This spring I was introduced to Clay Cook’s work at the U of M, which you can check out here. Several things he presented on interested me. First, he is a strong proponent of school-based mental health for students. This last legislative session, thanks to our superintendent and the other intermediate superintendents, the Legislature passed a bill with funding so that intermediate districts (and other cooperatives) in Minnesota could pilot new and innovative school-linked mental health models. This legislation may open the door to the “adjacent possible” that we’ve been trying open for quite a while!
The second thing that really got my attention was Dr. Cook’s perspective on how often school districts don’t comprehensively examine what initiatives or practices are implemented in their districts, many of which are not evidence-based or that have been implemented with fidelity. It’s not to say that districts can’t try new things that may not be very well researched, but that must be intentionally thought through and then properly evaluated over time.
One of the resources shared in his presentation was the National Implementation Research Network, and as I perused their many resources, I stumbled upon the Hexagon Tool, which we have been using for a few weeks now to evaluate and select which initiatives or projects we should invest our time in. So far this tool has really helped our leadership team to comprehensively think through the many factors that must be considered when making “go-no go” decisions on initiatives that impact students and staff district-wide.
The third thing Dr. Cook touched on was the science of implementation, which many districts fail at. I believe these failures have to do with federal, state and local constraints in addition to a lack of funding. I also think we have suffered from the chasing of the next shiny thing in education. Regardless of the cause, implementation science can certainly help districts to 1) Determine what practices and supports to choose 2) Provide frameworks to significantly increase the odds of successful implementation 3) Provide evaluation frameworks to ensure that the implemented practices are having positive outcomes for students.
Here is what I believe to be a great set of questions that I feel every district could benefit from. I look forward to all feedback and other ideas! Here they are:
- What systems of support are in place for your students?
- How do you know you they’re the right supports for your students, and are they evidence based?
- Has your district successfully disseminated the practices and supports to instructional and operational staff? How do you know?
- How are you evaluating your initiatives to ensure they’re positively impacting student outcomes?
- What’s preventing you from successfully implementing supports your students need?