Race to the Top:

Survey of School Districts' Capacity to Implement Reform (GAO-15-317SP, April 2015), an E-supplement to GAO-15-295

GAO-15-317SP: Published: Apr 13, 2015. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 2015.

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This e-publication supplements our report, RACE TO THE TOP: Education Could Better Support Grantees and Help Them Address Capacity Challenges (GAO-15-295). The purpose of this e-publication is to provide information from a web-based survey of a stratified random sample of school district officials who received Race to the Top (RTT) funds.(1) The school district survey was designed to obtain information on capacity challenges related to implementation of RTT education reform efforts. Specifically, we asked questions about school districts' capacity to implement RTT, the support received to do so, and efforts to build and sustain capacity for RTT reform, among other things. For the purposes of this survey, capacity was defined as the ability to successfully support, oversee, and implement reform efforts. It includes the following types of capacity:

• Organizational Capacity: the extent to which an organization is prepared to manage and implement grants, including having the appropriate leadership, management, and structure to efficiently and effectively implement the program and adapt as needed.

• Human Capital Capacity: the extent to which an organization has sufficient staff, knowledge, and technical skills to effectively meet its program goals.

• Financial Capacity: the extent to which an organization has sufficient financial resources to administer or implement the grant.

• Stakeholder Capacity: the extent to which an organization has sufficient support from its stakeholders, including their authority and commitment to execute reform efforts. 
 

The school district survey was conducted from June to September 2014 with a 76.7 percent final weighted response rate. We selected a stratified random sample of 643 of the 3,251 school districts that received RTT funds from a population of 18,541 school districts in the 19 RTT states.(2) The data were obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2011-12 school year. Selecting a stratified random sample allowed us to make estimates to the entire population and to subpopulations defined by a district's urban status. The original sample design also included stratification for districts that initially were participating in RTT and then decided to formally withdraw.(3) Survey results in this e-publication are presented in aggregate form so that an individual district's responses cannot be viewed. To view the responses to each question, click on the question number. After viewing the responses to each question, click on the "x" in the upper right corner of your screen to close that window and return to the questionnaire. We excluded responses to open-ended narrative questions. See the full report (GAO-15-295) for a more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology as well as a discussion of the survey results.

We conducted our work from November 2013 to April 2015 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

(1) School district officials who received the survey included district superintendents or another point of contact in the district for the RTT grant program, as suggested by state educational agency contacts or based on available contact information.
(2) We stratified our sample based on size, geography, and participation status in the three RTT grant phases. Regarding size, we excluded the single school district that comprises all of Hawaii because we conducted a separate state survey that would include those results. See GAO, Race to the Top: Survey of State Educational Agencies' Capacity to Implement Reform (GAO-15-316SP, April 2015), an E-supplement to GAO-15-295. Additionally, the 32 geographic school districts comprising the New York City Public Schools were treated as one school district.
(3) We included school districts participating and receiving RTT funds at the time of our audit work and those who had withdrawn from the RTT program at the time of our audit work but had received RTT funds at some point.

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