the school. On the most part, the majority of responders stated that they make certain that feedback is provided to children. Additionally, most instructors allow to choose from a variety of written materials and ensure that kids can link the knowledge they receive to the outside world, providing a practical application for information.
This indicates a positive attitude that can help improve the reading skills of the learners because those are a must for their further education and work. Furthermore, most responders indicate that they encourage children-led activities and collaboration, which can be used as a basis for the future implementation plan. This part of the data collection presents no significant issues with the student center.
The data from this section indicates that the current practices at Safoa Elementary do not encourage parental involvement in the student learning process. Most responders state that feedback from families and community is not integrated into the curriculum, as is reported by fifty-five percent of teachers. Additionally, sixty-five percent mention that they do not create partnerships with parents, which may be due to lack of instructions from the school’s leaders on how to carry out the practice.
The overall environment of the organization does not welcome the involvement of relatives in the teaching process, as was stated by 60 percent of teachers. No mean of communication with families is established by seventy percent of the responders of the survey, which may lead to the issues mentioned above. This section provides a clear understanding of the need to improve cooperation with parents that would enable instructors to assess feedback and implement it into their work. Together with the issues, indicated in the instructions section of the paper it can be concluded that currently, Safoa does not adhere to its mission and vision.
Interpretation of the Results
The answers collected from the teachers imply that two primary factors need to be changed by the school’s administration – parental involvement and instructions for educators. The component that was surprising is that while teachers receive sufficient training, the existing guidelines obstruct staff members from applying more flexible techniques in their classrooms. Also, attitudes towards parental involvement were unexpected because the vision and mission statement indicate the need to incorporate community members into the learning process for students. The factor that was anticipated is lack of various resources within classrooms, such as books or technical applications.
Implication for Action
The objective of the first action step is to modify the existing instructions for teachers to address the needs of pupils in regards to reading issues. Another approach to this strategy is to apply different methods for teaching in the upcoming year. The school leader will have to create new training programs to implement this step successfully. According to Markee (2015), the topic of instructions, their creation, and implementation did not receive enough attention from scholars.
The author argues that approaches used by educators to communicate tasks and the general guidelines they use in their practice are crucial for the proper educational process. Thus, the objective of this change is in creating a training process that would enable teachers applying flexible approaches in their everyday work. This component will include using different reading and listening resources, based on the specific preferences of the schoolchildren. The principal should schedule weekly meetings for sharing experiences to ensure that the practice is carried out efficiently.
The resources for this step are additional financial or non-financial incentives for the personnel to adhere to the training. For instance, the administration can offer a bonus to a teacher whose class will display the best result in regards to reading at the end of the year. Additionally, the leader will have to provide a classroom for meetings and training sessions. The administration will have to create presentations and search for articles that would help teachers understand new approaches.
The primary method of evaluating this step is an assessment of reading results from students. Additionally, classroom observations and lesson plan examination can provide an understanding of the efficiency in regards to the chosen practice.
The second action step involves ensuring that the school supports the professional development of teachers. More specifically, the personnel members should learn how to use technology and apply it for enhancing their skills. The resources for this steps are online courses or webinars, specifically tailored to explain different techniques that help strengthen reading skills. The approach of a workshop in which the topics will include the application of audiobooks, blog posts, websites, and interactive games as a method to improve reading skills for learners is suitable. For instance, Education Week offers webinars that help teachers understand different techniques of improving literacy for their students (“Education week webinars,” 2018).
The resource provides free of charge videos and presentations, and the school leaders would need to provide a classroom and a timeframe for the staff members to participate in these sessions. A specific agenda or a book should be created to plan the process, choose particular dates for the events, and track the progress. Both teacher evaluation and children achievement tools should be used to evaluate the action step.
