Lights, mics, action! In dating, as in life, it's important to keep things fresh and lively. That's why we took advantage of our time in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the IDC Interactive Institute 2023 to sit down with OSEP's Gregg Corr, Christine Pilgrim, and Richelle Davis. Join host Amy Bitterman for this national perspective on how states can interact, influence, and improve their way to higher quality IDEA data. It's the very first episode of A Date with Data recorded before a live studio audience!
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### Episode Transcript ###
00:00:01.67 >> You're listening to "A Date with Data" with your host, Amy Bitterman.
00:00:07.50 >> Hey, it's Amy, and I'm so excited to be hosting "A Date with Data." I'll be chatting with state and district special education staff who, just like you, are dealing with IDEA data every day.
00:00:19.65 >> "A Date with Data" is brought to you by the IDEA Data Center.
00:00:24.49 >> Welcome to the very first live episode of "A Date with Data" podcast. We are very excited to have OSEP, the OSEP edition today. For those of you maybe who haven't listened to the podcast yet, I would encourage you to check it out and hear from many of you that are here today in fact. And usually on the podcast we have state special education directors and data managers and all of the rest of you that are here today, as well as district and other state staff join us, and this time we're so happy to have a national perspective on IDEA data quality. And they're going to be talking to us about, from that higher-up view, and what OSEP is thinking and OSEP's priorities related to influencing, interacting and improving our IDEA data quality so, so excited to have you all here. So as Julie mentioned, we have Gregg Corr, who is the Director of the Monitoring and State Improvement and Planning Division, or MSIP, also Christine Pilgrim, who is the Associate Division Director with MSIP, and Richelle Davis, who is an Education Program Specialist in the Research to Practice Division with OSEP. And I just wanted to start out by having you each just say a little bit about your role, what you do at OSEP and also just something you like to do for fun when you're not working. And, Gregg?
00:01:53.13 >> Pick on me first?
00:01:53.90 >> Yeah!
00:01:54.71 >> All right. Okay. So my role, as it has been for over a decade now ... Time flies when you're having a great time. So as the title of the division might suggest, we are responsible for monitoring but also for SPP/APR and determinations. I look to my friend here to my left, who is deeply involved in that process, and also grant awards, and we have staff back in Washington who are working very hard to review and approve the grant award applications that came in May 24th so that everybody can get their fund on July 1st. I know you all are looking forward to that. So that occupies a lot of my time. We also do a considerable amount of policy work. We try to squeeze that in where we can and customer service. We do have a customer service team that varies from three to four people, depending on vacancies, but they are kind of our first line of contact with the public. A parent who's upset calls in. They engage with that parent, inform them of their rights, kind of suggest alternatives and resources for them. So those are some of the things we do. Now I forget the second part of the question.
00:03:24.18 >> What do you like to do for fun when you're not working?
00:03:25.92 >> Okay, when I'm not working. Sleep, and over the pandemic, we acquired a puppy, a cute little border collie puppy. The kids had been asking for one for a long time, and I kept saying, "We're never home! We can't do that," but now we're home a lot more. So these dogs are incredibly active. Her ... The dog's parents were working sheepherding farm dogs. We don't ... Do not have a herd of sheep in Capitol Hill, so we ended up taking her out on walks and out to throw the ball as much as we can. So that's a lot of my time and kind of trying to keep the garden looking presentable and taking out the garbage and that sort of thing.
00:04:11.68 >> All those fun activities.
00:04:12.79 >> Yeah, all those fun activities.
00:04:14.84 >> My turn next. I have been with OSEP for 14 years, but in my current role and as one of four Associate Division Directors, I've been doing that for 3 years. I've had various roles at OSEP. I've been a State Lead. I've been ... I called it a party planner, but I was really a Facilitator of Collaboration across the department, and now I'm in this role. As one of four Associate Division Directors, I have what we call a homeroom team. So I lead a group of 10 folks are on ... I think it's about 12 folks are on my team, and we have a certain number of states and all of the Pacific entities, so my friends from American Samoa. Guam can't be here because they're dealing with the effects of a typhoon, but CNMI, FSM, Palau, all of them are on my team as well, and my team is called Team B. I say it's B for best, but this is going to be a podcast living in perpetuity, and then now my colleagues know how competitive I am because I want to be the best at everything. I also provide leadership to the data implementation team, and that is a team that is charged with overseeing our process to review your SPP/APR submissions and issue determinations. I am not a native sort of data person. I've had to learn a lot as I have taken on this role, but I always appreciate how accountable this group holds me and everything I do, especially [Indistinct]. So if I can usually get through them and I'm looking okay and I don't have egg on my face, I know that I've achieved something. In terms of outside of work, I don't know that there's really an outside of work right now because it's our busy period, but I do like to eat really good food. I like to sleep. I like to travel, but I have a broke best friend, who is my 18-year-old child, and she affects my outside-of-work shenanigans all of the time. Right before I came onstage, I got a text. "Can you put some money in my account?" That's all I ever ... "Can you put some money in my account? Can you put some money in my account?" So that's my life. Richelle?
