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Wisconsin Strategies
Professional Development/Coaching in ECE Programs and Workforce Development

Since becoming a Pyramid Model (PM) state in 2009, Wisconsin has expanded PM support to early care and education programs through a variety of activities. The Pyramid Model provides a framework of evidence-based practices for promoting young children’s healthy social and emotional development in early care and education settings. These practices are defined across three tiers of the Model: Tier 1) Promoting social-emotional competence for all children with high quality program and home environments, and nurturing relationships; Tier 2) Practices for children at risk of challenging behavior, including targeted strategies to support children’s self-regulation and help them acquire social-emotional competencies; and 3) Individualized, intensive interventions that include the family for the small number of children with persistent difficulties. The National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) and the Pyramid Model Consortium help states like Wisconsin implement the Pyramid Model using resources and assistance designed to support the social and emotional competence of infants and young children, reduce inappropriate discipline practices, and promote parent engagement. 

Implementation of the Pyramid Model in Wisconsin is guided by a cross-sector State Leadership Team (SLT) that includes representatives from the state Departments of Children and Family Services, Health, and Public Instruction; Head Start; a parenting association; and key training and technical assistance organizations. This team has two members directly responsible for implementation: the PM State Coordinator and the PM Training and Coaching Coordinator. The WI State Leadership Team has met quarterly since 2009 to monitor the progress of the state’s PM implementation and develop annual plans based on data obtained from the State Benchmarks of Quality, a self-assessment tool that rates critical elements of statewide implementation to assess progress and inform an action plan for the future; examples of benchmarks are “SLT establishes a clear, written mission/vision” and “funding sources to cover activities for at least 3 years are identified.” 

Wisconsin training content is largely based on the NCPMI content and uses video examples from Wisconsin demonstration sites to highlight key evidence-based practices promoted by NCPMI. Over the years, WI has worked with the Pyramid Model Consortium and national and state partners to develop PM training content that highlights linkages with WI Early Learning Standards and reflects alignment with Wisconsin’s QRIS guidance. The state offers a variety of PM training options adapted for the different professionals who support young children and families (e.g., teachers who support children ages birth to 3, teachers of preschool-age children, program administrators). Many training modules have been developed to date, including two training modules that focus on work with parents: Parents Interacting with Infants (PIWI) and Positive Solutions for Families (PSF). Some ECE programs support teachers and directors to become facilitators of PIWI and PSF group training for families. ECE teachers and directors are encouraged to collaborate with community parent/family educators to co-facilitate these family learning opportunities. The WI Pyramid Model also offers training in Intensive Individualized Interventions for individuals in ECE programs responsible for guiding the development and implementation of intervention plans for children in need of Tier 3 support. These individuals vary by program and community and include infant mental health consultants, early childhood special education teachers, internal coaches, program directors/coordinators and other behavior specialists in the community. 

Outreach specialists from Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners, an entity that promotes cross-sector use of evidence-based practices, assist with recruitment and support of new PM trainers. Candidate trainers go through an application process that requires them to demonstrate competencies related to the work they will do. In order to become an approved PM trainer, candidates are assigned to work with a mentor from the Regional PM Communities of Practice to learn training content and strategies as well as trainer requirements and responsibilities. Some PM trainers also provide coaching. Regional PM Communities of Practice support the continuous learning of PM trainers, connect them with other trainers, and help them address the needs of providers. The Regional PM Communities of Practice currently meet twice a year to learn about training and technical assistance resources, consider adaptations in training content or delivery, discuss regional training and technical assistance needs and enhance trainer skills in promoting the use of evidence-based practices in ECE settings. 

ECE teachers can find PM training through direct advertising by a training organization or by looking for a training on the WI Pyramid Model website. They can access teacher-classroom level PM training, designed to be relevant to the age group they serve (e.g., an infant/toddler series delivered in-person over 8 three-hour sessions). All content offerings include theory, an overview of evidenced-based practices, video demonstrations and action planning for implementation. WI Pyramid Model ECE teacher training packages allow time between sessions for teachers to try out the practices taught in the training sessions. Most trainers allow for at least 1 to 4 weeks between sessions. Because coaching is only offered to teachers in program-wide implementation sites (described below), PM trainers ask supervisors to check in with teachers and support their use of practices learned in group training. See this table for more details on the WI PM training. 

