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Reflections on the Past Five Years of SISEP

June 17, 2022

I will never forget the moment my superintendent, Dr. Kathy Stewart, told the Executive Cabinet at the Saginaw Intermediate School District that she had once again raised her hand to volunteer us for an opportunity. The opportunity was to partner with the Michigan Department of Education on something called a Transformation Zone. We then joked about how we would have to send someone with her every time to keep her hand down. My experience from this moment on with implementation science has led me down a path of further learning, sharing, coaching, and writing. Now it is your turn…

Take a few minutes and reflect on your first interaction or connection with the SISEP Center.  Was it just two years ago? Maybe, cough, 13 years? We have all been through a transformational few years that taught us so much. SISEP experienced several significant shifts during this third and most recent iteration of the center (SISEP III). There were growth areas with new state partners, new collaborations, and new staff members. But there were more challenging times with the ever-shifting political climates, the need to address inequalities, and the inability to provide technical assistance in person. While all this shifting occurred and immediate responses were required, the SISEP Center never wavered from the work’s vision and we made lemonade out of lemons. The center has reached more schools, worked with more states, and made fantastic partnerships over the last five years. So while SISEP may have had to make some significant adjustments to the technical assistance experience, it has shifted the movement forward. The SISEP Center staff recently made time to reflect on the work during this most recent grant cycle and discuss the exciting opportunities for the future.

The SISEP Center wants to take this opportunity first to thank all active states receiving intensive support. Michigan, Colorado, and Kentucky have been part of this work for five years of SISEP III. All three states have embedded implementation science into their work at the state department level. The Michigan Department of Education, Michigan’s State Wide Field Team, and regional intermediate school districts are coming together to embed implementation science in the continuous improvement process and how they support technical assistance to the districts across the state. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has taken implementation science and embedded it into how they select, hire, train, and coach new staff. CDE has shifted its focus and embraced a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) as the umbrella, using implementation science for all initiatives within MTSS. Kentucky is well known for all of its work around mathematics. The Kentucky Department of Education’s work has been significantly documented in three white papers that we will share below.  

To our newest state partners – New Jersey, Florida, and Virginia – we are excited that you joined us in SISEP III. The New Jersey Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Education are in the exploration stage, and the Florida Department of Education is implementing the B.E.S.T Standards for K-3 literacy. The growth over the last few years, in the middle of the pandemic, has been exponential, and we look forward to continuing the journey with you. 

To our targeted technical assistance states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, your stories and dedication to the work of improving infrastructure to positively impact students with disabilities are like no other. We thank you for the long-standing partnerships and look forward to continuing co-learning with one another. Additionally, we thank the technical assistance centers from across the nation we have partnered with – SWIFT, TIES, CEEDAR Center, Region 7 Comprehensive Center, and Region 5 Comprehensive Center. Our collaborations have allowed us to expand our work and to learn from others. There is a sense of closure as we conclude SISEP III. We can meet this month at the Active States Forum and spend time sharing and learning from one another. But we should also celebrate how far each of us, our teams, and our departments have come together. The movement made during challenging times was unfounded. But with closure comes new beginnings.

Pending SISEP IV funding, we have many unique opportunities that have us excited and rejuvenated to jump in! The team is ready for the next chapter under the leadership of Dr. Caryn Ward and Sophia Farmer. Bringing on new states for technical assistance, collaborating with new technical assistance centers, and providing learning opportunities for Institutes of Higher Education are just a few of the new partnerships we look forward to. Building capacity through micro-credentialing, redesigning the Active Implementation Hub, and creating new interactive learning opportunities have our creative juices flowing! Most importantly, though, the work that will (hopefully!) occur through SISEP IV will build upon and grow the role of an Implementation Support Practitioner throughout K-12 education. 

The SISEP Team is excited to see many of our partners on-site and virtually for the 2022 Active States Forum in North Carolina. We are looking forward to sharing stories, lessons learned, and resources. If you have a story to tell about your work with SISEP and would like to share it, contact me, and we can set a date and time. If you are not joining the forum, follow us on Twitter @sisepcenter #statesforum2022.