Evaluating the needs of special education programs

The Challenge 

The Office of Special Education Program (OSEP) funds more than two dozen national centers that provide technical assistance on a wide range of topics related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

For the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) within the U.S. Department of Education, Westat collected information about the need of state education agencies for technical assistance, products, and services related to special education.

IES also wanted specific data on whether centers funded through the Technical Assistance and Dissemination (TA&D) program are meeting those needs and the degreee to which states are satisfied with services received.

This is the first independent systematic effort to collect data on these national centers.

Our Solutions 

  • We collected information about TA&D activities from national centers funded under the program through surveys and individual interviews.
  • We designed and conducted a web-based survey of state special education directors for both school-age children (Part B) and infants and toddlers (Part C) to collect information about the technical needs of state special education agencies.
  • We designed and conducted a web-based survey of program staff at state special education agencies to learn about actual services received and satisfaction with those services in 16 specific areas, such as inclusion, early childhood transition, Response to Intervention (RtI), school completion/dropout/graduation, and early intervention services in natural environments.

The Results 

  • The highest percentage of centers provide TA on the topic of parent and family involvement, followed by data systems and on data for improvement. Centers provide services at different levels of intensity. This study found that some centers provide intensive TA on the same topic at the same time to the same states, a finding that OSEP is examining closely.
  • The topics for which states most commonly reported a need were early childhood transition, financing of services, general supervision monitoring, and RtI.
  • Overall, states reported very high levels of satisfaction with TA received from the national centers. Customers who received the highest intensity of services were significantly more satisfied than those receiving lower intensity services.

Our Client 

Institute of Education Sciences (IES)