TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap RETIRED


Overview of Fidelity

 In everyday language, fidelity means “Did we do what we said that we would do?” 

Fidelity looks at the presence and level of implementation of inclusive practices that are designed to improve outcomes for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. Understanding fidelity is important because unless we understand to what extent what was intended to be implemented is actually being implemented, it is impossible to determine what is driving either positive or negative outcomes. Having data about the extent of implementation related to the inclusive priorities informs decisions about the next steps in building a sustainable inclusive system. 

  • Research about assessing fidelity in systems change tells us that understanding the presence and implementation of new policies and practices is important for accurately measuring the outcomes of the change. When applied to inclusive practices, the leadership team asks:

    • To what extent is each level of the system implementing inclusive policies and practices?  

    • To what extent did these changes lead to positive outcomes for students? 

  • Getting a handle on full implementation can be challenging. The National Implementation Research Network (n.d.) identifies full implementation as being achieved when 50%-60% or more of a system is engaged with fidelity in a practice. At this point, the system continues to build capacity in the additional 40%-50% of the organization, while also scaling up by adding additional priorities or participating districts/ schools. Research shows that at this level of implementation for a specific practice,  a system is beyond a “fragile stage” in its development. It can withstand additional changes (Fixsen et al., 2013; NIRN, n.d.)

As has been mentioned throughout the Inclusive Education Roadmap, “All Often Does Not Mean All” when considering students with significant cognitive disabilities being educated in less restrictive settings. It is important to assure that any definition of sustainability and scaling up does not delay or preclude incorporating all students in being educated in inclusive settings. Full implementation of inclusive practices should benefit all students, including all of those with significant cognitive disabilities.

  • Effective inclusive systems are composed of inclusive practices that are woven together and complement each other so they positively impact student learning. Together, they accelerate systems change. 

Example: Considering Fidelity with Inter-woven Inclusive Practices

A school district EILT  team completes the Reflecting on Inclusive Systems of Education (RISE). Through this process, it identified two focus areas: Education Systems and Instruction Practices. Within these areas, they decided to focus on building common planning time for instructional teams and supporting collaborative use of this time to enhance student instruction and achievement. 

This led to providing professional development (Competency Drivers: Professional Development) about how to modify master schedules (Organization Drivers: Facilitative Administration) in the targeted schools so teams had the time to collaborate. They knew that this was a necessary, but insufficient step because changes to the master schedule needed to be paired with professional development (Competency Driver) and coaching (Competency Driver) to support instructional teams to use their common planning time effectively to enhance student learning. 

The data collection plan included the EILT looking at fidelity related to the building an inclusive education system by:

  • Conducting the RISE to reflect on implementation and determine priority areas (annually), and 

  • Determining the extent of implementation of the Inclusive Education Action Plan (2 times per year).

The data collection plan also included assessing fidelity for specific key policies and practices to support meaningful change:  

  • Documenting the changes to the master schedules  

  • Fidelity data on coaching instructional teams during common planning time

  • Fidelity data on how teams used their common planning time

The level of fidelity regarding a program or practice can be determined through multiple means. In particular, fidelity evidence clusters into three categories: (1) Direct Observation, (2) Record Review, and (3) Others reporting what they are seeing. (State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices, n.d.-d). 

Guiding Questions

  1. Is there a data collection plan that includes (see below);
    • What fidelity data will be collected, the tools and processes that will be used, and the collection schedule?
    • Who is responsible for data collection?  
  2. How will the data be used by EILTs, administrators and other teams to improve program or practice outcomes and implementation supports? 

Fidelity of Implementation: Tools for Considering System Change and Specific Inclusive Practices 

Building inclusive education systems is not a single step. It is a complex change process that happens by implementing inclusive policies, practices and processes within a supportive context. Equitable Inclusive Education Teams (EILT) use the Inclusive Education Implementation Drivers (Competency and Organization Drivers) grounded by effective Leadership to determine the mix of changes needed that support the system’s priorities. 

So, how does an EILT determine fidelity regarding implementation when working with a complex system? When considering fidelity, it is important to differentiate between the implementation of the whole inclusive education system (for example, “Did we do what we said we would?”) from fidelity for specific practices that are implemented as part of the inclusive system. 

Fidelity of the Whole Inclusive Education System

Fidelity of implementation related to the whole inclusive education system is monitored through: (1) the RISE Tool, and (2) the Inclusive Education Action Plan that is developed based on the findings from the Reflecting on Inclusive Systems of Education (RISE). 

  1. The RISE is a self-reflection tool for initiating and sustaining inclusive system development. As part of the RISE, evidence is discussed about the system’s values and the operationalizing of the values by looking at the depth and breadth of inclusive policies, practices and processes across the system. 

    The specific points for using the RISE to determine fidelity for systems change are: 

    • Frequency: Annually
    • Conducted by : EILT
    • Process
      • The EILT conducts the Initial RISE. During the Initial Rise, the core values of inclusive systems are discussed and identification of priority focus areas are determined.
      • Next, the EILT does an in-depth reflection on the features of the priority focus areas. Through an annual self-reflection using the RISE, changes to the fidelity to implementation of policies, practices and processes are determined.
      • For detailed information about facilitating the RISE, both for the first and annual reviews, see the RISE Facilitator Guide.
      • The findings and changes are communicated to other EILTs via the communication strategy. 
  2. An Inclusive Education Action Plan is developed based on the RISE. The Action Plan  provides the goals and strategy for how the Inclusive Education Drivers will support system change and build inclusive systems. Progress implementing the Action Plan and the results correlate with progress toward greater implementation of the RISE features for inclusive systems. 

    The specific points for using the Inclusive Education Action Plan to determine fidelity for systems change are:

    • Frequency: 2-3 times per year during Year 1, then 2 times per year in subsequent years depending on consistency of implementation that is occurring.
    • Conducted by: EILT
    • Process
      • At the beginning of the year, dates are set in the calendar for reviewing the Inclusive Education Action Plan to assure continued progress is occurring.
      • The review includes discussing the Action Plan’s smart goals, the steps taken to implement the smart goals, and all available implementation and student outcome data that inform progress toward each goal.
      • If needed, adjustments are made the action plan to assure continuous improvement.
      • The findings and changes are communicated to other EILTs via the communication strategy. 

Fidelity for Specific Inclusive Education Practices 

As part of the Inclusive Education Action Plan, key practices related to inclusive education are identified that require development (for example, the plan may include a targeted focus on collaborative teaming, co-teaching, implementing Universal Design for Learning or school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS). In these instances, there are specific tools that provide feedback on the practice that can be used in a quick-feedback cycle (such as a coaching session with a teacher or administrator). When these individual findings are aggregated over time, these same tools provide information regarding the fidelity of implementation of these practices across an organization. 

For example, information gathered from the Classroom Instruction Snapshot provides data for a coach to provide feedback to an individual teacher or co-teaching team.  When these observations are aggregated over time without attribution to individuals, the same tool can provide fidelity data about the depth and breadth of implementation across a grade/department, school or district. (Refer to Section 4 >Buiding an Effective Coaching System to access these tools).