Illinois CSI takes a responsive and collaborative approach to understanding the needs of the districts it serves and providing high-quality, intensive technical assistance that meets those needs, while building district capacity to lead and support schools. Likewise, the internal evaluation of Illinois CSI will be responsive and collaborative in assessing the center's progress and performance. The internal evaluation of Illinois CSI will use an adaptation of Friedman's (2005) framework for results and outcomes-based accountability, which posits that one can track performance measures back to questions about the quantity of effort, the quality of effort, and the effect of effort.
Applying these concepts in the context of Illinois CSI, three primary research questions emerge to guide the evaluation:
- What assistance and support is Illinois CSI providing to districts?
- How well are services and supports being provided to districts?
- What are the perceived impacts of Illinois CSI work, according to district personnel?
To answer Question 1, the internal evaluation will monitor and track the specific activities, services, and assistance that Illinois CSI service providers deliver to district clients (quantity of effort). To answer Question 2, the evaluation will capture data related to quality and meeting client needs and expectations (quality of effort). To answer Question 3, the evaluation will go beyond monitoring and measures of quality, relevance, and usefulness to examine the perceived impacts of Illinois CSI services and supports on district capacity to lead change by establishing structures and processes that have been shown to be associated with gains in student achievement (effect of effort).
As conceived, the internal evaluation is integral to the work of Illinois CSI—informing midcourse improvements, monitoring activities, and documenting and measuring short-term outcomes and impacts of services and supports. The internal evaluation will also help to guide Illinois CSI's direction throughout the life of the grant. The evaluation is characterized by:
- Frequent formative feedback for continuous improvement
- Different methods of gathering evaluation data, including surveys of district clients, partners, and Illinois CSI staff and the collection/review of key documents attesting to Illinois CSI's activities and outcomes
- Multiple sources of evaluation data, including key district staff, center staff, partners, participants in Illinois CSI events, logs of services and supports, and center-generated artifacts.
The internal evaluation is largely formative in nature (i.e., it looks at both implementation and progress) and will assess the scope and delivery of services provided to districts on an ongoing basis, focusing specifically on evidence of effort and quality of effort, as well as the success of these efforts in building district capacity (effect of effort). Internal evaluation is characterized by the ongoing monitoring of Illinois CSI services and supports, as well as regular feedback from district clients, partners, and center staff to inform the continuous improvement of services and activities.