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Project Management

New state deaf-blind project directors and coordinators are faced with needing to learn quickly about the many aspects of running a project—sometimes with minimal support from the agencies in which they operate. 

This page provides useful information about key grant management responsibilities, such as budgeting, evaluation, dissemination, and work plans.

If you have ideas for information or resources to add, send a note to support@nationaldb.org.

Have Questions?

If you have questions or need assistance about project management, contact Linda McDowell.

Budgeting and Fiscal Management

The agency where you are located will have specific requirements for budgeting and fiscal reporting that, coupled with OSEP requirements, dictate your budget process. For example, the budget year of your agency may differ from the budget year of the grant. Discussing budget requirements and timelines with your finance office should be an early priority. Within your project, the main question to consider is whether your allocations of money match your technical assistance goals and processes. 

Matching Staff Resources to Project Goals

Most grant money goes to salaries and therefore staff time. When planning activities, it is helpful to link staff time directly to project goals. For example, if improving early identification and referral by targeting your state’s EDHI system is a goal for your project, figure out how much staff time you can dedicate to that goal. Making explicit links between staff time and goals will lead to the most effective use of your resources. This does not mean you have to track the amount of time staff actually spent on specific activities (unless required by your home agency), but doing this type of planning across your TA work (child-specific TA, systems TA, dissemination, training, etc.) will help you keep track of the amount of time you have committed to specific activities and be realistic about what you can commit to. 

Evaluation and Performance Reporting

Overview

Your project evaluation plan and activities should provide you with the data you need to:

  1. Meet all reporting requirements
  2. Support data-based decision-making (e.g., to make internal decisions or to share with your advisory board members so they can provide useful advice)
  3. Generate feedback to improve project products and services

Your evaluation plan should include:

  • A list of data/information you want/need, including Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measures (see below)
  • Who you will collect data from (e.g., parents, service providers, students)
  • How you will collect it (e.g., surveys, child find, observation, tracking)
  • When you need to collect it (e.g., ongoing, at the time of an event, annually)
  • How you will analyze it for reporting and other purposes

A full listing of Project Evaluation Resources from OSEP can be found on their website.

Reporting Requirements

Performance reporting is chiefly an external requirement. Each report will have different requirements.

OSEP Annual Performance Report (APR)

This will likely be your project’s main reporting requirement. The reporting year typically runs from March 1 to February 28, but may fluctuate from year to year. 

The APR includes both program measures (GPRA) and project measures, which are the measures of your project’s technical assistance outcomes, such as change in knowledge or skill, implementation of best practices, or child change. You will be required to create and report on four (GPRA) performance measures and your own project performance measures (milestones).

The four GPRA measures are:

  • Quality
  • Usefulness
  • Relevance
  • Timeliness (a measure of the percentage of project milestones met within the reporting period)

Your project will have created milestones for the original grant application as well as new ones, annually, that are reported in the APR for the coming year. These are typically “effort” related measures such as:

  • Number of partnerships developed with state agencies/programs
  • Leveraging of federal funding with state and local funding
  • Number of trainings
  • Number of consultations
  • Number of children served
  • Number of children found
  • Newsletter publications

If you have not spoken to your project officer about your measures, it is worth reviewing them with him or her to make sure you are collecting the data they need. Project officers have specific things they must report within the OSEP systems (e.g., G5) for the grants they manage.

OSEP TA&D Program Evaluation of Products and Services

Annually, The Study Group, an OSEP evaluation group, conducts reviews of services from a sample of randomly selected state deaf-blind projects. 2016 requirements are outlined in the following documents:

  • Cover Letter (Note: This example for NCDB includes a request for a product description. State projects are not required to report on products, just services.)
  • Service Description

If your project is selected, you will be asked to submit a list of new services your project conducted during the previous fiscal year. From this list, The Study Group will select a single service. You will then develop and submit a description of that service, which covers the following areas:

  • Target audience
  • Level of TA (universal, targeted, intensive)
  • Content match with OSEP target areas
  • Evidence-based or policy-based content of the service
  • Quality of the service
  • Relevance of the service
  • Usefulness of the service

For more information see, OSEP TA&D Program Performance Measurement Webinar for GPRA Data Collection Involving 84.326T Deaf-Blind Projects.

