However, each chapter does include a paragraph explaining the intended purpose and outcome of the study. This study was not a traditional academic study and did not follow a standard academic format. It followed specific departmental government guidelines and stated the purpose, as directed by the General Assembly. The key research objectives focused on discovering the strengths and weaknesses of ever program or process that was examined in the study.
The evaluation utilized a combination of qualitative and quantitative research strategies. It employed the use of observational site visits to all of the local service offices in the state. It also employed interview techniques with various staff members from several offices. These qualitative techniques allowed the evaluators to place the empirical data into proper perspective.
In addition to the qualitative techniques used, the evaluators also used quantitative methods derived from a review of departmental records. Statistical methods helped the evaluators to gain credible evidence for their arguments and to provide a means to convey the study results. However, quantitative methods only answer questions regarding what happened. In order to fulfill the intended purpose of the study, more in-depth knowledge was needed in order to make recommendations. The researchers used qualitative information obtained through interviews and observation to place the quantitative information in perspective. It used quantitative information to substantiate the analyses of qualitative data. This allowed the researchers to provide a full-bodied report that provided an excellent base upon which to make recommendations for reform.
This is not an outcomes/impact assessment in terms of the agencies and their impact on the clientele that they service. However, it is an outcome/impact assessment in terms of how well the programs operate under the current program guidelines. The focus of the study is on results, rather than causality. It established key strengths and weaknesses in many areas, but did not attempt to determine causality. Many external and internal variables contributed to the findings. Therefore, any allusion to causality would only constitute conjecture. Rather than focusing on causality, the study focused on the steps that needed to be taken to fix weaknesses and enhance strengths.
Major findings and recommendations are presented in Chapter 8: Comprehensive Changes Needed. Each service provider within the department was evaluated on its own merit. The evaluation found inconsistencies between the various agencies in terms of weaknesses and strengths. Several findings were consistent throughout the various agencies. A lack of training was wound to be lacking in many service sectors. The evaluators indicate that a needs-based training program needs to be instituted in many of the service agencies. In addition to training, business processes were in need of an overhaul in many agencies. However, these process transformations will be dependent upon the characteristics of the various service agencies. Generalized training and business processes were found to be inadequate to meet the specific needs of services and their clients.
This evaluation illustrates many of the key terms and concepts found in the Rossi text. For instance, the study contains no hidden agendas. The evaluator has no stake in the outcome or the changes that result from the study. The evaluator is not a stakeholder in the study, other than to provide a quality report. Many of the programs within the study have been in existence for many years. However, at the time study, it was recognized that reforms were needed. It was not known what the reforms would be. This study was the first step in the reform process. It outlined the project and a possible timetable for the reforms.
The scope of this study was broad and the topic was comprehensive. This may represent one of the major shortcomings of the study. The service agencies represented in the study are varied and have different needs. They use different processes and serve different clientele. This study may have treated them too homogeneously to provide an accurate representation of the various factors within the agencies that could affect the outcome.
This study provides an excellent overview of the agencies and their positive and negative aspects. However, its perspective is general and does not address the specific needs of the agencies on a local level. It does provide direction as to future research that specifically addresses the needs of the various services. This research provides a stepping-stone to specific agency research that needs to be undertaken. The evaluation provides a general overview of the problems within the Virginia Social Services Department. However, further evaluation of the various components will be needed in order to produce changes that are effective and reflect the needs of the agencies within the department.
Special Report: State Spending on Standards of Quality (SOQ) Costs, FY 2007
As mandated by Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia, the state must determine Standards of Quality (SOQ) for the school divisions (Rotz, FY2007). Under the direction of the General Assembly, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission of the Virginia Assembly (JLARC) must conduct an audit of the standards that apply to the elementary and secondary schools throughout the state. The Board of Education must meet the required SOQ, including staff and resources needed to accomplish the task. The purpose of this audit is to determine how much the State needs to provide to subsidize the needed programs for Virginia youth.
Who performed the audit?
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission of the Virginia Assembly (JLARC) is an agency within the Virginia state government that is responsible for providing research reports to the General Assembly on various state agencies. The JLARC is independent of the agencies themselves and addresses the parameters of the topic as set forth by the General Assembly. Funds for this report are provided by the Virginia government, according to the mandates of the Constitution of Virginia (Rotz, FY2007).
Analysis of the JLARC Audit
This study was funded according to a state Constitutional provision that a required audit be conducted quarterly and then those results compiled annually for the previous fiscal year (Rotz, FY2007). This annual report provides an estimation of the funds that will be needed for SOQ over the next school year. The audit is an annual requirement to assess the needs of the school systems and the amount of funds needed to make them compliant.
Like many evaluation reports, a number of stakeholders are involved on a number of levels. The first level of stakeholders is the policymakers who mandate the study. The decision makers at the state level represent one level of stakeholder. They will use this information in the formation of funding policies for the coming fiscal year. This group of stakeholders serves a dual purpose, as they are also the sponsor of the study and the resultant funding program.
The ultimate target participants in the study are the students. They are the ones that will receive the benefit of better education because of the funding provided through this study. The target participants are far removed from the conduct of the study, yet they are the ones with the most at risk. The students have an indirect impact on the outcome of the study. Each pupil in the school system counts as a unit. These units are used to determine various costs associated with each student that the school system serves.
The school system has many different levels of program managers and staff. The Board of Education determines policy that will affect all of the school systems within the state. This study will have an impact on these stakeholders, as it will help them to determine how to allocate funds for the coming school year. At the school district level, the study will have an impact on programs managers and staff, as they will have to use these funds wisely so that the students receive the greatest benefit. They will have to make changes within the district according to the amount of funding that they receive.
Those program managers and staff on the school level will be the ones to feel the impact of the funding provided. They will be the ones that have to manage the impact of budget cuts or overages that result from the study. They will have to find ways to fill staff vacancies created by budget drops, or how to provide textbooks when the money is not available. The individual staff will wonder if they will be the ones to be cut, should their school lose funding.
Few contextual groups will be affected by the findings and the resulting funding decisions of the study. The impact of the study will be felt by those directly involved in the Virginia educational system. This study will have little impact on the research community. It does not provide new methodology or a new topic of interest. It is conducted according to strict guidelines that are set forth by the state. It is important to those directly affected…