EAC’s Authentic Task Approach (ATA) to Service Delivery
ATA is a systematic approach to helping districts identify and/or clarify problems, establish goals, and accelerate continuous school improvement (Phlegar & Hurley, 1999). This model for service delivery offers two distinctive levels: a structured approach to addressing the specific issue or task – usually the impetus behind the request to the EAC – and an expanded process that is intended to build the capacity of districts for sustained progress and systemic change. In short, the process embeds the “EAC requested issue or problem” within a larger goal in order to provide a vehicle and mechanism for addressing, eliminating, or preventing, the same or similar issues as the district moves forward. The ATA model consists of the following eight essential elements that will guide our approach to TA
1. Clarifying the task: EAC staff will guide the state or district in identifying the problem and its root cause. Of course, this process must remain open and flexible in that the presented problem may not be the actual problem. Ultimately the district and the EAC Service Delivery Team identify the task that needs to be accomplished.
2. Identifying criteria for success: Indicators of success and benchmarks of what success looks like serve as a barometer for gauging progress. Identifying these criteria upfront helps shape an individual client service plan.
3. Clarifying operational rules and roles: Responsibilities will be clarified and the conditions under which the EAC and requesting district will operate will be defined.
4. Analyzing, using and tracking data: Data provides pointers as to the root of the problem; progress towards desired results; and indictors for what policies, organizational structures, and/or practices might contribute to a given problem or provide a mechanism for continuous improvement.
5. Identifying relevant resources: These are both external and internal to the client district. The EAC service delivery team suggests what services, products, resources, and technical assistance would be most appropriate, as well as what the client can contribute and build on. Since the client must “own” the solution if it is to be successful, relevant “in-house” resources must be identified so that any strengths can be capitalized on and an Individualized Service Plan can be shaped with an eye towards building the capacity of the client.
6. Developing individualized service plans: This step takes into account the preceding 5 steps and addresses the “task” or “problem” at hand – again, the impetus for the request. One element of that Plan may be arranging for supplemental TA involvement from an additional entity or individual consultant – for example, from our Network of Regional Technical Assistance Providers (see discussion below).
7. Reflecting on learning and progress: Using a variety of reflection and evaluation strategies, the school district will gain more than just the accomplishment of the goals identified in the Individualized Service Plan. Understanding what is working, what is not working, and how to build in feedback loops to support that learning is key to achieving the ability to sustain progress.
8. Following-up implementation plan: Once again, the task or problem will be positioned within a larger goal in order to provide a vehicle and mechanism for addressing, eliminating, or preventing recurrence of the same or similar issues as the district moves forward. A Follow-Up Implementation Plan will then be developed to look at and make linkages between the vision, administrative structures, practices, and relationships (teachers, students, & community) for sustained equitable high quality education. In summary, the ATA model not only offers a service delivery approach to address current problems but, also a learning and professional development tool for sustained and long-term change (Abeille, 2002).