Project Director: Sue Bechard
Project Period: October 1, 1995 - September 30, 1996
The Colorado Department of Education will conduct a one-year study to determine if it is feasible to develop a system for collecting student outcome data that can be integrated into the current state compliance monitoring process. Historically, special education effectiveness has been provided by monitoring compliance with State and Federal statutes. While this approach has provided a wealth of information on the identification and planning process for students, it has provided little information on student results. Thus, little is known about the effects of special education services. In addition, at a time when there is a need for more information on student outcomes, resources are declining at both the State and Federal level, resulting in fewer people to collect and analyze data. Therefore, techniques and tools to collect needed information must be efficient and effective. One way to accomplish this is to design a system that allows the State agency to coordinate compliance monitoring with the collection of student outcome data. Such a system would also enable individual districts to monitor program effectiveness and make decisions about staff development, resource allocation, and new program development.
The study will attempt to answer three evaluation questions: 1) Is it feasible to use the Social Tasks Inventory (STI) instrument as a measure of student outcomes?; 2) Is it feasible to integrate STI data into the State education agency's (SEA's) monitoring system?; and 3) What is the utility of integrating STI data into the SEA's monitoring system for the purposes of program evaluation and program improvement? The study will have the four objectives described below.
A literature search will be performed to identify a variety of outcomes. The outcome variables will be further defined by grouping them into long- and short-term outcome categories and sorting the outcomes into a matrix. The matrix will be presented to focus groups, who will identify the outcomes they deem most useful. Three homogeneous groups will be convened, comprised of special education administrators, service providers, and consumers of special programs and services. After the focus groups have been conducted, the core research team will conduct a search of instruments presently available to measure the outcomes the groups select. In addition, the likely sources of outcome data and the procedures for collection will be identified. Also, student outcome data on functional life competencies will likely be needed, and the available measurement tools to assess these competencies will be adapted for use in this study.
One outcome of the project will be the testing of a comprehensive data system that could enable the SEA to measure program effectiveness by combining data on student outcomes with monitoring and compliance information. Other possible outcomes of the project are that it can: integrate a number of seemingly disparate initiatives into a coherent whole; provide data to assist the SEA in policy decisions and in determining needs for staff development, resource allocation, and new programming development; and contribute knowledge about measuring outcomes for students with serious emotional disturbance that will contribute to OSEP's National Agenda.