What is the Michigan School Program Information (MiSPI) Project about?
Public schools regularly adopt programs to help meet students' needs. These programs can address instructional needs like reading or math, health needs like physical fitness or making healthy food choices, and social skills needs like dealing with bullying. However, it can be challenging for educators to find information about the programs that are available and evaluate which programs are most effective. Even when effective programs are identified, it can also be challenging to implement them. The goal of the Michigan School Program Information (MiSPI) project is to understand how educators use their social networks to locate, evaluate, and implement these types of school programs.
The MiSPI Project has been active since Fall 2012, and is ongoing. Below is a short outline of what has happened so far, and what is coming up:
Pilot (Fall 2012 – Summer 2014): The pilot phase of the MiSPI project involved interviews with 18 district central office staff, principals, and teachers in two Michigan school districts, with the goal of better understanding the strategies they use for finding and selecting school programs. These interviews suggested that educators often receive information about school programs from a variety of people like workplace colleagues, consultants, and researchers as well as organizations like intermediate school districts, non-profit agencies, and counseling centers. These people and organizations are key information brokers who transfer information and research about school programs to educators. We also found that Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) and professional associations play a particularly critical role in these processes in Michigan. This phase of the project was funded by the William T. Grant Foundation.
Networks & Information (Fall 2014 - Spring 2018): Building on lessons learned in the pilot phase, we conducted a statewide representative survey of 382 Michigan superintendents and principals about how they use their social networks to get information about school programs. We also surveyed 472 people or representatives of organizations who served as information brokers for the Michigan superintendents and principals in our sample. Finally, we interviewed 72 Michigan educators, 50 information brokers, and 12 researchers to better understand how information and research about school programs is transferred to Michigan educators through their social networks. We found that nearly all school administrators rely on their social networks, some strategies for using social networks are more effective than others for finding useful information about school programs. This phase of the project was funded by the National Institutes for Health and the William T. Grant Foundation.
Networks & Implementation (Spring 2018 – Spring 2019): Once school administrators find a school program that may be appropriate for their school or district, they have to put it into practice (i.e. implement it). But, implementation can be challenging because programs are often complex and involve coordinating the activities of multiple teachers, support staff, and others. To understand how social networks can help with program implementation, we are surveying all secondary school principals in Michigan to ask about their experiences implementing an Early Warning Signs (EWS) monitoring program. This phase of the project is funded by the Spencer Foundation.
Intervention (seeking funding opportunities): We plan to use what we learn from our analyses to collaboratively develop an intervention designed to improve educators’ ability to use their social networks to learn about and implement school programs.
Who is responsible for MiSPI?
MiSPI is co-led by Dr. Zachary Neal and Dr. Jennifer Watling Nealj at Michigan State University, with the assistance of several PhD graduate students and consultants.
How is the project funded?
The MiSPI project has been generously supported by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, William T. Grant Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and Michigan State University.