00:06:16.16 >> Hey. So I kind of gave a little bit of it away yesterday, but I like to consider myself Ms. Other Duties as Assigned. So I started at OSEP in the Research to Practice Division with the data team, and I still work with the data team but ... and we collect the data, as I talked about yesterday, so we kind of are that first block. It's where the data comes to, and we're doing that initial data quality and then pawning it off here to Christine. I also work on the Annual Report to Congress. Who's familiar with the Annual Report to Congress? Anybody read it? Hey! You guys are making my day right now. So I've done that now for probably ... I want to say 10 years, maybe 9, not entirely sure. So we're working on the next version. We just published one. So if you're looking for something to do, you can find it out there. I also do some work on the Personal Development Data Collection system which is a lot of fun. We fund grants to scholars, and then we demand that they do service. So they have to teach in the field for a time period, and so we have to collect that information, and so we track that as well, and along the line I've also managed to get myself Special Olympics. Who's familiar with that? Unified Champion Schools, really cool. This has been extremely rewarding for me. I started my career in Richmond City, and last year I got to go to ... They call them Banner Schools, and so one of the elementary schools in Richmond, not one where I taught but still pretty cool, they got a Banner, and so Secretary Cardona came, and he came off of his little bus. It was the bus tour, and the kids were all lined up, and then they played cornhole, that game you play at ... Yeah. Anyway, it was kind of neat watching the kids play cornhole, but it was pretty special to kind of have my career kind of come full circle there, and so I've picked up some other things, work on trying to get the discretionary grant money out the door, project officer to IDC. So whatever needs done, I'm a big fan of making sure that it gets done. In my free time, I don't know whether you gathered this, but I kind of like to golf. Someone mentioned, "She looks like she's dressed to go golfing," and, well, yeah, that's my road trip attire, to come back from golf, after I've played outside, untucked the shirt and put the sandals on. So I'm a pretty avid golfer. I like to get out a couple times a week, so that's my real big non-work activity.
00:08:53.49 >> Great! Well, thank you, and now we got to get down to business. All of you, I know, are dying to hear what is on OSEP's minds. What are you all focusing on? So can you tell us a little bit about some of the priorities now from OSEP's perspective? And, Richelle ...
00:09:13.60 >> Sure!
00:09:13.76 >> ... if you'd like to start.
00:09:15.66 >> I would be happy to start. So right now our really big priority that we're working on is ED Facts modernization. So I know a lot of you in the room have heard of it. I'm guessing that there may be a few that haven't. Basically what ED Facts modernization is doing is moving our review of the data. So the idea is to have high quality data that is usable on the due date. So instead of having that time period where the data is submitted, and then OSEP goes and reviews it and then gives you guys comments, and then you respond to comments and then resubmit the data, the idea is, is that all of that work is going to happen on the front end, and so a lot of processes are changing. Things are being built into a system, and so we're going to use a new system called EDPass. I'll just save it. I don't know what date it's opening. It is in flux. We will hopefully ... Keep checking your emails. We'll have a date for you. Obviously all new things are often delayed, and this is no different, and so that's one of our really big priorities that's going to happen. It's kind of fun looking back at what we did yesterday and seeing how ED Facts has changed things. I expect that I can be back up here in 10 years talking about how ED Facts modernization has changed things, so that's our biggest priority right now. Another big priority is publishing more data. So we have worked on publishing the LEA Child Count data, and so we just published our second round of that. So there are two LEA Child Count files that are out in the public sphere. Next year, we hope to publish an ED ... an ED Facts ... an exiting LEA file. We're also, along the same line of getting data out the door and really trying to influence the public with our data. We're cranking out the Fast Facts. Who's ever seen the Fast Facts, the little one-pagers? Excellent. If you haven't, it looks like there's a hand at every table. So if you don't know what it is, feel free to ask the person that just raised their hand. I'm sure they can hook you up, or you can ask me later. And then perhaps the biggest thing that we do is making sure that data on kids with disabilities is at ... The data is at the table for every meeting that we attend, so that's our big one, so ...
