How states go about data informed decisionmaking is as diverse as the states themselves. In this episode of A Date with Data, host Amy Bitterman chats with Julie Dean, Early Childhood Special Education Inclusion Specialist; Ryan Guzman, 619 Coordinator and SSIP Lead with the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction; and Kathy Lenihan, Inclusionary Projects Coordinator with Educational Service District 105. Join them to learn more about their State Systemic Improvement Plan’s (SSIP) unique focus on social emotional learning in early childhood and how they worked with partners across the SEA, districts, and the community to build a culture of data informed decisionmaking. Now that’s evergreen.
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### Episode Transcript ###
00:00:01.52 >> You're listening to "A Date with Data," with your host, Amy Bitterman.
00:00:07.34 >> Hey. It's Amy, and I'm so excited to be hosting "A Date with Data." I'll be chatting with state and district special education staff who, just like you, are dealing with IDEA Data every day.
00:00:19.50 >> "A Date with Data" is brought to you by the IDEA Data Center.
00:00:24.78 >> So welcome to "A Date with Data." Today, I am joined by Julie Dean, the Early Childhood Special Education Inclusion Specialist, and Ryan Guzman, who is the 619 Coordinator, and both are with the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. We also have with us Kathy Linnehan, who is the Inclusionary Projects Coordinator with Educational Service District 105. And they are here today to share the story of their State Systemic Improvement Plan, or SSIP. And I want to start off, just if each of you could say a little bit about yourselves and how you work together. And, Julie, do you want to kick us off?
00:01:06.46 >> Sure. Hi, everyone. My name is Julie Dean, and, again, I am the Early Childhood Special Education Inclusion Specialist for the Washington Department of, really, Education. It's the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and I work primarily around the coaching and training within the early childhood work and space and also around data collection and analysis. So I'm really passionate about that work.
00:01:28.58 >> Thanks. Ryan?
00:01:30.90 >> Absolutely. Hello, everyone. My name is Ryan Guzman. I am, as we said earlier, the 619 Coordinator, also the SSIP, the State Systemic Improvement Plan, Lead for our state, so I've had the privilege to do that for a number of years, not only as a lead but also as a regional support to the work prior to coming in to our state agency. I come to you with, say, over 20 years of early childhood experience in our state-funded preschool programs as a self-contained preschool teacher as well as a early intervention provider, so it's a really unique opportunity to be able to use the different aspects of early childhood education in our State Systemic Improvement Plan, so we can look at that larger continuum, not only at 3 to 21 but really looking at how we're creating a continuum of life for the children and families that we serve.
00:02:22.39 >> Thanks. You have a really great perspective, having all of that experience and background. And, Kathy, how about you?
00:02:29.17 >> Thank you for having us today. I'm Kathy Linnehan, and I serve as Inclusionary Projects Coordinator at ESD 105. My work scans the gamut from preschool through high school, and I spent the majority of my teaching career in the classroom in kindergarten, but I do have an extensive background in ALE environment education, and I think that's where my passion came for this work.
00:02:53.66 >> Okay. Thank you. So I just want to start off by asking for you to share with us, what is your State Identified Measurable Result, or SIMR, and if you could give us just a brief overview of your SSIP?
00:03:07.85 >> Yeah. I'll take that. So our State Systemic Improvement Plan, when we had the opportunity to continue the work, I think one of the first steps we needed to take was to look at our SIMR.
00:03:18.78 >> Mm-hmm.
00:03:19.07 >> And in our past, so in the past iteration of the SSIP, what we did was that we had focused on early literacy, and what's unique to Washington state is that our early literacy work was focused on the intervention of early literacy within early childhood programs. I think a majority of the SSIPs that are being presented are typically in our K-12 system, and Washington took a unique perspective in starting at the beginning of our children's educational careers. So we thought that this would be a great opportunity to look at what we've been able to create within that first iteration and expand on that, so our SIMR for this round is a shift. So we went from early literacy, and we moved that focus over to social emotional learning. We wanted to make sure that we had a greater foundation for kids and providers and families within this space before we put that focus into academics. So we're looking at, what does intensive technical assistance in the area of social emotional learning do for a child when they enter a K-12 system? So we're utilizing our KEA, that's our Kindergarten Entry Assessment, in Washington. It's called WaKIDS, and we are using ... One of the six domains that our children are assessed in, social emotional learning, as a metric to measure growth over time.
