In this Voices from the Field piece, we highlight how North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and Texas have raised awareness, visibility, and statewide knowledge of data-based individualization (DBI). To reach a broader audience of stakeholders, these states (in partnership with the National Center on Intensive Intervention [NCII]) leveraged their statewide conferences to highlight DBI through keynote speakers, workshops, breakout sessions, and facilitated team time. In North Carolina, Lynne Loeser, MEd*, is the statewide consultant for Specific Learning Disabilities and ADHD and leads the NCII state team at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. In Oregon, Dr. David Putnam, Jr. is the director of Oregon Response to Instruction and Intervention (ORTIi). In Texas, Dr. Elizabeth Swanson is the principal investigator of Building RTI Capacity. Funded by Texas Education Agency, Building RTI Capacity is designed to support the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) throughout the state and housed at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (MCPER) at the University of Texas at Austin. Finally, Lee Collyer, MEd, is a program supervisor in special education outcomes at Washington state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
NCII: Why was it important to highlight DBI work at the state level through conferences?
Lynne Loeser, North Carolina: While we are actively embedding DBI within current professional development, technical assistance, and communication, we recognize the challenges of reaching a broad audience, which includes practitioners, administrators, families, and community stakeholders. Our goal is to build local capacity to use DBI for students that require intensive intervention across general and special education. To address this challenge, we have been fortunate to have NCII advisors provide sessions at our Exceptional Children Conference. This annual collegial event is attended by over 3000 professionals and parents and is an opportunity to share and learn about innovations and research-based practices. At our most recent conference (2018) Teri Marx, Amy Peterson, and Tessie Bailey provided a full-day institute with over 100 participants entitled, We’ve Tried Everything…Now What? Using Data to Individualize and Intensify Intervention, as well as three conference sessions on the Taxonomy of Intervention Intensity in mathematics, reading, and behavior reaching an additional 150 participants. This year, NCII advisors will be returning to the conference to offer four sessions on intervention at the secondary level as well as a full day institute. Through these conference presentations, our goal is to build awareness of DBI and share NCII resources.
David Putnam, Jr., Oregon: Much of our work as a state-level provider is delivered through regional or local trainings and coupled with coaching. Our annual statewide conference is an additional component to this overall system of implementation support. While there is no question that there are limitations to stand-and-deliver training sessions, we found that it was wrong to assume that large conferences, characterized by keynote addresses and short presentation-style breakout sessions, can’t play an important role in effective professional learning cycles. They can and often do, especially when they are strategically leveraged as part of a broader system of ongoing professional learning.
We have found that these potential benefits are much more likely to be realized when schools and districts attend the conference with leadership teams and then plan strategically to support new learning once they return to their site. We strongly encourage our attendees to bring a team, and we provide time and space during our conference for teams to meet to process learning, problem-solve challenges, and plan for implementation.
Specifically, we have always included DBI (or Individual Problem Solving [IPS] in Oregon) in our state-level conferences, as it is a critical component of a comprehensive MTSS. The manner and degree, however, to which DBI has been included has changed over time. In previous years, DBI/IPS was limited to a few sessions that aligned closely to our state model. The scope expanded last year as a result of our work with NCII, and we had more offerings related to DBI across a wider range of topics.
This year, perhaps as a result of our work with NCII and our greater focus on DBI, we devoted our preconference day to Tiers 2 and 3, including assessment, instruction, and data-based decision making. We were fortunate to have NCII senior advisors Drs. Chris Riley-Tillman and Sharon Vaughn at our conference this year. The feedback we received on this year’s pre-conference was perhaps our strongest yet, and confirmed a broad need for training and support for DBI and the value of devoting significant time to it at a state-level conference.
Elizabeth Swanson, Texas: In Texas, as our team organized and planned a state-level RTI/MTSS Leadership Institute for 200 teachers, school administrators, and state leaders, we recognized the unique opportunity facing us. Key stakeholders from across the state would be in one room, hearing one message focused on disseminating evidence-based practices in an effort to bridge the gap between research and the classroom. For special educators and interventionists, DBI is an intuitive way to inform instructional adaptations so that lessons are highly aligned with the needs of students who struggle in reading, mathematics, or behavior. General educators, however, are not as familiar with DBI and their role in the process. In our case, the audience was made up many general educators, who were highly motivated and traveled hundreds of miles to attend our institute. This type of conference atmosphere allows us to deliver a highly focused message to hundreds of stakeholders who are eager to learn, but we also created purposeful programming that led participants through a process of knowledge building, reflection, and planning.
Because the theme of our 3-day event was “Using Data to Inform Instruction,” with a focus on the MTSS process, the topic of DBI fit perfectly. We created purposeful programming that led participants through a process of knowledge building, reflection, and planning
One presenter introduced the idea of DBI within reading. The next day, a second presenter provided a deeper understanding of DBI within mathematics. Within the conference setting, the key to introducing and encouraging the use of DBI in classrooms across the state was to present the model and then provide plenty of time for participants to collaborate and think about how it could be applied once they returned to their own school districts. Questions started with, “What aspects of DBI do you use now?” and moved into more plan-focused questions like, “What data sources do you currently use and what data sources do you need to add?” and “What skills do teachers at your school need in order to implement DBI?” These types of questions guided participants’ knowledge building about DBI, identification of campus strengths and areas of need, and formulation of a plan for implementing DBI on their campus.
Lee Collyer, Washington: As employees of the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, we are tasked to support statewide PreK–Grade 12 education efforts. Through these efforts, we are in a consistent dialogue with school district leaders. A common theme has emerged as districts begin to implement MTSS frameworks: the need for evidence-based, data-driven, Tier III interventions. While the fidelity of implementation of districtwide MTSS varies, the need to support their most intensive students, with data driven intervention is evident. Therefore, over the past year, DBI has been represented at multiple statewide conferences and specifically featured as workshops at our Special Education, MTSS, and Educational Research conferences. By highlighting DBI through our state-level conferences, we address a major need and are able to present districts with a low-cost intervention framework that is data-driven, evidence-based, and can be used during implementation within existing systems of support.