Georgia, Georgia, the whole podcast through. In this second segment of our two-part A Date with Data, host Amy Bitterman continues her exchange with Part B data managers Dawn Kemp and Dominique Donaldson about their ongoing efforts to keep stakeholders on their minds by evaluating progress toward targeted goals and creating spaces for consequential partnerships. It's the end of that old sweet song, so don't miss out.
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### Episode Transcript ###
00:00:01.51 >> 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.
00:00:24.72 >> Hello, and welcome to "A Date with Data." During this episode, we are continuing our incredibly interesting discussion with Dawn Kemp and Dominique Donaldson, who are both Part B Data Managers with the Georgia Department of Education. They shared on the last episode what their stakeholder engagement looked like over the last few years, how it's evolved, and now, we're going to hear more from them in terms of strategies that they have found to really help keep the stakeholders engaged and also what they have coming up next for stakeholder engagement in Georgia.
00:01:04.04 What are some ways, and how do you think you've been able to maintain this ongoing feedback from stakeholders, going beyond the target-setting piece and really, like you've said, getting more into the improvement activities, evaluating progress, analysis. How has that, you think, been able to be so successful in your state?
00:01:29.57 >> I think that Dominique can speak to that in terms of our intentional strategies that we've used.
00:01:37.37 >> So as far as maintaining those intentional strategies, we really ... In each stakeholder session, we really had a focus, so we would focus on specific indicators and making sure that we were continuously working towards presenting the SPP/APR information in a manner that was clear and understandable to stakeholders. Making sure that we created a safe space for the discussion allowed us to have those deep discussions where they felt comfortable questioning and asking in order to gain a very in-depth understanding of the content so that we could use that information to inform our decision-making. We also ... One of the other things that we did was scheduled stakeholder sessions in advance. That helped keep the momentum going. What we allowed people to do was register for the sessions, and when they registered, they were sent a confirmation email. And they were able to add the event to their calendar with reminders about the event. And so we found that if the stakeholders have the event on their calendar, it increased the chances that they would actually attend the session and then, as we also talked about, intentionally adding Spanish interpreters and soliciting participation through fliers in Spanish.
00:03:09.25 >> Great. That's a really smart idea, making sure you include that calendar invite, so it's not ... It's much easier to get it on their calendar rather than someone having to remember to put it on there, and they don't always do that. And what are some ways that you follow up on any concerns that maybe come up during the stakeholder engagement discussions by bringing in other people to kind of help ... some experts in those areas to really help answer some of the questions that maybe come up about the different initiatives?
00:03:43.36 >> So Dawn had previously mentioned how deep the discussions had gotten.
00:03:48.34 >> Mm-hmm.
00:03:48.60 >> And so because the discussion is so rich, sometimes we do have questions or topics that require us to dig deeper and continue the conversation, and what we would do then is when the stakeholders have those questions about students with disabilities, such as students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, we bring in program specialists to present in our SAP, and they provide and clarify information. Other topics and areas that also had a lot of interest included transition in preschool.
00:04:25.34 >> Mm-hmm.
00:04:25.60 >> And so we also brought in program specialists from our Division of Special Education Services and Supports, and they have also presented information.
00:04:35.51 >> I'm sure ... This is a very difficult undertaking and was for all states with the new package, and like Dawn mentioned at the beginning, that really explicit charge from OSEP that this be an ongoing, continuous, meaningful initiative bringing in stakeholders to provide input going beyond just the target setting. What are some of the bigger challenges that you have faced with this process of bringing in these stakeholders and getting that meaningful input?
00:05:09.91 >> One of the challenges we experienced was scheduling. It's difficult to find a time that works for everyone, but we did offer multiple sessions on several days with offerings in both the morning and the afternoon in order to get the best possible wide range of stakeholder participation. Another challenge we had was making sure that the information that we talk about and disseminate is done in an understandable manner that's bite-size, so people can really conceptualize what we're talking about to be able to use the information and really participate in the discussion.
00:05:53.11 One of the other things that was very important was, how do we keep the open communication with stakeholders when we're talking about setting targets? We all have high expectations for our students. However, communicating the difference between our expectations and the state targets can be somewhat challenging.
00:06:14.88 >> Mm-hmm.
00:06:15.45 >> When we set targets, we think about those targets of being attainable. So when we review data, targets should be made based on reasonable or attainable growths or progress. Sometimes, in the discussion, there are unrealistic expectations that can yield unrealistic targets. If targets are unrealistic and never attained, there's a loss of enthusiasm, and it could minimize the progress that's actually being made. So there's a hard line of when you have high but not realistic expectations.
00:06:52.92 >> Yeah, I can see that as definitely being a challenge when you're working with the stakeholders who, of course, want 100 percent, and where you're at is at 20 percent. And, yeah, so that could be a challenge, for sure, with that discrepancy between, really, the ideal and what, of course, we hope and want for our students but what, like you said, is realistic and attainable and achievable and making kind of those smaller, incremental steps to improve.