00:04:42.71 >> I'm interested in knowing, like you said, Ryan, it's a little unusual. Not many states are looking at early childhood in their SSIP. Why did you all decide to go that route and have that be your focus?
00:04:56.00 >> That's a great question. Based upon our data, it's the wondering. We ...
00:05:01.26 >> Because your data are pretty good?
00:05:03.32 >> Again, great question.
00:05:05.11 >> Sorry.
00:05:06.35 >> It's not! What happened was, when we started to look back, especially when we went into this next cycle, within the work that we do with our state design team, we're very interactive and intentionally are collaborating at every level that we work, so bringing the data from our performance indicators to our state design team as well as our SEAC, our Special Education Advisory Council, to say, "Here's what our focus is in. Are we in the right space?" And based upon feedback, they said, "You know where we need to prioritize our work as we move forward? It's going to be around early childhood special education," specifically within our Indicator B6 and looking at our least restrictive environment. So, again, when we looked at our data, it was a point of urgency for us to really lean into what was happening within our early childhood programs and how we could better serve and support our children. When we step back and look beyond early childhood performance indicators around least restrictive environment, then we start to look at our performance indicators around state assessment and student outcomes, and we can look at discipline, and when we start to really lean in to those areas in our K-12 system, there was a lot of questions about, "But what about early childhood?" And we didn't, in some cases, have data to answer those questions, so it created, again, additional urgency to say, "What are we missing here and why?" So it was, again, the beginning of a different conversation but a need for us to step in and to say: We really need to focus on not only early childhood programming in our state. We need to address the disparities that we are having in early childhood as opposed to our K-12 systems. We had added funding within our legislature to support inclusionary practices, professional development work in our K-12 systems, and we're very blessed to get about $25 million over a 3-year span to support K-12 implementation of inclusionary practices to build cohorts and training opportunities. What was missing was P. Where's the preschool?
00:07:12.42 >> Mm-hmm.
00:07:12.81 >> And knowing that IDEA is in 3-to-21 requirement for school districts in Part B, and, yeah, we really wanted to make sure that we were fully encompassing the opportunities for all of our partners or practitioners in this work, and we knew that we weren't doing that to the best of our abilities, and this was our opportunity to lean in to the work, to look at the data, to bring it to our state leads, and then Kathy, who's with us today, is one of our incredible implementation specialists who has been able to create a network of regional partners, our school district's inclusion champion. So we have preschool included in the champions. And so she's leading that network at the regional levels so that we can model up what we need to do and model down. So how are we really ... Being who we need to see, our state needs to look at the data to interpret and to tell and to understand the story and to be okay with where we have our deficits and gaps so that we can change and strategize with our implementation specialists at the regional level, so we can get that information, those strategies and best practices down to our local teams.
00:08:24.12 >> Yeah. That's fantastic. That's lots of great reasons to select that as your focus. You saw gaps and stakeholder-driven ... what they thought was needed and, really, that missing piece of the preschool to make sure they're not forgotten and just focus on them.
00:08:44.35 >> And I can add too, in terms of the data, we'd been utilizing the state benchmark of quality tool, which is a self-assessment tool that our state design team, through the State Systemic Improvement Plan, and prior iterations around Washington Improvement Model implementation, we utilized that tool similarly to the way that Kathy utilizes that tool with participating programs, and we were able to identify significant increase in professional development and training in those components after really shifting towards these alignment, this alignment practice with MPFS and developing this infrastructure of coaches, we saw some significant gains in the data specific to those areas, and further conversation around other components within that benchmark of quality, like cultivating a culture of data-informed decision making and really employing a system-wide data-collection system, which we now were able to deploy this last year. So those conversations that Ryan had mentioned are all based in really clear data collection and ongoing conversation based on that data.
00:09:45.52 >> Mm-hmm. And it sounds like you did, in terms of changing from what you were doing kind of under the first part of the SSIP moving into the FFY 2020 and 2025 package, you kind of shifted from early literacy to social emotional. Can you talk a little bit about that shift and maybe other changes, some lessons you learned from the focus on early literacy that ... things you might've improved on differently or continue doing that were working well in this new iteration?
