Using continuous system level assessment to build school capacity

Christopher L. Smith, Rachel L. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to introduce a conceptual model for internal assessment and professional development planning. The continuous systems-level assessment (CSLA) is a model that can provide school and other professionals with a method for making data-based decisions, and is intended to foster local expertise by utilizing assessment information to design effective professional development strategies. The CSLA model includes three phases: needs assessment and problem identification; designing interventions and building staff capacity; and implementing and evaluating interventions. The authors outline the values associated with the CSLA model, the major phases involved in the process, and provide an example of how the process is currently being implemented in an urban school in Kansas. School-based programs are complex, dynamic, and usually involve long-term commitments from a variety of partners. In addition, program implementation often occurs within the context of organic, changing organizations and therefore, requires a flexible model of evaluation. Several bottom-up program evaluation models have been developed that can be used to guide an assessment of the commitments, values, and capacities of schools and other organizations (Fawcett et al., 1996; Fetterman, 1996; Greenwood, Whyte, & Harkavy, 1993; Knoff, 1996; Levin, 1996; Millett, 1996; Scriven, 1967; Stake, 1967, 1976). The approach described here is similar to these bottom-up program evaluation models, and is being used to assess ongoing improvement efforts and identify professional development needs for schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Evaluation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported, in part, by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, with additional funding from the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program, US Department of Education (H326S980003). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the US Department of Education, and such endorsements should not be inferred.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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