Educational Systems Improvement
Working to provide technical assistance and dissemination support to state education and lead agencies as they seek to sustain systems change efforts that improve educational results and accountability for children and youth with disabilities and their families.

Highlights from the Year

SIG Assists States and Districts to Improve Education Results and Accountability

Photo of SIG staff seated in consultaion.

SIG staffers Arlene Russell Bender (right) and Tri Tran consulted with clients from the South Dakota Department of Education, one of four states where SIG delivered education improvement assistance this year.

This year ICI's Systems Improvement Group (SIG) marked its one-year anniversary of helping K-12 school systems and state education agencies nationwide improve educational services they deliver to students with disabilities and those at risk. Under the direction of Maureen Hawes , SIG helps contracted clients in three designated areas: Systems Improvement Through Capacity Building, Improvement Through Data Analytics, and Decision-Making Through Evaluation. SIG staff listen carefully to what clients need, and provide customized services for them. Among SIG's consulting highlights this year have been:

  • Assisting a school district in Minnesota to evaluate its Indian Education Program.
  • Helping a Midwestern state education system examine post-school outcomes for students with disabilities.
  • Conducting data analytics training for a state department of education in the Midwest as it works on its federally-required State Performance Plan.
  • Conducting project evaluations for a Northeastern state that expanded its professional development for implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) to PreK-8 school personnel and parents statewide.

SIG has provided an ideal platform through which ICI can take the knowledge and skills of staff across its program areas and apply them to short- and long-term contracted assistance that supports system improvement efforts.

NCSC Supports Success of Students with Cognitive Disabilities Nationwide

Screenshot of NCSC website.

Through the NCSC Web site and WIKI, resources developed through this national partnership over the past five years were released this year to education systems across the U.S. and internationally.

For the past five years the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) has pursued the goal of ensuring that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities achieve increasingly higher academic outcomes and leave high school ready for postsecondary options. Toward that end, this partnership of five centers and 24 states created a multi-state comprehensive assessment system for K-12 students with significant cognitive disabilities that includes a system of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supporting instruction aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and based at ICI’s National Center on Educational Outcomes, NCSC’s work has brought about educational systems-change in the 24 participating states .

This year, as its federal funding ended, NCSC took the learning from that effort and made it available even more widely. At the request of the state partners, NCSC, which has been directed by Rachel Quenemoen at NCEO, created the NCSC WIKI that hosts a set of online resources for school personnel and parents. Among the resources are curriculum and instruction materials to support classroom teaching, professional development tools for educators, tips and tools for parents, and a communication toolkit for teachers and speech-language pathologists serving students with disabilities who do not or do not yet use oral speech. Those teaching and learning resources are now in use in every state, as well as in many other countries.

Online Training From ICI Supports States’ Compliance with Early Childhood Transition Requirements

Screenshot of The Connecting the Dots website.

The Connecting the Dots online training from ICI was used by state education personnel in Massachusetts this year, building their competency in supporting children with disabilities who are transitioning from the states’ early childhood programs to school-age services.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) requires a smooth transition for children moving from Part C early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities to Part B programs for children and young adults with disabilities ages 3 to 21 years. It is difficult for many states to ensure this transition is being implemented as intended by IDEA 2004. One way to achieve compliance with the C to B transition requirements is to train staff members who are most responsible for ensuring effective transitions. In response to this training need, ICI has been offering Connecting the Dots online transition training for Part C Service Coordinators since 2007. The training, initially developed in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education for that state, is now available nationwide. During this year ICI contracted with the state of Massachusetts to provide the online training for their personnel, and 180 professionals from that state completed the training.

The training is made up of three units:

  • Federal and State Requirements for Transition (including IDEA 2004, the State Performance Plan, and state-specific transition data.)
  • Understanding Early Childhood Transition (including recommended practices).
  • State Transition Policies and Procedures (including roles and responsibilities, state policies, and procedures).

In addition to the online training for coordinators, Connecting the Dots includes an administrative interface for regional and state staff to use to administer the training. Data can be collected on trainees' progress and quiz scores, which may be used for federal reporting purposes by region, and the site also produces reports with graphics. Most importantly, it allows state and regional staff to track service coordinators' training throughout the state.


Reach of National Center and State Collaborative in 2015/16

Graphic of the globe along with the NCSC logo

Systems Improvement Group Consultation Sites for 2015/16

Graphic representing states and services received from ICI. Indiana: technical assistance; Minnesota: technical assistance and evaluation; New York: evaluation; and South Dakota: training.

complete list of Educational Systems Improvement projects, centers, and lead staff