A Brief History of State Implementation and Scaling up of Evidence-Based Programs

The State Implementation and Scaling up of Evidence-Based Programs (SISEP) Center began in October 2007 after the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) recognized the importance of implementation science in 2005.  This led to a request for proposals for a new Center, what is now the SISEP Center.  SISEP is based on implementation science.  As such, SISEP makes use of best available evidence while contributing to the development of implementation practice, science, and policy.

The purpose of the SISEP Center is to help establish implementation and scaling capacity in state, regional, and district educational systems.  There is an urgent need to make full and effective use of the rapid developments in implementation science in education to assure an equitable high-quality education for all students.  SISEP provides supports for establishing large-scale, sustainable, high fidelity use of effective education practices.  The goal is to maximize academic and behavioral outcomes for all students, especially students with disabilities.

There is little evidence available to support large-scale uses of evidence-based approaches and other innovations in education.  Challenges are widespread, and the learning curve for developing implementation capacity in State education systems is steep. Regardless SISEP and OSEP are using these experiences to learn what it takes to build implementation capacity in amidst the daily business of education.  Over the past ten years, SISEP has worked with a total of ten states and, as of January 2018, is partnering with Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Colorado.  Over the next five years, two additional states will join as partners in this work.

Across these past ten years, OSEP and SISEP have learned that developing implementation capacity to achieve educationally significant outcomes for all students requires systemic change at all levels of the education system.  In each active scaling state, the following components are present:

  1. There is an engaged State Management or Leadership Team (the CSSO and his or her cabinet) with 2 members who are appointed “sponsors” of the capacity development work.
  2. There are 2 State Transformation Specialists who are employed by and housed in the CSSO offices.
  3. There is a State Design Team consisting of leaders of major initiatives in the department.
  4. State capacity to begin Exploration activities with Regional Education Agencies is developed within the first year and Regional capacity to begin Exploration activities in districts is established within 18 months.

With this foundation is place, systemic issues rise to the forefront and provide opportunities to begin the process of defragmentation while creating alignment and coherence among divisions and operating units in the education system.  All four components must be present for capacity development to have a chance to succeed.

Over the past ten years, SISEP has developed a cascading theory of change that directly ties statewide intentions to student outcomes in complex education systems.  SISEP has developed practical measures of capacity development at State, regional, and district levels.  SISEP is nearing the end of a process to develop in-class observation assessments of instruction to inform better supports for educators.  Each of these assessments is designed to inform action planning and provide a practical way to define “capacity development” and monitor progress at each level of the cascading theory of change.

SISEP and OSEP are defining “intensive TA” and learning to operationalize what is meant by “intensive.”  Intensive implementation-informed assistance is a goal-oriented approach supported by proactive efforts to teach implementation science and practice to educators and to hold educators accountable for learning and using new ways of work at all levels of the system.  Colleagues in active scaling states and districts mention the frequency of contact (daily/weekly) and visits (monthly) and the simultaneous work at multiple layers of the system as distinguishing features of intensive work.

Lessons learned are shared with colleagues and other TA Centers on learning platforms on the NIRN website.  As a result, implementation science can become available universally to educators.