Building Capacity Through the Northwest Comprehensive Center


October 17, 2013


Portrait of Mike Siebersma
NWCC Director Mike Siebersma

Educator effectiveness, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation, school improvement, and dropout prevention: these are some of the challenges that matter most to state education agencies (SEAs) in the Northwest. And, they’re issues that the Northwest Comprehensive Center (NWCC) is focusing on as it provides technical assistance (TA) to SEAs in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

As the first year of the NWCC’s latest, 5-year contract ends, center staff members looked back on their accomplishments. One of 15 comprehensive centers across the nation, the NWCC’s charge is to build the capacity of SEAs to address their self-identified challenges. In addition to assigning a state coordinator who serves as a key contact for each of the five states, the NWCC also coordinates its work with national experts, other TA providers, and the U.S. Department of Education so that the region can draw on the expertise it needs.

Our job is to provide high-quality assistance and resources that are useful and relevant, supporting states’ and districts’ reform efforts for significantly improving student outcomes.
- NWCC Director Mike Siebersma

Below is an overview of NWCC projects last year:


In Alaska, the NWCC focused on supporting statewide implementation of the new Alaska standards in mathematics and English language arts. As well, NWCC staff members helped the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development develop supports that districts and schools can use as they institute the state’s new regulations for evaluating teachers and administrators.


Teacher and leader evaluation was also a focus in Idaho, where the NWCC serves as a “critical friend,” helping the Idaho State Department of Education move this initiative forward. Assisting the state with its CCSS implementation—including developing tools, processes, and pilot testing—has been another priority area.


In Montana, a considerable amount of work centered on supporting Graduation Matters Montana, helping to monitor statewide implementation of this ambitious dropout prevention program and developing an evaluation plan. Evaluation planning for the state’s Teaching, Learning, & Leading Collaborative and its STEM initiative was also a concern of NWCC as it assisted the Montana Office of Planning and Instruction in developing tools and processes to promote these programs.


The NWCC helped the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) in implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the state’s Continuous Improvement Network, which assists low-performing schools. NWCC and ODE also collaborated with other partners to develop an educator effectiveness system that supports pre-K–20 educators across their careers.


In Washington, NWCC worked with the state to identify activities that lead to improved teacher and principal effectiveness. Another focus was assisting the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in examining promising school-level practices in programs for low-performing, high-poverty students.

Projects that go beyond the individual states were also part of NWCC’s scope of work last year. Regional efforts included the launch of the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) Network that links educators in small, rural communities to share common problems of practice. NW RISE will continue to be a regional priority in 2014, as well as supporting improved education for American Indian/Alaska Native students across the five Northwest states.