00:11:40.28 >> How about MSIP?
00:11:43.81 >> I think to reinforce some of what Richelle said, I think this focus on transparency. What data are out there? Is it easily digestible? Is it accessible? What are we putting out there and how we're using it more effectively to make decisions? I think with the President's Executive Order on equity, we've looked at a number of our internal processes and thought about how we, as you know, how we could think about ... how we make determinations differently in 2023 and beyond, and we've gotten a ton of feedback from you on that. And then obviously that also plays out in information collections, another thing, and us thinking about policy, et cetera, but I think focus on transparency. Are we getting the right data? How are we using the right data to make decisions? Those are the bulk of our internal sort of conversations and also in thinking about DMS. In Heather and Susan's session yesterday, I sat in although I was worried I would squelch conversation. They talked about how data is a thread through everything, and we also talk about that internally a lot, and while I'm not a native sort of data person, I have learned that throughout my years at OSEP. There can be no conversation about any of our work processes unless somebody is looking at the data and seeing what the impact of the data is. So I think looking forward to DMS, we are doing what we can to make sure that obviously there are protocols for data in the SPP/APR, but that we're really getting some good conversations we are on site with states and engaging with them deeply to ensure that data stays at the forefront and that we are able to break down some of those silos. I think I've been in situations before where people ... Maybe the ED Facts coordinator doesn't really understand what's happening with IDEA data and what happens when that data makes it in the SPP/APR, and we make determinations. So I think some of those conversations on site also help to further that. So I think from the MSIP standpoint, at a very granular level, those are the things that are top of mind for us, but Gregg, as my boss, might have other thoughts.
00:13:33.80 >> Yeah, so thank you, Christine, ditto all that and also would want to add that one of the priorities for MSIP is increasing our internal capacity to effectively use data, and we've been successful recently in bringing on new staff. We actually stole a person from Richelle's data group in the Research to Practice Division. Apologies.
00:14:02.71 >> So he said, "Changing faces, changing places."
00:14:05.12 >> Yes, that's definitely the tune. So we have a data analyst that's a brand-new position, someone with some pretty significant data chops so I think will help us tremendously. We also were able to replace the data implementation team facilitator. That person, who may be here, left about a year ago. Christine has assumed those duties. That's one of ...
00:14:33.56 >> That's more than a year.
00:14:34.53 >> More than a year, okay.
00:14:35.43 >> Yes, sir. Yes.
00:14:36.08 >> You would know.
00:14:37.45 >> Yes, sir.
00:14:38.17 >> Yeah, yeah, but it's one of your many full-time jobs, right? So we've done that, too.
00:14:46.07 >> Sure.
00:14:46.27 >> We are trying to build a data culture in MSIP, and before I left Washington, I texted Glenna Gallo, who is our new Assistant Secretary. Yeah, we're excited about her, too. I just got a text from one of my colleagues saying he was in a meeting, and Glenna was there, and she was so organized and positive, and it was just really delightful to have her there, but she did send me a few things that maybe this would be the best time to share. So she, Glenna, called me up yesterday morning and said, "Do you have a minute?" And she wanted to share some messages that she wanted me to convey to you. One of the things she wanted to share is that she is a self-described data wonk. She loves data, and she said she actually has to hold herself back because she has a real tendency to kind of get way down in the weeds too quickly, go down those rabbit holes. So that's something I thought would resonate with this group. She shared some ideas that she's working on. She's got a Call to Action. One of her priorities is aligning current areas of improvement with values and objectives for the future. So not just what we're doing, but where do we want to go? She talked about some strategies for success. Part of her vision, I think many of us share, is a coordinated seamless system across Part B, Part C, the discretionary programs, Part D and then state and local programs and also working with RSA and postsecondary. She's interested in further building partnerships, engagements and coalitions with our varied group of stakeholders out there. Another priority is learning from the past, data analysis and data-based decision-making, really kind of using data to examine inequities consistent with what Christine just said about the Executive Order for this administration, and then finally identifying and using evidence-based practices that promote access, equity and inclusion. So we'll be hearing more from Glenna, as she will be one of our featured speakers at the OSEP Leadership Conference next month, but this is a little preview of her values.
