Minnesota Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities

Regional Network of Professional Development and Technical Assistance

Funding for this initiative is made possible with a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education. The funding source is federal award Special Education – Grants for Infants & Families, Recovery Act - CFDA # 84.393A.


The mission of the Minnesota Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities is to partner with and support local early childhood special education leaders and programs to improve positive outcomes for children and families.

  • Professional development strategies based on current research and adult learning theory
  • Effectively use Active Implementation Science to guide efforts
  • Partner with local leaders to support growth and development
  • Supporting program-wide quality improvement

Each of the existing economic development regions will house a "Early Childhood Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities." The centers will provide a high quality, comprehensive, coordinated system of professional development that includes regionalized support, technical assistance and training.

The Centers of Excellence will support learning opportunities that incorporate follow-up, mentoring and coaching provided to practitioners, utilizing evidence-based practices that enhance effective adult learning. The Centers of Excellence will also be incorporating technology resources that will assist in building a robust professional development system to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of all practitioners in MN, regardless of location.

  • ECSE Leaders
  • ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education)
  • ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education)
  • Head Start & Early Head Start Child care providers
  • School Readiness professionals
  • CCR&R professionals (Child Care Resource & Referral)

Foundational Supports: Through networking with regional ECSE leaders, foundational work supports programs with evidence-based practices (EBP) which fall into one or more of the DEC Recommended Practices topics.  Support means, using program or self-assessment tools to define where the program is at and to determine where the program wants to be-strengths, needs, gaps. It means developing a plan with a program to move towards the desired level of implementation of EBP. It includes helping a program determine how they are going to measure implementation of the EBP.  Professional development and coaching for leaders are all included under this umbrella of foundational work. Foundational work may include the ongoing support to regional ECSE leaders around their adaptive leadership skills. Foundational work my include building relationships with our community partners such as Head Start leaders through our work with ECSE. 
Innovation: Minnesota choses to center its efforts on three specific innovations: Evidence-based Quality Intervention Practices (EQIP); Pyramid Model (formerly known as TACSEI); and Classroom Engagement. In addition to meeting the requirements the innovations be based in sound science and offer evidence-based practices, rationale for selection was made in response to a statewide needs assessment conducted with both special education coordinators and teachers. The representative sample was asked to identify professional development needs and the barriers to meeting those needs – these innovations were determined to best address the priorities identified within the assessment.

Each innovation is installed using Active Implementation Frameworks. Your Professional Development Facilitator will assist local implementation teams as they work through the phases of implementation, paying careful attention to the implementation drivers, which include training, coaching and data systems. You can learn more about Active Implementation by visiting http://implementation.fpg.unc.edu/.

Would You Like Assistance in Enhancing Professional Development in Your Region Around any of the Following?

  • Leadership
  • Assessment
  • Environment
  • Family
  • Instruction
  • Interaction
  • Teaming and Collaboration
  • Transition
  • Intensity
  • Identification
  • Diversity
  • Book Studies

If you have further questions about the Centers of Excellence or have training or technical assistance needs please contact your Early Childhood Special Education Professional Development Facilitator.

Your Professional Development Facilitator can also help:

  • Build collaborative relationships across agencies and programs
  • Serve as a liaison between your region and the Department of Education related to ECSE and Help Me Grow Professional Development
  • Help identify key stakeholders and experts in your region
  • Develop materials and professional development modules for statewide use
  • Identify priorities for Professional Development content in your region.


Erin Toninato, Special Education Director, Low Incidence Facilitator, Region 9 PBIS Coordinator, Southern MN Region (Mankato Area) Centers of Excellence CSPD, Coordinator Career and Technical Ed. (Perkins)/Special Populations
Office Ph:  507.389.1914
Rhonda Jensen, Administrative Assistant
Office Ph: 507.389.1425