The Institute’s Systems Improvement Group (SIG) provides evaluation, training, and technical assistance services to K-12 education systems around the country as they strive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, other students at risk for poor educational outcomes, and their families. A particular area of focus in 2016/17 was evaluation of public education for American Indian students in one of Minnesota’s largest school districts, the St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS).
Minnesota has the lowest four-year graduation rate for American Indian students in the U.S. and one approach to improving this rate is a federally-funded, evidence-based demonstration project in the SPPS called Caa/Mitig. The Caa/Mitig project for American Indian pre-school and secondary students integrates American Indian language, culture, and community supports into the nationally recognized CPC (Child-Parent Center) and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) model programs.
The goals are to increase kindergarten readiness, on-time high school graduation, and postsecondary program enrollment of American Indian students. ICI’s Systems Improvement Group contracted with SPPS to provide evaluation services that assess the impact of specific demonstration project activities in achieving the objectives and outcomes of Caa/Mitig. In addition to conducting data collection and analysis activities for the project during this past year, SIG evaluators also carried out direct observations in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the extent to which the Caa/Mitig project activities were delivered consistently and with fidelity to their design. This evaluation support to SPPS provided essential feedback about the effectiveness of the demonstration project approach and its potential for wider implementation.
The New York State Department of Education is working to expand the state’s capacity to provide professional development on response to intervention (RtI) to school personnel and parents statewide, and to offer support for high-quality implementation of RtI in grades pre-K through grade 8. RtI is an educational strategy used to close achievement gaps for students, including students at risk, students with disabilities, and English language learners. In order to effect broader implementation of RtI across school districts and grade levels, the state submitted an application for and was awarded a State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education. This past year the Systems Improvement Group at ICI conducted evaluations of New York’s SPDG to provide feedback that assisted the state in assuring that the project was meeting its objectives and goals.
Evaluation activities included assessing the fidelity of implementation of the RtI model across various regions in the state, conducting observations of professional development trainings and RtI implementation in school buildings, and collecting data to evaluate the quality, relevance, and usefulness of the professional development trainings. In addition, the Systems Improvement Group generated 10 case studies of RtI implementation across districts in the state. This set of contracted evaluation activities provided valuable data focused on supporting the state’s efforts in increasing effective use of RtI statewide.