00:17:15.85 >> Great! So in the spirit of this conference being about data quality influencers and proving your data quality, can you each say a little bit about how you feel like you're a data quality influencer?
00:17:29.05 >> Sure, so I really like the concept of a data quality influencer because it's that idea of making sure that ... I think that you improve data quality by using it, and so the way that you influence data quality is by getting other people to use your data, and so I think that's a lot of fun, and it's great. Hearing about Glenna's comments and her interest in data and being able to ... I'm actually looking forward to bringing data and getting her down the rabbit holes with me but being able to have that data at the table. Obviously we influence data with the collections and things like that and what's going to be collected, but I think the more important place of influencing the data quality is by getting the data out and using it and bringing it into all of those policy conversations. So that's the ... really the biggest place where I see my ability to influence data quality.
00:18:25.23 >> In addition to obviously the formal processes, and Richelle touched one of them, an information collection, obviously we influence what happens based on the data that we're asking states for, but I think when I look at our team and how we work internally, it sort of warms my heart, right? It sort of makes your heart sing how our conversations have changed over time as we are analyzing SPP/APR submissions, and the more we learn, the deeper our questions become internally as we're trying to analyze your submissions, and then we get into a place of, "Okay, well, are we even asking for the right thing? Is this getting at what the intent was? Maybe we need to think about how we change this. How is this going to affect our TA, et cetera?" So I think a lot of those internal discussions then dictate what we want to do when we think about how we're connecting with the OSEP-funded centers T ... That we want to put out and things that we may be figuring, "Okay, well, next information collection or next time this comes up, should we tweak this a little bit?" Because now that we're getting submissions and what we're seeing, is it really ... Are we getting what we thought we would get? Are we asking the right questions? Do we have confidence in what we're getting that it's telling the whole story? So I think that's one way, and that's again sort of our internal continuous improvement process, always looking at the data. Are we getting what we want? Is this what we intended? Is there a better way to do this? I think ... It was hard for me to think of myself as an influencer, but I am going to put it on my evaluation too, in addition to finding Gregg the page. We have been much more intentional about collaborating with our data scientists across the department. We have an Office of the Chief Data Officer, and while they're not steeped in program stuff so they don't really know IDEA and IDEA programs, they're brilliant data scientists, and we've been trying to connect with them more as we are trying to operationalize particular things in our office and make some decisions and sort of pressure testing a lot of our thinking against them, and I believe that makes us stronger as an office when we're saying that we want a particular thing, that we've done this, and that is also an influencing moment. And I think DMS is another place where we influence, right? I know that what we measure, you guys value. I know the types of questions we ask of states, also guide work and conversation, so I think that's another place. I think lastly, one more, y'all may not realize because one or two of you always find a mistake, and then I'm ready to stab myself in the eye at the end of the process, but we do have a very rigorous process for SPP/APR review. There are multiple eyes that see your submission. We take our quality, our QC, processes very seriously. Everyone in the office knows how much I hate a mistake, hate making a mistake. They do happen. Y'all let me know when they happen, and I appreciate that, but it's multiple levels of review. It's across multiple offices. It's us trying to make sure that our office isn't saying something that's not congruent with what OESE is saying about the same data, et cetera. We're very intentional about those things, and I think that's another place where data quality is always top of mind for us, and we want to make sure that we're putting the best foot forward.
00:21:24.19 >> And you can imagine the enormity of that task, when we're talking about 60 state submission Part B and 56, I think it is, for Part C, multiple indicators for each program, and each indicator is broken down into little bits, so lots and lots of data out there. The potential for an error is significant, and I think it's a real testament to the commitment of our team that very rarely do we make mistakes that don't get caught before they go out. So they're doing a terrific job. To add onto what Christine already said, we're trying to make better use of our data across different processes so that, for instance, when a monitoring team is preparing to engage with the state that they're also taking a look at the 616 and 618 data to kind of inform their questions and their analysis and review. We also want to make sure that what we're hearing from states through the SPP/APR is congruent with what we're hearing when we conduct reviews and review documents that the states submit as part of DMS, so making sure that there's consistency across our different processes.
00:22:53.11 >> To access podcast resources, submit questions related to today's episode, or if you have ideas for future topics, we'd love to hear from you. The links are in the episode content or connect with us via the podcast page on the IDC website at ideadata.org.