Staff in ECE settings are encouraged to attend trainings in teams as a step towards possible program-wide implementation. Often, teachers who attend training begin to observe improved child outcomes and advocate with colleagues to apply for program-wide implementation. Programs that are ready to implement the PM program-wide must complete a readiness application. Readiness indicators include having the following: a strong administrative commitment and support, the ability to form and sustain a Program Leadership Team (PLT), social-emotional competence as a professional development priority, evidence of staff buy-in for implementation, capacity to support an internal coach, and a champion. The process of implementing the PM program-wide is led by each Program Leadership Team (consisting of an administrator, teacher representative, behavior specialist, at least one internal coach, and a data coordinator) with support from an external coach (trained by the WI Pyramid Model Coordinators). New Program Leadership Teams attend a 4-day Implementation Academy, designed to prepare teams to implement the Pyramid Model in their programs. During the Academy, Program Leadership Teams learn about the Program Benchmarks of Quality tool used to inform PM planning actions, complete an initial Program Benchmarks of Quality assessment, and plan the first 6 months of PM implementation. Internal coaches are individuals who work in the program and who have knowledge, interest and time to support the implementation of PM practices through a coaching relationship with teachers. Programs decide who will serve as their internal coach; internal coaches might be the director, a classroom teacher, a program coach, or a community partner. Internal coaches are trained to use coaching tools and strategies, including reliable administration of the Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool (TPOT) for preschool classrooms. The TPOT is an observation-based tool used to assess teachers’ use of strategies that promote children’s social-emotional competence in the course of everyday routines. For infant and toddler classrooms, WI is working to create state capacity to train internal coaches to reliably use the Teaching Pyramid Infant–Toddler Observation Scale (TPITOS). 

To assist the teacher in meeting PM goals, internal coaches use Practice-Based Coaching, which helps teachers learn to use evidence-based PM teaching practices to promote positive child outcomes. The amount of coaching varies with each classroom from several times a week to twice a month. The ultimate goal is for all teachers to be coached, but each program determines the number of teachers that will be coached in the first year of implementation. Each program is provided with an external coach who supports the Program Leadership Team to use data-based decision making to identify PM program implementation priorities in the first year of implementation. On average, all program types (Head Starts, Child Care, School districts) reach Pyramid Model implementation fidelity in 3 years. However, sustainability of PM fidelity requires continuous work to maintain fidelity. 

To date, over 469 Pyramid Model content trainings have been offered and there are now over 11,030 child care, Head Start, Early Childhood Special Education, 4K, Birth to 3, Parent Education teachers and administrators trained in the WI Pyramid Model. The workforce currently consists of 120 PM trainers, 305 classroom/internal coaches, and 10 program–wide external coaches working in preschools, child care, Head Start, and Early Head start settings in Wisconsin. Over 68 sites have engaged in program-wide implementation and at least 24 of those sites have demonstrated fidelity on the Program Benchmarks of Quality. The Wisconsin Pyramid Model annual reports provide extensive information about PM implementation in the state. 

Workforce Development

In 2014, the Pyramid Model 8 Part Training Series was embedded into the Guiding Children’s Behavior course offered in the state’s ECE teacher 2-year preparation programs. To further support workforce development efforts, the technical college instructors in 2-year programs provide pre-service teaching in the evidence-based practices promoted by the Pyramid Model. 


The 2019-21 Governor’s budget includes $1 million of funding from the Child Care Development Block Grant over two years to expand the Pyramid Model implementation in Wisconsin. Funding will be used to increase the number of program-wide implementation sites, increase access to training by increasing the number of PM trainers and content offerings, and increase public awareness and state capacity to support implementation of practices with fidelity. There is blended funding (CCDF, 619 Preschool Discretion, 4K funding) for the Communities of Practice. 

Monitoring and Evaluation

Program-wide implementation sites collect data on three levels: program, teacher, and child-level. Program-level data are collected using the Program Benchmarks of Quality, a self-assessment tool that rates critical elements of program-wide implementation (examples of benchmarks are “the PLT has broad representation” and “2-5 program-wide expectations are developed”) to assess current progress and inform an action plan for the future. Data from this assessment are collected one to two times per year and shared with State Coordinators. Teacher-level data are gathered one to two times per year by internal coaches who use the Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool (TPOT) in preschool classrooms. In the future, internal coaches will use the TPITOS in infant-toddler classrooms. Child-level data are collected two times a year using the Ages & Stages: Social-Emotional screener (ASQ:SE), completed by teachers and families. Programs report on the number of children in participating classrooms and changes in ASQ:SE scores from Fall to Spring and share this non-identifiable data with the State Coordinators. 

In 2016, the WI Department of Public Instruction funded an evaluation of Wisconsin’s Pyramid Model implementation. The evaluationfound that children in program-wide PM implementation classrooms had better social and emotional skills and less challenging behavior than children in the comparison group classrooms. Teachers in comparison group classrooms had some PM training, but not coaching and other supports provided in the program-wide implementation sites. In addition, children in the program-wide PM implementation classrooms with the most concerning challenging behavior in the fall had scores indicating typical development in the spring.

Last updated October 2019

Special thanks to Julie Betchkal, Pyramid Model Training & Coaching Coordinator, and Lana Nenide, Pyramid Model State Coordinator, for providing information for and reviewing this profile.