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bullet Download/ Print: Full Research Bulletin: (pdf)*


Graphic of a check boxSpecial Education Quality Indicator Study
August 2003



Purpose of the Quality Indicator Study

The Quality Indicator Study was undertaken at a time when preschool special education reform was just gaining momentum. Conducted by MAGI Educational Services, Inc. under a contract with the State Education Department, the study was designed for a dual purpose: 

  1. to furnish information on the quality of preschool special education programs, and
  1. to identify the educational practices that affect general education placement rates when preschool students enter kindergarten or school-age programs.

A number of data collection procedures were used to address these purposes including survey methodology, interview, observation and analysis of student placement data. The primary instrument for the study was a comprehensive Program Survey, which was completed by 258 preschool special programs or 70 percent of the total number of State-funded programs. All types of programs were represented in the data: special class settings, integrated class settings and Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) programs. The survey was designed to measure research-based quality indicators of early childhood special education.i

A companion instrument for the study was a Preschool Student Placement Survey. This survey asked programs to report the school-age placement of transitioning students for the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 academic years. The information generated by these instruments helped to determine how the State's preschool special education programs fared on the continuum of quality as defined by the research literature as well as to identify program practices that contributed to student placement outcomes. 

This study was characterized by a number of features that served to strengthen the interpretation of the findings. There was a systematic data collection plan that incorporated a number of converging procedures. For the program and placement surveys, there was a high response rate with acceptable statewide representation in terms of region, district type and size of program. There was strong reliability of the comprehensive survey as a measurement instrument for determining program quality. 

Additionally, there were a number of limitations that needed to be considered. Chief among these was the self-report nature of both the comprehensive program survey and the school-age placement survey. While these activities enabled the collection of vast amounts of information, the data was subject to potential biases and random distortions on the part of the respondents.

The reader is reminded that this study was a first look at measuring program quality and at identifying educational practices that affect the rate of placement of preschool students with disabilities in general education classes when these students enter kindergarten or school-age programs. While this outcome is important, it is not the only outcome measure that could be studied. Investigating how program quality relates to other outcome measures may be important for future studies. Furthermore, far more investigation is needed to determine the relationship of all the various factors that influence the rate of placement in general education for students with disabilities entering kindergarten or school-age programs.

The results of the Quality Indicator Study are presented in two parts: Part 1 provides a descriptive account of program quality and is based on data from the comprehensive Program Survey. Part 2 discusses the link between quality and student outcomes and incorporates data from the Program Survey and Student Placement Survey. Below is more information about the study methods.

* Endnotes i through xii are located on page 16 of this document.


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