The final step is cooperating with community members to improve learning outside of school. The primary approach to ensuring that parents get involved in the process of teaching their children how to read is to invite them for a visit. This event can be held on a monthly basis and should include games and other activities. The educators should provide the necessary information on how to communicate with children to help them acquire knowledge outside of the educational establishment.
According to Howe and Lisi (2015), schoolchildren cannot study everything they should know in a classroom; thus, teachers require additional support from the children’s families. The leader’s task, in this case, is to ensure that a partnership is built between Safoa Elementary staff members and the community. The resources required for implementing this step are a classroom and food for the visitors. Assessing and examining results of students’ performance can help monitor the initiative’s success.
It is anticipated that some teachers will show resistance towards the proposed changes. This is due to the fact that some individuals may be concerned with the effect that the technology use will have on their life and work. Moreover, the generation gap between baby boomers and generation-x can enhance the negative attitudes towards the offered technological change (Lovely, 2005). Additionally, a change in the instructions implies that these staff members will have to alter their daily practice. The final issue is the pressure that some may feel due to knowing the administration’s desire for improving reading assessment results.
Some staff members may point out that to attend training sessions and webinars they would need to dedicate personal time. One of the approaches to mitigating this risk was previously discussed. It is a creation of monetary incentive in the form of bonus to those who display the best results. Alternatively, the administration can offer to pay for the additional training. Parents may be resistant to the initiative because they are unable to come to the meeting at a set time and date.
To avoid such risk, they should be informed via emails that they can visit the school either in the morning or in the evening. Additionally, to ensure convenience the meeting can be held in the Family Centre that operates in the community.
Considering these issues the school’s administration should discuss the plan with primary stakeholders to ensure that they understand the purpose and value of the project. In addition, the generation gap should be addressed to mitigate negative relationships between staff members. Knight (2009) states that leaders should ensure that new practices are easy to implement and do not burden the teachers or other stakeholders. Thus, the personnel and parents should be asked to provide their insight into the offered change plan, and alterations to it should be made accordingly.
Reflection and Summary
Needs assessment is a valuable tool that should be used by leaders to implement change. Anderson (2017) states that “school leadership is a critical component of strong performance and student achievement” (p. 1). Thus, leaders of establishments should be the primary initiators of alterations in regards to practices that do not provide a required result. When considering the reading assessment results that were examined in this project, one can conclude that a change affecting all teachers and other stakeholders is necessary. Gabriel and Farmer (2009) state that “effective leadership is the key to improving academic achievement and attaining lasting change” (p. 20). Thus, needs assessment can help the administration influence the educational process and results that children display.
Gathering information to articulate and create better approaches is crucial. According to Marsh and Farell (2014), “increased availability of technology, financial support from policymakers, and greater accountability for student outcomes have all contributed to the increased focus on data use for educational improvement globally” (p. 2). However, the authors emphasize that most educational facilities struggle with implementing new strategies due to a lack of previous practice and necessary skills. To mitigate this component and ensure that Safoa Elementary can successfully adapt the approach several methods for overcoming barriers are offered in this paper.
This relates to the needs assessment research because policymakers and school administration should understand the importance of stakeholder involvement and consider their opinion when creating new practices. The offered change is connected to the vision and mission statements of Safoa Elementary because the organization aims to create an environment for learning and involve the community. The suggested change ensures that teachers can apply flexible methods that would be tailored to each student, enabling their progressive education. Additionally, cooperation with parents and other community members should help children gain knowledge outside school.
The leadership style that is required to implement this strategy is transformational leadership because the approach is aimed at facilitating change. Additionally, according to Harrison and Killion (2007), effective teachers should provide resources to their colleagues, help implement new instructions, provide support, and assist in other ways to ensure that learning outcomes of students are satisfactory. By combing the tools mentioned by the authors and those of transformational leaders one can effectively identify issues in a school setting and help mitigate them by engaging the stakeholders. Overall, this project provided all the information that Safoa Elementary leader would need to carry out the change and improve reading results of the schoolchildren.
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