Wisconsin Culturally Responsive Education for All (CREATE) Initiative - Training and Enhancement Initiative

Lisa Hoogstra, Manolya Tanyu, Natalie Tucker, and Andrew Loignon

The Wisconsin Culturally Responsive Education for All: Training and Enhancement (CREATE) initiative, a statewide initiative launched by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, is designed to increase statewide capacity to implement culturally responsive policies, procedures, and practices; reduce achievement gaps; and eliminate race and ethnicity as predictors of special education referrals. The initiative has multiple components, including a district needs assessment and an annual improvement plan, an annual conference, district equity leadership trainings, culturally responsive classroom practices trainings, the American Indian Student Achievement Network, and the Culturally Responsive Early Childhood Project. Participation in the initiative is open to all Wisconsin school districts, but districts identified as having disproportionate representation of racial and ethnic groups in special education are required to complete, at minimum, an annual needs assessment and district improvement plan. Participation in other CREATE components is strongly encouraged. Approximately 30 school districts have participated in CREATE each year.

AIR conducted an evaluation of the first three years of the CREATE initiative with two primary components: (1) document the extent to which each of the initiative’s various components are being implemented with fidelity to program goals and identify areas for improvement, and (2) determine what effect participation in the CREATE initiative (and extent of participation across CREATE components) has on districts’ capacities to provide culturally responsive education and to implement policies and practices designed to close achievement gaps and reduce disproportionality in special education. To address these evaluation goals, AIR conducted a detailed review of program documents; interviewed with CREATE project coordinators regarding facilitators and barriers to program implementation; analyzed participant feedback about professional development workshops and conferences; and developed case studies of a sample of participating districts based on in-depth interviews with district staff who identify strategies and who have facilitated district improvement efforts related to the CREATE initiative and common barriers to improvement.

The results of the evaluation indicated that the initiative has been implemented with fidelity to program goals and that participants are generally satisfied with the quality of the workshops and trainings that have been offered. Interviews conducted with staff from a third of participating districts found that districts fell along a continuum, from full integration of CREATE activities with district policies and practices such as hiring, professional development, and review of student data to minimal integration in most of these areas. Districts that most fully implemented culturally responsive policies and practices are those with a strong district leadership team who participated in district equity leadership trainings; coordinated culturally responsive practices at the district, school, and classroom levels; and integrated culturally responsive practices with existing district initiatives such as Response to Intervention and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.