District Assistance Survey Introduction
The DAS is one of four self assessment tools developed by the California Department of Education (CDE). All four tools – the DAS, the Academic Program Survey (APS), the English Learner Subgroup Self Assessment (ELSSA), and the Inventory of Services and Supports (ISS) for Students with Disabilities – are based upon the nine Essential Program Components (EPCs) for Instructional Success and provide different perspectives on building a coherent instructional system for all students.
Purpose of the DAS
Underperforming schools and districts need policy and programmatic clarity and coherence to effectively address their students’ diverse needs. The DAS is designed to guide local educational agencies (LEAs) and their technical assistance providers in assessing the nature and alignment of district operations and the district’s capacity to support a rigorous and multi-tiered instructional system at all schools and for all students. The DAS is organized around seven broad areas of district work codified in California Education Code (EC) Section 52059(e)(1).
- Alignment of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments to State Standards
- Fiscal Operations
- Parent and Community Involvement
- Human Resources
- Data Systems/Data Analysis/Ongoing Monitoring
- Professional Development
Assumptions Behind the DAS
Embedded in the DAS are several basic assumptions about what makes a district effective. These assumptions include the following district-level components:
- A shared vision that begins at the top of the system and can be seen throughout the system. This vision reflects a commitment to the academic achievement of all students and is supported through district structures, policies, practices and resource allocation.
- The district instructional system reflects the district’s vision and addresses specific expectations in curriculum, instruction and assessment practices to help schools meet the academic needs of students. This instructional system includes:
- An effective and rigorous implementation of the State Board of Education (SBE)-adopted/standard-aligned instructional programs.
- Coherent and ongoing district-wide professional development services focused on the implementation of the local educational agency (LEA)-adopted instructional materials, instructional planning, and analysis of student achievement data.
- A robust data system that provides timely and useful formative and summative assessment data to inform decisions about classroom and school-wide practices and programs.
- A Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) model, which builds from the benchmark curriculum for all to include strategic and intensive services for students who are performing below grade level standards.
- The district actively monitors student progress toward specific academic achievement targets utilizing various ongoing data collection processes and provides ongoing support to site administrators and teachers when needed.
- District achievement targets and interventions to support students are incorporated into the LEA Plan, which is evaluated annually to ensure that critical programs and efforts are improving the achievement of all students.
- The district actively engages parents in their children’s education and has an effective system in place to communicate with parents, in a language they understand and in a timely manner, information on their students’ academic performance, strategies to support their learning, grade-level standards, academic proficiency levels, and, as needed, available interventions in reading/language arts and mathematics.
Also embedded in the DAS are assumptions about what comprises a strong instructional program and what expectations districts should have for all teachers and site administrators.
- The SBE-adopted kindergarten through grade eight basic core and intensive intervention instructional materials and standards-aligned materials for secondary students are the foundation of an academically rigorous instruction program.
- The academic program is supported by high-quality first instruction in all schools and for all students. High-quality first instruction is based on teacher knowledge of the standards, research-based subject-matter pedagogy, and an ability to engage students in learning.
- Teaching and learning are enhanced by the regular use of formative/curriculum embedded assessments and collaborative analysis of student achievement data by grade and course level teams. This data allows for the timely monitoring of student progress, identification of students in need of strategic support, and modifications of instructional delivery.
- SBE-adopted intensive interventions are provided to students performing well below grade-level standards (more than two years) and are intended to accelerate learning so that students can return to the regular classroom, with strategic support, as soon as possible.
- English learners (ELs) are provided English-language development (ELD) until they are reclassified. Language proficiency assessments are used to place students appropriately for ELD. The progress of ELs is regularly monitored for gains in English proficiency and academic achievement.
- Students with disabilities (SWDs) are assessed and prescribed services through an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). To the extent possible and as supported by their IEP, SWDs are included in the basic core program, with additional support provided through strategic or intensive interventions.
- Data use is central to an effective intervention program so that students, parents and teachers are knowledgeable about student learning growth and can help promote a sense of urgency about moving students through interventions quickly in order to access the core grade-level curriculum. Collaboration among special education teachers and general education teachers establishes a vital link to ensure coherence of program for these learners.
LEAs advance this effort through the judicious allocation of general and categorical funds, for instance, to ensure that resources are allocated first to the lowest performing schools and to schools with low-achieving subgroups.
Administration of the DAS
Prior to a discussion on the DAS, it is recommended that the district conduct the APS at designated school sites to determine the level of implementation of each of the nine EPCs. The district-level ELSSA and the Inventory of Services and Supports (ISS) for Students with Disabilities will also enrich district discussions on the level and quality of services provided to ELs and SWDs and on the progress of these students in meeting achievement goals.
The standards for district work focus on broad district structures and support systems. In the DAS, each standard is accompanied by a “full implementation” statement to assist in gauging its level of implementation. Unlike the APS, which ascribes four distinct levels of implementation to each standard, the DAS examines each standard along a broad continuum and includes three levels of implementation: full, partial (defined as “in progress”), and minimal. Users are asked to read the full implementation statements that accompany each standard and make a judgment as to the level at which the LEA implements the standard.
When completing the DAS, all key stakeholders need to be included. These include the district superintendent, district administrators, site principals, teacher leaders, representatives of the teachers’ association, parents, and community members.
Limitations on Use of the DAS
The data derived from the DAS are intended to be used as a catalyst for conversations about district and school improvement and accelerated student academic achievement. The survey may be limited by the experience or knowledge of stakeholders using the tool as well as the validity of the data.