Representative Projects 

Making it easier for school districts to use federal, state and local funds in strategic ways that support programs designed to improve student outcomes

Problem:

A state department of education (SEA) wanted to encourage its school districts to use their federal resources more effectively.  The SEA wanted its school districts to move away from the traditional “silo” approach to federal programs, where federal funding is programmed separately, and instead encourage an environment where: 1) school districts would think strategically about what types of activities would best help their students, and 2) how various federal funding sources could be used in combination to support those activities. 

Solution:

We advised the SEA on how districts could combine funding streams to support educational programs aligned to state priorities.  We assisted the SEA in identifying specific federal funding streams that could support broad educational initiatives, such as adolescent literacy programs, high-quality after school programs, and other comprehensive activities.  We also drafted user-friendly guidance that the SEA distributed to its school districts which included easy-to-follow guidelines for combining funding streams and checklists to ensure that compliance requirements were met.


Removing obstacles to improvement

Problem
:

A school district's education improvement efforts were continually hampered by difficulties in purchasing the goods and services needed to support its academic initiatives.  Academic and building leaders were frustrated that items they needed could not be purchased quickly, and procurement officers were frustrated at the lack of a coherent and consistent purchasing process.  Procurement problems were also a cause of numerous audit findings and questioned costs in the school district's education programs.

Solution:

We assisted the school district in redesigning its procurement process in three ways.  First, we engaged in discussions with multiple parts of the organization (academics, grants, procurement, and CFO staff) regarding the obstacles they encountered when trying to purchase a good or services for the school district and what they would like to see changed or streamlined.  Next, we mapped the existing process, and based on the feedback we received during the discussion phase, we helped the district determine what parts of the existing process added value and what did not, and also determined new pieces that needed to be added to make purchasing transactions easier on staff.  Finally, we drafted new policies and procedures for the district which enabled the district to have a concrete set of written documents upon which to make final agency determinations about the revised procurement process.

Minimizing compliance burdens on school districts to maximize the focus on student and school needs

Problem:

A state department of education (SEA) had developed a complicated, lengthy, and confusing process school districts had to follow in order to access federal entitlement funds.

Solution:

We helped the SEA streamline its application process by strengthening other parts of its operations, and substantially changing the application itself.  The initial application was hundreds of pages, duplicative of other forms school districts had to complete, unaligned to both federal program requirements and the SEA’s educational goals, and complicated to understand.  We were able to reduce the application to approximately 20 pages by removing unnecessary sections and focusing only on the information needed to evaluate the school districts’ education plans.  At the same time, we drafted user-friendly guidance about both the application process and federal requirements to facilitate the school districts' planning efforts.  We also advised the SEA on ways it could increase its monitoring and data collection processes to support district efforts and promote compliance.  Ultimately, what began as a project to revise an application ended up assisting the SEA to redesign its administrative processes to reduce burden, increase internal controls, and facilitate compliance with federal requirements.