About CIS

Our work expands on CharacterStrong’s mission of "making the world a more loving place through education" by supporting school systems with transformational implementation support that results in sustainable implementation of effective practices that enable each student to access the experiences they need to be well, engage fully in the learning experience, and develop competencies that set them up for life success.

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Produce a Return on Investment.

Produce a Return on Investment.

Most implementation efforts (90%) will fail to produce a return on investment due to common barriers (e.g. silos, lack of clarity, issues with staff buy-in/readiness to change, implementation overload, etc.). Strategically navigating these common barriers is essential for the success of any implementation effort so students ultimately receive and benefit from effective practices.

Evidence-based  practice  requires
evidence-based  implementation. 

Identifying and training educators on effective student-facing programs or practices (e.g., SEL curriculum, AVID, culturally responsive teaching strategies, evidence-based literacy curriculum, Tier 2 interventions, etc.) is insufficient to achieve meaningful changes in student outcomes.

Ultimately, leaders and staff need to adopt the program or practice, persist with implementing the program or practice to achieve high fidelity, and sustain the program or practice so it will continue to produce positive outcomes for students.

in Your Schools

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Many schools are confronted with implementation gaps that reflect a discrepancy between what works to improve students outcomes and what is actually being implemented for students to receive.

These implementation
gaps ➡️ lead to: access gaps.

Access gaps = students not receiving the experiences and support they need.

We specialize in customizing implementation supports to district and school partners to increase internal capacity to achieve successful implementation of effective practices that result in better and more equitable outcomes for students.

We focus on the systems of support the adults in schools need to explore and identify student-facing solutions, prepare them to implement the identified solution, and support them to deliver effective student-facing practices with fidelity.

Who We Are

We are a multi-disciplinary group with extensive experience supporting a variety of implementation efforts in school systems across the United States (rural, suburban, urban). We pride ourselves on building trusting relationships and understanding the perspective and needs of educators across all levels of the educational ecosystem.

CIS is led by Dr. Clay Cook
 and Megan Gruis, Ed.S.

Head shot of a smiling Dr. Clay Cook, CharacterStrong's Chief Development Officer, accompanied by the text 'Dr. Clayton Cook'

Dr. Cook is the Chief Development Officer at CharacterStrong and is an implementation scientist, psychologist, and former paraprofessional and middle school math teacher. He has spent the past 15 years working in partnership with school systems across the country to support the implementation of effective practices that promote better and more equitable outcomes for students. He has been a professor and researcher at three universities (Louisiana State University, University of Washington and University of Minnesota) studying topics such as implementation of evidence-based practices, educator well-being and resilience, social-emotional learning, and youth mental health. He has obtained over 20 million dollars in grant funding for his research and published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles. For his work, he has been invited to the White House and served on expert panels with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Education.

Head shot of a smiling Megan Gruis, Executive Director of CharacterStrong's Customized Implementation Supports, accompanied by the text 'Megan Guis, Ed.S.'

Megan Guis, Ed.S. is the Director of Implementation at CharacterStrong and a former public school educational leader. Megan served in public education for 20 years and feels fortunate to have served in a variety of K-12 settings as a paraprofessional, classroom facilitator, school counselor, administrative dean, interventionist, and leader of various district and site based implementation teams. Throughout these experiences, she found a passion for training, coaching and consulting around the implementation of systems frameworks. She served on the Minnesota State Implementation Team for PBIS in a variety of capacities for 10 years and has consulted with schools and districts across the country on the integrated educational design of social, emotional, and behavioral health programming. As a licensed school counselor and administrator, the work of supporting the development of the whole child by equipping the adults to deliver effective practices is truly her passion.

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Behavior Change

We ground our work in adult behavior change and implementation science. We use a proven implementation process framework that helps a school system locate where they are at in the process and strategize how to accomplish key objectives at each stage of the implementation process to reach sustainable implementation and produce meaningful changes in student outcomes.

Leadership Teams

Because there is no successful implementation without a dedicated leadership team, we build the capacity of district and site-based shared leadership teams to use knowledge, tools, and methods derived from implementation science.

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Evidence-Based Facilitation

We also use evidence-based facilitation processes and tools, including the backwards designing of logic models that reflect theories of action, strategy mapping, and gradual release of responsibilities to help school systems at each stage of the implementation process.