FPG Profile: Correy Watkins
Correy Watkins, MA, joined the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) as an implementation specialist in 2021, bringing with him years of experience in public education. Watkins started out as a special education teacher in North Carolina’s Montgomery County Schools. He then spent nearly 14 years with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, first as a positive behavior intervention and support consultant and then as an integrated academic and behavior systems regional consultant and state implementation specialist. In these positions, Watkins helped school districts implement a multi-tier system of support, a school improvement framework that includes academic, behavioral, social, and emotional instruction and support, using a systems approach.
We recently spoke with Watkins about his work at FPG and here’s what he had to say.
Why did you join the FPG team?
Working for the state of North Carolina as an implementation specialist, I had the opportunity to roll out the multi-tier system of support within our state and help build out professional learning opportunities within the state Department of Public Instruction. At FPG, I have the opportunity to support outcomes for millions of students throughout the country, which is really exciting. Having the ability to help affect change in multiple states and support states in making modifications to their systems may provide opportunities for children who might not otherwise benefit without those changes.
What do you enjoy about working at FPG?
I enjoy the opportunity to support students in reaching outcomes. I am also happy to have the opportunity to learn. I work with a great group of people who are all so smart that I learn something new every day. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support adults as well as children. I’m married to an educator and I have lots of friends who are educators so, while we focus primarily on students, I think that it is really important to consider educators as well. They are key to student success but are often overlooked. We have to support educators so that they can implement the changes needed to enable student success.
What are some of your current projects?
I am currently working on projects with the State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices (SISEP) Center (a project within the National Implementation Research Network, housed within FPG) and with Michigan’s Calhoun Independent School District.
What is your work week like?
I have general things that people have to do every day like emails and phone calls. The first and third weeks of each month, I am usually meeting with state transformation specialists. These meetings are designed to develop professional learning for state implementation teams or agendas for meetings.
The second and fourth weeks are built around providing support in those meetings and gathering data. We then use that data to examine our work and determine if what we are doing is working or needs to be adjusted or modified.
What is your process when you are working on an implementation project?
We begin with a root cause analysis. After determining the root cause, we select an innovation that will lead to improved outcomes. We provide support and help build a system that addresses the challenge. We implement the strategy and monitor outcomes. Based on the outcomes, we enter into improvement cycles and consider how we can make the system better. Once we determine that, we continue to build out the innovation and repeat the cycle.
I work with states’ leadership teams to help me understand what their teachers are willing to do because if they're not likely to do something, we should not include that in the plan. Educators are being asked to do so much that we have to be focused and strategic regarding changes we ask them to implement.
I’m always trying to determine how I can be better today than I was yesterday. It's like that in our work: How we react to situations and make decisions determines how we move forward.
My goal is for new practices to become a norm. If we do a good job building effective systems, that leads to successful outcomes. I focus on what we can do to help people be effective and spend a lot of time coaching them. I work to empower folks to feel like they can make changes
How does your work fit into the mission of FPG?
The work we do is focused on how we impact the lives of children. We are not only student-centered but we also look at how we can build systems to support educators. These systems enable student outcomes that help them. Implementation takes time and our goal is for continuous improvement of the innovation that is being implemented.
Professionals working with children are often asked to change frequently and if an outcome isn’t met, they are asked the next year to try a different practice. In our work, instead of trying something for a year, stopping, and then going on to something else, we determine the best fit for the specific area of need. We determine whether the infrastructure, funding, and staffing are in place to achieve success. We start small and grow our projects while helping people prepare to achieve success.