00:07:23.72 >> Right, and like what you mentioned, working through some of that process when we're looking at, for example, assessment results ...
00:07:32.65 >> Mm-hmm.
00:07:32.95 >> ... they may not be exactly where we want them to be. So when we're thinking about creating achievable, smart targets for assessment, that may ... When we're looking at data, the stakeholder may have emotion ... It may generate an emotional response when we're trying to really use data to inform the decision on where the target should be, and that can create some kind of angst sometimes, and we have to just work through it, be very intentional about working through the desire for our students and what we ... Looking at the data, where the data tells us we need to go based on rate of progress and ultimate goals for what can be reasonably attained within a year or within a certain amount of time.
00:08:32.19 >> Yeah, and that really leads into talking about those strategies and initiatives and programs and getting the stakeholders. Yes, we want a lot of progress and hope that we eventually get there, but let's talk about how we're going to get there and what ideas they have, too, for progress. Coming in now to 2023 and moving forward, what are some changes you have in mind? What are your plans for continuing this wonderful stakeholder engagement that you've been able to maintain now for several years?
00:09:13.10 >> So we really want to capitalize on our collaboration with Parent to Parent and increase our collaborative efforts. We found that collaborating with Parent to Parent, we're able to increase the amount of parent participation from groups of people that we normally would not have reached. Also, we want to provide additional survey opportunities. We discussed how in the meetings, people may not be ready to vocalize their thoughts. However, when given the opportunity to submit a survey, which is an anonymous survey, we can really collect honest feedback, and we can use that feedback to inform our decision-making. Also, we want to really look at increasing our marketing of stakeholder input sessions, so that's a huge priority for us. So we plan to create a marketing campaign that will disseminate information about our stakeholder input sessions through various avenues. And our plan, so far, includes providing information in invitations through our Special Education Directors' Webinar, weekly newsletters, collaborative partnerships such as Parent to Parent, our website and professional learning activities such as our budget and data professional learning, and that's just to name a few.
00:10:38.44 >> And Parent to Parent, that's your state's parent information center?
00:10:44.50 >> Yes.
00:10:44.86 >> Yes, ma'am. Go ahead, Dawn.
00:10:47.87 >> Yes, I was going to say yes, yes, it is. And they are ... They have representation on our State Advisory Panel and have shown a tremendous willingness to assist in this work.
00:11:04.61 >> Great. It's always so nice to see in states where there is that strong collaboration between the SEA and the parent center. You can see, especially with stakeholder engagement, how much of a difference, really, that can make. Is there anything else either of you want to add that you didn't already discuss? Any other highlights or tips, strategies you want to share with us?
00:11:29.76 >> I just ... One thing that comes to mind is that when you have a really diverse group of people, like our State Advisory Panel is, you have to be very flexible when you're presenting.
00:11:43.85 >> Mm-hmm.
00:11:44.06 >> Just like what Dominique said about providing information in bite-sized or in manageable chunks, you have to be able to do that. You also have to be flexible enough to work with those participants on the State Advisory Panel that have not statistical knowledge, understand psychometrics, ask really tough questions, questions some of the formulas that are used. So it's a ... It really requires a lot of flexibility so that you're not shutting down people that are not as interested in that level of topic and that you are, in fact, providing a good, relevant response to those people who are asking the technical questions and/or offering feedback for that. Sometimes, when you have those technical type individuals, it's helpful to provide them with follow-up, say, in terms of graphics or charts that they can look at, following the meeting or at a different time, so that you're not stopped completely on maybe a technical point.
00:13:09.58 >> Yeah, that's a great point. It's really a balancing act when you have a group that kind of ranges the spectrum of folks who maybe are pretty new to all of this and ones who have that more technical background, like you said. And that's such a really great idea to kind of answer questions but then say, "We can definitely provide you with more information, more detail afterwards," or even have follow-up conversations with those maybe who want that deeper discussion.
00:13:41.26 >> And I would also add that start early. Start your planning for stakeholder feedback sessions and engagement now.
00:13:51.67 >> Yeah.
00:13:52.88 >> And then also, let your stakeholders know that their feedback was used to make the decisions that were made.
00:14:03.22 >> Mm-hmm.
00:14:03.58 >> So communicate that, "We considered this. This is what we made a decision based on your feedback."
00:14:12.13 >> Yes, 100 percent. Yeah. When you do have ... The next time you meet with them, leading up to it, make sure you're telling them how useful and critical what they've provided has been, so that they hopefully will continue.
00:14:24.21 Well, thank you both so much. You shared such a huge amount of information. I'm still kind of reeling trying to unpack it all in my mind, but this was really informative. Thank you both.
00:14:37.16 >> Thank you for the opportunity.
00:14:38.08 >> Thank you.
00:14:39.86 >> 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.