SISEP Active State

Intensive Support

Virginia Department of Education

Mission: The mission of the Virginia Department of Education is to advance equitable and innovative learning.

Vision: The vision of the Virginia Department of Education is that Virginia will maximize the potential of all learners.

The Virginia Department of Education is a new SISEP Partner. They have partnered with SISEP for two years.

Implementation Drivers

Virginia's Executive Sponsors

Dr. Sam Hollins Assistant Sup of SE and Student Services

Dr. Samantha Marsh Hollins, Ph.D. is the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education and Student Services at the Virginia Department of Education. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master's in Teaching, and her doctorate in Special Education and Disability Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Dr. Hollins has worked in the public school setting as a special education teacher as well as a behavioral and academic consultant and as Director of Special Education for a local school division.  Samantha is also a graduate of the Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (Va-LEND) program working with the Partnership for People with Disabilities in Richmond, Virginia.  While completing her graduate work at VCU she conducted research on reading skills in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as the management of behavior of at-risk children in the preschool setting.  Additionally, Samantha has taught courses related to professional development in working with individuals with ASD at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

In 2008, Samantha was awarded the 2009 Disability Policy Fellowship at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) in Washington, D.C., and then began working there as their full-time Policy Analyst.  While in D.C., Samantha focused on the policy agenda of education, employment and training, and the civil rights of persons with disabilities.  As part of the Legislative Affairs staff, she helped to pursue the advocacy and legislative goals of the network as well as assisting program staff in fulfilling contract activities with the federal government.

Samantha has also previously served as the Educational Specialist for Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, and Assistive Technology and as the Director of the Office of Special Education Program Improvement at the Virginia Department of Education. Samantha continues to participate in national conferences and conduct training related to the education of children with disabilities, state and federal data reporting, and program improvement efforts related to students with disabilities.

Dr. Aurelia Ortiz Office of School Quality Director

Dr. Aurelia Ortiz has been described as a courageous and intentional servant leader, who has led school transformation work for nearly two decades. Prior to joining the Virginia Department of Education as Director of School Quality, Dr. Ortiz served in rural and suburban educational settings at all levels between elementary and high school. Her touted professional experiences combined with her dissertation research focused on the coping mechanisms of teachers who have experienced trauma in high needs schools have positioned her as an educator and expert deeply grounded in trauma-informed care practice. 

Dr. Ortiz has delivered and facilitated professional development at the school building, school division, regional and national levels. Key highlights of her school transformation work include publishing with the Virginia Journal of Education on the topic of student motivation; and presentations with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE); Association for Middle Level Educators (AMLE); Virginia State University Summer Institute on Innovation; and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), as a panelist for a session specifically titled: Ramping Up Your School to Respond to Mass Trauma. She was recognized and lauded for her turnaround work as a Principal with Chesterfield County School Division in Virginia and was featured in the 2020 NASSP article titled: A Success Story, Effective School Turnaround.  

Dr. Ortiz holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Virginia State University, VA; an M.Ed. in School Administration and Secondary English from Columbus State University, GA; and a B.A. in Communications from the University of Texas – Arlington, TX. She currently resides in Virginia with her family.

Implementation Team Cascade

Virginia's Team Structure

State Transformation Assistant Administrators:

Dr. April Kiser-Edwards School Quality Specialist

Dr. April Kiser-Edwards, School Quality Specialist, earned her B.A. in Psychology, M.S. in Education with an emphasis on elementary reading and mathematics and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California. Her professional experiences in education began in the United States Navy as a facilitator of a variety of capacity-building workshops pertaining to policy and protocols. Dr. Kiser-Edwards’ dissertation research was central to the topic of leadership succession, specifically the promising practices implemented at the high school level to develop a sustainable leadership pipeline. She is guided by the principle that an educational institution’s role is to create enduring learners. An educator, mentor, and instructional leader, Dr. Kiser-Edwards consistently explores new ways to instill a love of learning and critical thinking in all stakeholders. Her philosophy in education stems from the vision grounded in the importance of strong relationships. With foundational partnerships, the use of technology, evidence-based practices and innovative approaches to learning, she believes educational institutions will empower the next generation of caring and productive citizens in society.

