WestEd is pleased to announce that The National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) is the recipient of the 2020 Martha J. Fields Award, which is presented each year by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) Board of Directors to an individual or organization making extraordinary contributions to state special education directors and maximizing educational outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

NCSI at WestEd is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to help states transform systems to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. At its core, NCSI increases capacity of state special education leaders and staff to pursue equitable results through a focus on: maximizing leadership, optimizing general supervision, operationalizing evidence-based practices, and prioritizing improvement for low-performing systems.

The NASDSE Board based their selection of NCSI as the 2020 awardee based on the tremendous support that state directors received from the Center in light of unprecedented challenges impacting special education due to the COVID pandemic. The award recognizes NCSI’s significant ongoing commitment in helping state leaders pursue high expectations and improved outcomes for students with disabilities and their families, in spite of our current context.

NCSI Center Director Rorie Fitzpatrick responded to the award announcement with acknowledgement and appreciation for the work of state special education leaders. “State directors have my admiration for continuously taking to heart the responsibility and commitment to ensure that historically marginalized students and their families are well supported to succeed.”

Since its inception six years ago, NCSI has been committed to partnering with states to bring forward evidence-based solutions and support. In rapid response to COVID during the last half year, the Center has quickly pivoted to apply its expertise to develop resources and supports — engaging with state directors and their teams to boost information sharing and promote problem solving. The result is a compendium of promising practices, support to navigate major instructional and accountability considerations, and linkages to resources to support success for students and families, and educators.

“We are extraordinarily grateful for the privilege and honor to support dedicated leaders and their team members as they take on some of the most pressing challenges facing our education system today, and doing so with passion and skill,” Fitzpatrick says. “This unwavering commitment to successful outcomes stands as a national promise to support nearly 7 million children and youth with disabilities ages 3–21 who are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”

This year’s Martha J. Fields Award was announced at the 2020 NASDSE Annual Conference, which was held virtually. Read more about the award and previous winners here.