The Northwest Quality Initiative:  Benefits to Montana


Overview of the Quality Initiative


During the period July 2000-June 2002, Montana’s adult education office has participated in the Northwest Quality Initiative—a regional program improvement initiative that is a collaborative among the adult education state offices in six Northwest States (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY), Abt Associates Inc., and the NW Regional Literacy Resource Center.  The main goal of the Quality Initiative has been to develop state and local capacity to manage and deliver adult education services effectively and efficiently.  The Quality Initiative has been an experiment in state and Federal leveraging of adult education funds and expertise and is serving as a national pilot project for the U.S. Department of Education.


The Quality Initiative has involved the following activities: 


§         Quality Initiative Workshop (2 days):  January 2001

§         Quality Initiative Follow-up Workshop (1.5 days):  June 2001

§         Quality Initiative Program Directors’ Workshop (2 days): March 2002

§         Five, two-day meetings of the state directors’ policy group


In the Quality Initiative Workshops, Abt Associates’ staff trained local ABE program staff to use a problem-based learning process for analyzing a local program’s strengths and weaknesses, identifying new practices to use to address the weaknesses, implementing the new practices, and evaluating their effectiveness. In the Program Directors’ workshop, Abt Associates trained ABE program directors to apply this model to the management and improvement of their programs.


Montana’s Activities


Two of Montana’s programs participated in the first year (Winter/Spring 2001) of the Quality Initiative:  Missoula’s adult education center and Flathead Community College.  The staff from these programs used the Quality Initiative as an opportunity to pilot test two new products that they had purchased and that the state was interested in disseminating to other programs.  Missoula worked with the Workplace Essentials materials to test their viability in satellite program sites, and Flathead Community College developed a process for using PowerPath during the ABE intake process to identify adults with possible learning difficulties and to suggest steps that the adults might take to address these difficulties.  During the second year (Fall 2001-Spring 2002), the two programs collected data about the use of these products in their programs and the outcomes that had been achieved from their use.  As a result of their experience working with these products in the Quality Initiative, the programs should be in a position to plan the dissemination of these products in the state.


Four programs participated in the Quality Initiative Program Directors’ Workshop: Missoula, Flathead Community College, Billings adult education center, and the Helena adult education center.  After the workshop, the program directors were to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their programs and to select an area of program management or program improvement on which to focus.  The results of these activities are being completed at this time.


Benefits to Montana 


Montana’s participation in the Quality Initiative has been subsidized by the U.S. Department of Education (through Abt Associates’ funding).  During the two-year period, Montana received $19,847 in travel reimbursements and program stipends.  The state also received $7,400 worth of consulting from Abt Associates’ staff.  This total amount of $27,247 was leveraged by $25,000 of Montana’s State Leadership funds, thereby enabling Montana to undertake activities that would not have otherwise been possible.  


Montana’s adult education system has realized the following return on developing staff expertise and products from its investment in the Northwest Quality Initiative: