Local evaluation practices in special education programs within a selected state as compared to the prescriptions of PL-94-142 and the recommendations of authorities in evaluation

Lorraine H. Walton


Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate local evaluation praotioes in special eduoation programs within a selected state. More specifically, this researoh sought answers to the following questions:

1. What local evaluation activities were conducted within the selected state in 1980?

2. Who was involved in the local evaluation activities within the selected state?

3. Who received the local evaluation results?

4. What uses have been made of the evaluation results?

5. How consistent have the evaluation practices of looal

special eduoation programs been with regard to what the praotioes and utilization of results should be? The descriptive survey method of researoh was used to accomplish the investigation.

The Population and Sample The population of this study oonsisted of 159 county and 28 oity sohool systems1 speoial eduoation administrators.

The sample selected for this study was the entire population --a oensus. The sample oonsisted of 137 special eduoation administrators who were currently employed in the public schools within the selected state.

Findings This study gave rise to the following findings:

1. The majority of the respondents reported having oonducted evaluation activities centered around personnel develop ment and personnel performance evaluation while less than a majority focused their evaluation activities on student change.

(a) The most frequently used methods, instruments, and strategies used to collect evaluation data were check lists, rating scales, questionnaires, and personal interviews.

(b) The vast majority of the respondents conduot local evaluations to meet state requirements or to comply with administrative directives.

(c) More than 90 percent of the respondents state that they are satisfying the state policy which requires local schools to evaluate the special education program.

2. Special education teachers, special education supervisors, and local school principals were the most involved groups in the local evaluation of special education programs.

3. Local evaluation results were most frequently disseminated among local school superintendents, local school principals, special education teachers, and the State Department of Education.

4. The three primary uses of evaluation results were reported to be (1) informing administrators, (2) staff development purposes, and (3) program improvement.

(a) Success in using local evaluation results was rated highest in the act of informing administrators.

5. The evaluation activities oonducted by the local school systems do not meet the requirements of evaluation models for local program evaluation. The evaluation activities conduoted by the local sohool systems did not focus enough attention on student change or growth.

Conclusions Based on the findings of this study, derived from analysis of selected authorities in evaluation, from data analysis of information collected on the questionnaire, and from the personal interviews, the author has drawn the conclusions listed below:

1. The evaluation activities conducted in the selected state fall short of very desirable program evaluation as expressed by recognized experts in evaluation and the prescriptions of PL-94-142

2. The school systems in this study have given low prior ity to the inclusion of parents, handicapped students, and other interested observers in the evaluation process.

3. Much of the evaluation of special education in the local schools systems of this study appears to be more for developing favorable relations with high-level school officials than for improving the special education pro grams for handicapped students.

4. Most of the school systems in this study do not distribute results or receive feedback from many of the important agencies and publics associated with the school. Most of the school systems' special education administrators in this study apparently associated the questionnaire item regarding the existence of a state evaluation policy with the mandates of PL-94-142.

6. Most of the school systems in this study demonstrate a lack of internal consistency in their evaluation practices.

ImDlications This study gives rise to the following implications:

1. The lack of adequate and consistent evaluation practices prevents appropriate analysis and future development of special education programs in most of the school systems in this study.

2. The local school systems in this study need to rethink their current practices in special education program evaluation and their level of priorities in the total education process.

3. In the absence of an effective evaluation program, special eduoation programs for handicapped students will continue to be less than effective for meeting their varied and unique needs.

4. Support and related services personnel for handicapped students programs will oontinue to withdraw whatever support they now provide for public eduoation for handioapped students unless efforts are made at the local school level for the inclusion of these individ uals in the evaluation process.

5. Unless great improvement is made in the local school systems in the development of programs for handicapped students, many school systems will jeopardize their cooperative agreements with community and human service agencies which provide a necessary service for handicapped students.


The following recommendations are warranted: that:

1. Studies be conducted on the quality of the academic preparation of special eduoation and general eduoation administrators who are being attracted to administe special education programs.

2. Studies be conducted to investigate the effects of pro gram evaluation results on program improvement.

3. Studies be conducted which investigate the effects of parent and community involvement in program evaluation on student growth among handicapped students.

4. The results of this study be used by local school super intendents for staff development training for local school special education administrators.

5. Local school systems study the barriers to locally con ducted evaluations of special eduoation programs and devise ways to minimize or alleviate them.