Agency Reporting Requirements

In addition to OSEP reports, you may have internal reporting requirements for the agency at which your project is located. For example, all projects housed in UCEDDs (University Centers on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities) have to complete data reporting called NIRS.

Reporting requirements vary from agency to agency, but may include such things as TA and training activities conducted, outputs generated, and the degree to which desired outcomes were achieved.

Informed Consent, Release of Information, and Institutional Review Board

Regardless of where your project is located you will have to address informed consent issues driven by federal requirements for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and how these are interpreted by your home agency and state. In general, requirements for informed consent and release of information are becoming more stringent. Many state deaf-blind projects now have release and consent forms that are signed by families during the project’s intake process. Check with your agency to see if they have a specific required format. Projects housed at universities may be required to submit an application to their Institutional Review Board (IRB). The responsibility for checking to see if an application is required, typically falls on the project. If you are the director of a project housed at a university and your project does not have IRB approval, check with your university’s IRB office. Some universities require IRB approval at the time a grant is submitted and others when it is awarded. 

Child Count and Annual Outreach

Dissemination Plans for Universal TA

The main form of universal TA for deaf-blind projects is dissemination of information about:

  • Your project
  • Opportunities you offer
  • Information on deaf-blindness

Typical goals for universal TA include increasing referral, increasing participation in project activities, and increasing basic knowledge about the needs of individuals who are deaf-blind. Developing a dissemination plan that includes timelines, materials, and dissemination methods can help you approach dissemination in a structured manner that matches the goals you are trying to achieve. It is critical to align this plan with your larger project goals. 

Work Plans/Logic Models

Your grant application included logic models that defined input, outputs, and potential activities. Some projects also develop work plans that outline a higher degree of specificity around activities and timelines. This type of purposeful planning can assist you in conducting and tracking your activities.

Advisory Boards

Using advisory boards in ways that add value to your project can be challenging, but when done well can help you manage your project effectively. Advisory boards are useful for needs assessment, strategic planning, reviewing and critiquing project activities, and assisting in establishing collaborative relationships with state agencies. 

Management Plan

The extent to which you document management tasks should be informed by what is required of and useful to you. There is no one recommended way to do this. Here is an example from the Mississippi deaf-blind project of managing by objectives. For each activity, it includes resources and people involved, completed tasks, next steps, and expected outcomes.

Child TA Processes

While it may seem like an onerous task, developing a clearly defined and well-documented process for child-specific TA:

  • Supports the delivery of TA with fidelity (i.e., delivering TA in the way you have defined it overall and within the specific TA relationship you have with a child’s educational team) and increases the likelihood that service providers and families will use the practices you have suggested.
  • Makes TA processes, expectations, and requirements clear and transparent for school administrators so they understand the nature of school or agency support necessary for success (clarity for administrators may also ease some of the difficulty that projects frequently face in getting access to schools).
  • Eases state deaf-blind project staff transitions and the onboarding of new staff.

See NCDB Support for State Deaf-Blind Projects for more information about child-specific TA and support you can obtain from NCDB in this area.

Systems TA

Projects are expected to address systems TA in their states in an attempt to build the capacity of various systems to serve individuals who are deaf-blind. See NCDB Support for State Deaf-Blind Projects for more information about systems TA and support you can obtain from NCDB.

Dates to Remember

Grant Year: October 1 to September 30

Child Count: There are various dates to keep track of related to the child count

Performance reporting year: This fluctuates a bit, but is typically March 1 to February 28

Fiscal year: Although the OSEP grant budget year is October 1 to September 30, your agency may have a different fiscal year such as July 1 to June 30

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Cyral Miller (Texas Deaf-Blind Project), Emma Nelson (Vermont Sensory Access Project), and Donna Snyder (Kentucky Deaf-Blind Project) for their extensive input into this document.