00:10:16.24 >> What we knew in the past with our KEA, Kindergarten Entry Assessment, was that our children with disabilities were consistently performing at about a 30 percent achievement gap when compared to their nondisabled peers.
00:10:29.71 >> Mm-hmm.
00:10:30.19 >> And that was consistent over the course of time, and even if you think about the intersect of race, ethnicity, homelessness, our migrant population, we're seeing, again, that achievement gap. So we noticed, again, where we needed to address that, but what we've received from our regional leads was, we can't get to academics if we haven't addressed the child, the environment, the community that they come from, and really addressing the whole child first and then getting to that place of academics and academic achievement.
00:11:04.66 >> Mm-hmm.
00:11:05.06 >> If you can address the whole child, most like, you're creating a space where that child feels safe and feels like they can trust the adults in those environments, and they're more open and ready to be learners. It also, and we know, helps with that transition, and when they move from a preschool to a kindergarten or a different setting, so those are some of the things that we took into consideration.
00:11:29.88 >> Mm-hmm.
00:11:31.14 >> Again, also, our LRE data, so looking at our data and knowing that in Washington state, we were not at a level that we wanted to be at when it came to creating and maintaining access points for children with disabilities. And I think most importantly, and I'll say this once, and I know some of our friends have heard this before, but in Washington state, we don't use the term stakeholder. We use the term community partner or partners. So we do that because we want to ensure that we're being respectful and mindful of our tribal members, our indigenous communities and that they are a sovereign nation and not as different than those who that are not within that space. So that is, moving forward, just something that we have decided collectively within our agency to use as a term.
00:12:17.88 >> Mm-hmm.
00:12:18.32 >> And with that, that was based upon community feedback, so based upon the feedback of our partners, we really wanted to make sure that we were shifting our focus to ensure the voice of community partners and families at the front of everything we did.
00:12:34.29 >> And is there something that you're really proud of in Washington related to your SSIP, something you want to highlight that has really worked well that other SEAs and districts might be interested in hearing about?
00:12:49.19 >> I think Ryan said it so beautifully too, this idea of establishing and aligning practices and systems, and I think that that is one of the biggest celebrations that we have is really looking at a lining of a network in terms of our coaching and training practices to really complement and work within this complex mixed-delivery system and also with our K-12 partners. I think we've established a really robust and really passionate data community, community of practice, and we've been able to do that because we've established a data submission platform. Through the Pyramid Model Consortium, we've been able to contract and utilize the Pyramid Model Implementation Database System. That system has given us some flexibility and how we submit data, how we analyze data, and frankly, there's been a pretty significant increase in data submission across our sites. As Ryan had mentioned, starting in 2020 to 2021, there were 11 SSIP, S-S-I-P, sites, and we've accelerated up to 26, and now we're recruiting for the next year, doing that recruitment. What happened? We also have participating sites across the state that are not SSIP sites but are engaging in this database system, and that's expanded over to across 131 different LEAs and programs.
00:14:09.00 >> Wow.
00:14:09.54 >> So this has given us an opportunity to really identify that district capacity assessment and utilize the early childhood benchmark of quality to kind of pinpoint critical elements within a team and really going back to systems and infrastructures, how can we support those teams that continue to promote [Indistinct] and also have conversations about data collection? What is our data telling us?
00:14:34.17 >> Mm-hmm.
00:14:34.41 >> We're starting to have deep conversations about our statewide behavior incident reporting data, which is data that's cross-analyzed with race, ethnicity, gender, IEP and DLL status, and so these are really the rich conversations that are deeply rooted in data analysis, and I think Ryan had mentioned this too, as we continue to focus on social emotional supports, how are we ensuring that we're not weaponizing the data that we're collecting? And that there aren't ... What are our focal group? And is there disproportionate data that we're collecting, and how do we then provide that rigorous technical assistance and support that is needed to engage in those deeper conversation?
00:15:18.04 >> Kathy, what about you?
