Haring Center

January 21, 2021

The Pyramid Model in Washington: Supporting All Children

“Washington State strives to better meet the needs of all learners and families, but we need to develop the infrastructure to support early childhood special education,” says Ariane Gauvreau (PhD ‘15), senior director for professional development and training at the Haring Center.

The state is seeking to do just that. One of the ways they plan to do so is with a new partnership that will redesign a framework called the Pyramid Model to center disability, race and equity.

The Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children is a national framework that promotes children’s social and emotional development and prevents challenging behavior. Washington State is among those who receive technical assistance support from the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI), and a state leadership team works to ensure educators statewide use the model to support young children in our state.

“The Pyramid Model provides a foundation that sets children up for success in future learning,” explains Angel Fettig, Haring Center researcher and UW College of Education associate professor. “It promotes strategies to support educators to build relationships with children and families.”

“It also targets social-emotional teaching,” Fettig continues. “We’re teaching kids how to be friends, how to share, how to identify and express emotions appropriately, how to control anger and impulse, and so on. But as the state leadership team continues to lead this effort, we always come back to: ‘What about kids with disabilities? What about race and equity?”

The Haring Center, in collaboration with Cultivate Learning, is leading the redesign of the Pyramid Model to promote inclusion of all children in early learning settings across Washington.

“The Pyramid Model is widely-used, and it is very well-developed,” says Fettig. “The goal of the redesign is to infuse components that are critical to addressing needs in our state.”

Fettig explains that the redesign will center children with disabilities and infuse equity into the strategies promoted throughout the Pyramid Model framework.

“This is an exciting opportunity with so many agencies coming together to develop a system that will enable us to better serve all learners,” says Gauvreau. “We are excited to be working with our colleagues at Cultivate Learning and to partner with both the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.”

Ryan Guzman, early childhood special education coordinator at OSPI, says that prioritizing the intersectionality of social-emotional development and embedded inclusionary practices will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for young children with disabilities, as well as increase access to inclusive settings, improve academic outcomes, and decrease suspension and expulsion rates for young children.

“We are hopeful this collaboration will move us closer to achieving the vision that Washington State has responsive systems partnering with the adults in children’s lives to promote social-emotional health through the Pyramid Model framework, so that all children experience high-quality, inclusive early learning settings,” says Guzman.

The redesign process is already underway. Experts at the Haring Center and Cultivate Learning are working to build up the Pyramid Model to enhance strategies that are effective in supporting young children with disabilities in inclusive settings, as well as racially, ethnically and culturally diverse children and families. This spring, teams are working on developing new curriculum modules to guide this.

“We know that a foundation that targets social-emotional skills and executive functioning skills hard in early childhood leads to better academic outcomes for children,” explains Gauvreau. “The Pyramid Model does a brilliant job with that. Our redesign will emphasize strategies for ensuring that children with disabilities can access this important instruction in meaningful ways, and center racial equity within all content.”

After the curriculum modules are complete, the Haring Center will facilitate Train the Trainer workshops across the state on Pyramid Model practices, in addition to teacher trainings and Practice-Based Coaching later in the year. The goal of these trainings is to ensure leaders across the state are confident in supporting teaching teams as they implement these practices.

“These trainings will address our own implicit biases, how we interpret behavior and how educators can work toward anti-racist practices and classrooms,” says Gauvreau.

The partnership hopes to continue this work into 2022 by facilitating communities of practice throughout the school year for the newly trained Pyramid Model coaches. These would involve regular meetings that provide a community for coaches to receive support, discuss problems of practice, ensure fidelity of implementation and come together with others doing similar work on a regular basis.

“Partnering on this redesign to focus more on equity and inclusion means that across the state, coaches and teachers will be better prepared to understand their own biases and support children’s behavior through preventative and proactive ways,” says Dawn Williams, director of professional learning and coaching at Cultivate Learning.

“Our goal is for educators to not have to dig further for strategies to support children with disabilities,” adds Fettig. “With the redesign, it will be easier for them to use the Pyramid Model for all learners.”

Gauvreau explains that this partnership is a key piece in Washington State’s larger initiative to foster inclusion across all systems that serve children, families and communities, and will lead to lasting change.

“The sustainability of this model is really exciting,” says Gauvreau. “Building the capacity and the sustainable systems to support this work is crucial, and we are so excited to be a part of this work.”

In addition to the long-term impact, Fettig adds that the scope of this project is far-reaching. “We hope for this redesigned model to be accessible to all early childhood programs across Washington state,” she explains.

“Our goal is to promote inclusion of diverse learners and improve outcomes for young children, specifically those with disabilities,” Fettig says.