SISEP Implementation Specialists:

Sophia Farmer Implementation Specialist

Sophia Farmer is an Implementation Specialist at NIRN and K-12 Portfolio Lead, provides implementation science support to the R7 Comprehensive Center and supports three State Departments of Education through the SISEP Center project. Ms. Farmer has served as a founding member and Director of the Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports Research and Implementation Center (VTSS-RIC).  The VTSS-RIC is a research to practice center within the Commonwealth of Virginia whose charge is to disseminate the most current research in education and support implementation and transformation in the field. In this role she led the state’s development and implementation of an MTSS framework to support the use of evidence-based instruction and interventions efficiently and effectively in ways that were congruent with the research. Within the center, Ms. Farmer created and facilitated state, regional and district teams charged with critical conversations around equitable access and opportunities for all students.  She created the infrastructure that forged and facilitated relationships within and across state agencies to build networks of shared expertise and understanding. Ms. Farmer was the lead architect of the state’s School Climate and Transformation Grant and State Personnel Development Grant.  She has extensive experience in the application of implementation and improvement sciences as a special educator, district leader, regional technical assistance provider and state leader. As an implementation specialist, her areas of expertise are in curriculum and instructional design, co-teaching and inclusion, behavior, and the alignment and efficiency of educational systems in ways that support and connect diverse stakeholders.

Correy Watkins is an Implementation Specialist at NIRN, he provides implementation science support to two State Departments of Education through the SISEP Center project.  Mr. Watkins has served as a PBIS and MTSS Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.  In this role he was a member of the state’s development and implementation of an MTSS framework.  Mr. Watkins provided regional support on classroom behavior management along with providing professional development on problem-solving models. Mr. Watkins also served as a State Implementation Specialist.  He has experience in the rollout of new initiatives from a district, regional, and state level. As an implementation specialist, his areas of expertise are implementation and scaling-up of the six critical components that are used to efficiently and effectively roll out new initiatives.

Dr. Jack serves as an Implementation Specialist for the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She provides support for the use of implementation and improvement sciences methods and tools in the delivery of technical assistance and capacity building support to state, regional, and local education agencies. Dr. Jack has extensive multi-level leadership experience in the field of education. She gained a national perspective while serving as a presenter at numerous national conferences geared toward leadership development and continuous improvement. Dr. Jack’s wide range of experiences has allowed her to leverage networks to advance communities in their development.

Virginia State Management Team (SMT) - The Virginia State Management Team (SMT) functions to guide the overall activities related to scaling up the use of evidence-based practices and aligning the work of multiple Departments and Offices within the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The Virginia SMT is mainly composed of a team of individuals from the Department of Special Education and Student Services and the Office of School Quality. Additional participants represent areas of instruction, research, and data collection/analysis. 

Virginia State Implementation Team (SIT) - A selection criteria has been created and team members have been selected.

Usable Innovations

Virginia's Usable Innovation

The Virginia team initially gathered to begin the work towards selecting a usable innovation in November 2020. The Virginia SMT recognizes that addressing systemic change efforts takes time and patience. The team remains committed to identifying a usable innovation in the near future. To support the selection of the usable innovation, a root cause analysis was completed via the "5 whys" and an initiative inventory was conducted for literacy.

Evidence-Based Practice: To Be Decided

Stages of Implementation Exploration Installation Initial Implementation Full Implementation

Virginia's Journey

Stage of Implementation: Exploration

Virginia is in the Exploration phase of the work. To date Virginia has done the following:

  • Established the State Management Team
  • Reviewed and agreed upon the scope and purpose of the SMT
  • Established roles and responsibilities of the SMT
  • Reviewed content to build initial capacity of team members and created group norms
  • Established a working relationship with the Office of Research to provide interactive data sets
  • Completed an environmental data scan
  • Identified additional sources of data and identified an area and level to focus on for the usable innovation 
  • Established the State Implementation Team
  • Completed a root cause analysis via the 5 Whys
  • Literacy Initiative Inventory completed

Initial State Capacity Assessment Results

Virginia State Capacity Results