The needs assessment process (and it is a process, not a single activity) will help partners decide where to start. Whether you and your partners work in large or small counties, whether you start from scratch or think about how to expand an existing initiative, whether you consider where to start in a whole county or one school district; creating a definition of need and goals will help you identify where to start, assess your impact, and decide what to do next once there is some momentum.
Some considerations when starting the assessment process:
- Who should you recruit as part of a small leadership team to guide the assessment process? Is there an existing team that can be tasked with the activity? What existing relationships can you build upon?
- How are you incorporating, including, and prioritizing community input throughout the needs assessment and decision-making process? How are you engaging students and parents/caregivers? Are there existing or new student and/or parent advisory boards you can include to help guide this process?
- What is your scope? What resources are available that will help you determine your scope? For example, consider where and how many you should start (the whole county or one school district or one school site)? If you have determined that your scope is a whole county, are you considering how to create services and programs countywide or are you identifying school district(s) and/or site(s) where to start?
- If you are identifying a portion of the county to start in, how might you consider student “needs”? Some possible data points include: student enrollment numbers, percentage of students eligible for free & reduced-price meals (which is based on poverty and correlates with Medi-Cal eligibility), percentage or number of students with disabilities, percentage of high needs students as defined by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), school climate surveys, and student/parent surveys.
- If you are identifying a portion of the county to start in, how might you consider “readiness”? Some existing school and/or district initiatives that you can build on for success can include: MTSS and/or PBIS, school wellness policies, student suicide prevention policies, trauma-informed classroom and school practices.
How to Start and Sustain a School Health Initiative
A step-by-step guide through the stages it takes to implement an initiative, specifically, gathering a team of champions and understanding assets and needs. (Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities)
Chapter 2: Community Planning, Vision to Reality
A guide for collecting needs assessment data including sample surveys and focus group questions, and a process for creating and maintaining youth engagement within the planning process. (California School-Based Health Alliance)
School Based Behavioral Health Assessment
A guide on types of data to gather and how to conduct an assessment on mental health needs in order to develop a plan for increasing mental health services. (Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities)
Active Implementation Hub
An online learning environment for use by any stakeholder involved in active implementation and scaling up of programs and innovation. Some specific tools:
(National Implementation Research Network)
An online tool to assess the existing structure and operations of school mental health systems. (National Center for School Mental Health)
ISF District/Community Leadership Team Installation Guide
A guide to be used by facilitators and coaches to support District/Community Leadership Teams on installing infrastructures for an Interconnected System Framework.