State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP)
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) shared with states its realization that its past efforts around strengthening state compliance in Part C (early intervention, in Indiana is called First Steps) programs were not improving outcomes for children, youth, and families. In an effort to improve the Part C system outcomes across the United States, OSEP required that all states develop a State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) to be included in their Annual Performance Report(APR). The SSIP should be a comprehensive, ambitious, yet achievable multi-year plan for improving results for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
This change in state accountability emphasizes improved results for children and families. In essence the SSIP is about: bringing major stakeholders together; looking at data on children, services and impact; identifying areas we need to improve; developing a plan to address the identified areas; implementing and evaluating that plan; and ultimately improving outcomes for all children receiving services.
The SSIP is completed in three phases: analysis, planning and implementation, and evaluation. In Indiana, the data analysis phase (completed in April 2015) helped key stakeholders look at current First Steps Data and identify the focus for improvement, as well as locate infrastructure necessary to improve. Results from the data analysis phase of the SSIP also found that in Indiana, fewer African American children and children living in poverty make significant gains in most areas of development, but particularly skills in the Social-Emotional domain. In addition, transition data found higher instances of these families withdrawing from First Steps and/or lower rates of participation in First Steps services. In response to the data collected and analyzed in phase one of the SSIP, Indiana is committed to increasing the percentage of low-income and African American children showing greater than expected growth in all three-child outcomes domains, but particularly in the social-emotional domain.
To achieve this outcome, Indiana is exploring a number of possible improvement strategies. These strategies include implementing a new statewide Family Assessment Tool to better assess concerns, resource needs, and family priorities; increasing professional development resources for service coordinators and ongoing service providers to carry out select evidence-based intervention strategies; and possibly adopting a “coordination of care” approach in which First Steps increases its collaboration with other home visiting programs in Indiana to better address the needs of the target families. The second phase (to be completed by April, 2016) will involve the development of the strategies described above by determining the infrastructure, professional development, and evaluation strategies needed to move forward.
The final phase will involve exploring and evaluating the results of the plan to determine the extent of progress made by all children involved in the First Steps program as a result of the data-informed changes being made.