00:15:19.83 >> Okay. So I have a unique position in that I work half of my time in the ECSE world and half of my time in the K-12 world, so I'm bridging that gap, and what I have always said is that the preschool has led the way in this work. With the ECSE program, we have teachers throughout our regions, I'm hearing feedback that are saying from high school educators, why are we not involved in this? So this is kind of ... We're seeing this roll together and become this wonderful framework for our state. I would say if I'm thinking about ... One of the successes of this program has been the enthusiasm. As I said, it's a big bite for districts and teams to take on, but when they do, and they get deeply involved in this work, the motivation that they have to grow this program is exceptional. It's outstanding work that they're working in. What they see is that even if they have systems in place that are doing some of this work, they're siloed.
00:16:20.22 >> Mm-hmm.
00:16:20.63 >> And so this program is really bringing those together, so that data is in one system in one place for districts to easily access and to analyze and to look deeply into what they thought they need and what's really true. And I think about the decisions that they're making with this data is far-reaching. They're thinking about, "What's the PD that our teachers need? Which teachers need additional coaching within those classroom environments? What policies, what procedures do we need to think about that we need to maybe change, edit, adjust or add to?" And so all of this brings this enthusiasm to these teams, and we're seeing that the word is getting out, and people are ...
00:17:04.41 >> Excited.
00:17:04.88 >> ... coming to us now.
00:17:07.26 >> So now, what do you have in the works? What plans do you have? What is the future of your SSIP?
00:17:14.27 >> Everything is in the works. I think ... You hit it. There's a lot of connections, and I think that's the most important part. Special education is the supplementary supporter. Special education can lead the charge, but we're not going to do this alone. And I think that's one of the biggest things that we have been able to do with this is really pull in a number of people, partners, agencies across our division within our own agency but also cross-sector partners that are really like, "What's going on? I want to be a part of this," and that's ... I would say, one of the more exciting parts of this is, in Washington state, within our early childhood programs, we have a mixed-delivery system. We don't have universal preschool, and I think for many of those that might be listening today, they're in the same space where you're wondering ... Funding early childhood programming is very difficult. It's very complex, and it is something that we're always seeking more information on.
00:18:08.16 >> It excites me too, just to jump in to say ... This is Julie, and I wanted to ... I was making notes as Ryan was talking because I think, and also Kathy, this idea of, what does fidelity mean? And knowing that this data collection can give us a better understanding of what fidelity means and whom and under what context, and I think this work is really linked back to implementations, buy-ins and understanding that there's different stages of implementation, and so fidelity looks different based on different program need, and I think that that speaks again to this being responsive to our community partners, and I think for us this past year, we've really focused on criteria around training, and what does training look like within this professional development community? And now, we're engaging in deeper conversations around coaching and employing the features of practice-based coaching and also transformational coaching to really examine and explore the impacts of intergenerational trauma within our tribal communities in Washington state and Black communities and really looking at our data to examine how we can do better. And how are we then being responsive to this data in a timely way? And so that's what I'm hoping that we'll continue to do is engage in cultivating a community, a roundtable, a data carousel, where we can really look at our data regularly, and that can inform our current practice and that shared-system sort of driven leadership that we see in our MTSS infrastructure. So I think that that's that focus, our social emotional development, professional development community, we require ongoing coaching and support and deep, deep analysis and data to support where to coach and when to coach and why to coach. And to whom are we coaching? And then who's coaching our coaches?
00:19:58.23 >> Kathy, what would you like to add?
00:20:00.61 >> Well, I think the implementation science is really important, so as our teams are moving forward, it takes time. It takes time to do this work, and what we're seeing is, they're digging so much deeper into this than any other initiative that we've seen. This is quite a commitment for our state to make to move this work forward. I see that people are coming to us, asking us to be part of this work, and I think that that's going to continue to grow so that we have that high-quality environment for all students in preschool or across our state.
00:20:32.96 >> Again, thank you so much for sharing your story. So much going on and so much to come, and just really appreciate you taking the time out. Thank you for being on.
00:20:45.31 >> Absolutely. Thank you for having us.
00:20:47.24 >> Thank you.
00:20:48.41 >> Thank you!
00:20:50.43 >> To access podcast resources, submit questions related to today's episode, or if you have ideas for future topics, we'd love to hear from you. The links are in the episode content, or connect with us via the Podcast page on the IDC website at ideadata.org.