Project Director: Anne DeFanti
Project Period: October 1, 1995 - September 30, 1996
The Rhode Island Department of Education will conduct a one-year study to determine the feasibility of implementing an enhanced system of State education agency (SEA) monitoring of local education agency (LEA) compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The goal of the system is to assess the effectiveness of special education and, ultimately, improved services to and enhanced performance of students with disabilities. Stakeholders are increasingly interested in examining the effectiveness of those services. However, most evaluation efforts have focused on LEA compliance with Federal and State regulations and statutes. Although those types of evaluations do provide useful information, they do not provide useful data about the effectiveness of services or the extent to which students benefit.
The purpose of this project is to determine the feasibility of implementing a "School Support System" that continues to examine compliance with regulatory requirements, but also evaluates the effectiveness of special education programs and services and identifies the need for, and provides, technical assistance and support. The system is designed to evaluate special education services in a broader school context, particularly in light of reform and restructuring initiatives. It emphasizes collaboration among special and general educators and encourages a partnership between the SEA and LEA to improve services to students with disabilities. A "Critical Issues Committee" composed of representatives from the SEA, LEAs, and State Special Education Advisory Committee proposed the system after a year's consideration. The project's major goals are:
The study sample will consist of eight LEAs. The sample will be representative of the diversity of the State's population and LEAs. One of the LEAs will be urban, five suburban, and two rural districts. LEAs will be selected in each category that are involved in some level of school restructuring or educational reform initiatives. The SEA currently conducts monitoring visits to six LEAs each year. Thus, one measure of the feasibility of implementing a revised monitoring system will be the ability to maintain at least the prior level of monitoring activity.
There will be two levels of instrumentation. The first level will be a transition from existing survey, questionnaires, and recording instruments that are presently used in monitoring activities to a set of newly designed survey instruments. The second level of instrumentation will be designed to evaluate the extent to which the revised monitoring process is successful in accomplishing its goals and objectives. The development of those instruments will be accomplished in the initial stages of the project.
If the proposed School Support System proves to be feasible, it will provide a contribution to current knowledge and practice by establishing a new standard for monitoring and evaluation. The emphasis would shift to meeting the intent of IDEA while maintaining regulatory compliance. The new system would provide the opportunity to more carefully assess the effects of special education, and provide opportunities to improve services to students with disabilities. If the project demonstrates that it is feasible to incorporate a mechanism to assess needs and provide technical assistance and support, it may encourage greater participation and support from practitioners.