FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

May 2015

ICI Launches the Systems Improvement Group

As a result of new federal requirements, special education leaders in schools, districts, and states nationwide must be able to produce data that shows how well their efforts to improve results for children and youth with disabilities in their education systems are working. This is just one of the growing needs that the new Systems Improvement Group at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is addressing.

The Systems Improvement Group is comprised of professionals with decades of experience in helping state and local education agencies to design and implement effective special education delivery systems focused on improving student outcomes. Although considered a “new” service of ICI, the staff of the Systems Improvement Group have previously provided assistance to over 60 education agencies at local, state, and federal levels through their work within ICI projects and centers, including ICI’s North Central Regional Resource Center. Through this new group, they will provide program evaluation services, high quality technical assistance, stakeholder facilitation, leadership development, and data analysis and visualization services to support systems improvement efforts in state and local education agencies.

According to the Systems Improvement Group director, Maureen Hawes, “The approach taken by our staff is to listen very carefully to what clients want and need in order to address challenging evaluation and systems-improvement issues. As such, the client is an active collaborator in developing creative and innovative solutions. Moreover, our staff invest considerable time in developing trusting and respectful relationships with clients and their stakeholders.”

The focus of the Systems Improvement Group is in three major areas:

  • Systems Improvement Through Capacity Building. Staff use analytical tools to identify components of systems (e.g., infrastructure, professional development needs, data and monitoring practices) to assess needs and engage in systems reform. This is accomplished by sharing evidence-based practices and other options that optimize system capacity to influence positive changes at a targeted level (e.g., state agency, classroom). Strategies include the identification of infrastructure improvements, data disaggregation, leveraging, stakeholder engagement and implementation, and development of results-focused monitoring systems.

  • Improvement Through Data Analytics. Staff provide training to those who must learn how to use data to make decisions. For example, the Systems Improvement Group has developed an evidenced-based training series designed to help clients use data in a meaningful way to address accountability requirements and support the improvement. It also uses data visualization strategies and root cause analysis to help clients in their improvement planning efforts.

  • Decision-Making Through Evaluation. Staff offer clients a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to support decision-making in implementing systemic improvement efforts. They are highly skilled in developing new and innovative measures of processes and outcomes, which yield reliable formative and summative information about improved results for children and youth.

“We know the needs are great in states,” says Maureen. “They can’t afford to wait for assistance, and neither can children and youth with disabilities and their families. The Systems Improvement Group is ready to help.”

FFI contact Maureen at 612-624-1144 or