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, to locate programs that are a good fit for their students' needs, and to evaluate which programs are most effective. The goal of the Michigan School Program Information (MiSPI) project is to understand how educators use their social networks to locate information about these kinds of programs, and how they make decisions about which programs to use in their districts.


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:


Phase 1 (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.


Phase 2 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2016): 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.


Phase 3 (Summer 2016 – present): We are currently analyzing data from our statewide surveys and interviews to learn more about how Michigan educators learn about programs through their social networks and decide to use these programs in their schools and districts. You can find copies of our findings reports and research publications here.


Phase 4 (forthcoming): We plan to use what we learn from our analyses in Phase 3 to collaboratively develop an intervention designed to improve educators’ access to research about school programs.


Who is responsible for the project?

The project is being conducted by Dr. Zachary Neal and Dr. Jennifer Watling Neal at Michigan State University, with the assistance of several PhD graduate students. You can meet the MiSPI research team here.


How is the project funded?

The MiSPI project is supported by research grants from both the William T. Grant Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.


How can I learn more about MiSPI, including opportunities to get involved?

You can contact the MiSPI research team at

You can also reach Dr. Zachary Neal at 517-432-1811, and Dr. Jennifer Neal at 517-432-6708.