We support our clients in building equitable educational systems that advance opportunities for each and every student to thrive and succeed.
Our unique focus emphasizes building impactful, inclusive systems and communities nationwide that produce improved outcomes for a vast number of students with disabilities.
We provide a deep and broad range of professional development, leadership, and research offerings for the field related to the following goals:
Centering Equity and Advancing Opportunity
Build educational systems that center equity and advance opportunities for every student to succeed and thrive.
General and Special Education Systems Alignment
Align general and special education systems to allow students with disabilities to benefit from the general education curriculum alongside their grade-level peers.
Implement inclusive practices for leading, teaching, and learning.
Innovative Research and Development
Apply innovative research and development to solve pressing challenges in learner variability and special education.
Leverage Resources for Systems Improvement
Leverage state and local resources to strategically manage and support compliance and contribute to systemic improvement efforts.
Transforming State Systems to Improve Outcomes for Students with Disabilities
The National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) provides differentiated support through universal, targeted, and intensive technical assistance to support state education agencies (SEAs) to best use their general supervision and professional development systems to establish and meet high expectations for every student with a disability. NCSI is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and hosted at WestEd.
The Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting (CIFR) helps states improve the quality of their collection, reporting, analysis, and use of IDEA Part B and Part C fiscal data. The Center provides high-quality technical assistance to develop and sustain statewide infrastructures needed to accurately collect and report special education fiscal data. CIFR is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and hosted at WestEd.
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- Michele RovinsMichele Rovins is the Area Director for the Special Education Policy and Practice team, and serves as the Deputy Director of the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). With over 25 years of specialization in systems change, technology systems development, implementation, and evaluation, Rovins has successfully managed several projects for the U.S. Department of Education and served as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.View Full Bio
- Rorie FitzpatrickRorie Fitzpatrick serves as Senior Managing Director at WestEd, leading the Special Education Policy and Practice Team and the Resource Planning Team. She also serves as Director of the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Across her 25-year career, Fitzpatrick has focused on resolving equity gaps and creating positive outcomes for underserved student and adult populations through organizational leadership, policy development, and systemic analyses and improvement.View Full Bio
- Kimberly SalomonsonKimberly Salomonson is committed to collaborating with state, regional, and local educators to align systems, build collaboration, and close the achievement gap for all students. She specializes in education policy and practice at the local, county, and state levels, and brings a powerful perspective to building systemwide coherence through culture shifts, coaching and collaborative team building, inclusive-minded and equity-based decision-making, sound resource and fiscal allocation practices, and instructional design.View Full Bio
- Zach SmithZach Smith is a Senior Project Director with extensive experience working at local and state levels across the nation to create inclusive and equitable teaching and learning environments for students who have the most complex support needs. Leveraging his knowledge of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Multitiered Systems of Support (MTSS), and systems thinking, he takes an ecological approach when supporting systems change—one that centers the strengths and needs of students.View Full Bio
- Nicholas A. GageNicholas A. Gage is Senior Researcher in Special Education focused on advancing rigorous research and evaluation in learner variability and special education. Gage’s research interests are centered on the identification of policies and practices at the national, state, local, and classroom levels to support the academic, social, and behavioral needs of students with disabilities. This work is grounded in a Multitiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework, with a particular emphasis on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).View Full Bio
- Sara Menlove DoutreSara Menlove Doutre is a recognized expert in special education policy and finance. Leveraging her federal, state, and classroom experience, Menlove Doutre leads accountability and finance work as a Senior Program Associate on WestEd’s Special Education Policy & Practice team. She remains dedicated to creating accountability and funding systems that fuel innovations for improved outcomes for students with disabilities and their families.View Full Bio
- Jose BlackorbyAs a Senior Researcher in Special Education at WestEd, Jose Blackorby leads innovative studies designed to promote better learning conditions and outcomes for students with disabilities, initially prioritizing equitable learning acceleration for children and youth nationwide. With deep understanding of what works for students with disabilities and a foundation of experience that intersects research with policy and practice, Blackorby brings expertise and results from a decades-long career shaping new models that aim to ensure inclusivity and improved outcomes for children and youth all over the world.View Full Bio
- Eliana TardioEliana Tardio is committed to leveraging the power of technology and social media as an organic tool that creates accessibility and ensures meaningful stakeholder involvement at all levels. She has more than 18 years of experience working in the special education field. As the mother of two kids with Down syndrome, Eliana has grown as a professional while navigating the educational system. As a parent and professional, her dual perspective brings lived experiences and a unique passion for equity and inclusion, with celebration of diversity as the foundation of success for all students. View Full Bio
- Alexandria HarveyAlexandria Harvey joined WestEd in 2020, working with the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) to focus on equity, race, and disability work. She leads the Race X Disability Thought Leaders Conversation Series for NCSI, facilitating conversations with national leaders centered on the intersection of race and disability. Harvey recently earned her PhD in Special Education from the University of Florida where she focused on culturally relevant education. Her dissertation was on the self-efficacy of preservice teachers and their ability to enact culturally responsive classroom management practices.
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- Dona MeindersDona Meinders supports improvement of academic and behavioral outcomes for children and youth with disabilities and other special needs, working at the systems and individual student levels. She leads a team that provides direct support to state and local agencies related to alignment and continuous improvement processes. In her role as a state facilitator for the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) and leader of the Systems Coherence Team, she provides expert consultation, coaching, and development of tools for effective implementation.View Full Bio
- Susan HayesAs a Senior Program Associate and Project Director at WestEd, Susan Hayes supports education systems to create more equitable teaching and learning conditions that lead to more equitable outcomes for students with disabilities and their peers. Specifically, Hayes helps state education agencies critically assess and improve their special education policies and practices through her work with several federally funded technical assistance centers. Within these centers, Hayes works closely with state clients on a myriad of priority issues related to improving outcomes for students with disabilities.View Full Bio
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