- We work in partnership with our clients identify the right questions in which data are collected and reported.
- We can show you how to use data for improvement planning purposes.
- We can help you to collect and analyze data from disparate databases so it can be mined to produce useful information.
- We can help you to develop and use data visualization strategies to improve decision making for effective improvement planning.
Case Study to Improve Outcomes for Infants and Toddlers
Members of the Systems Improvement Group (SIG) conducted data analyses of infant and toddler data from the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) to identify those children and their families in greatest need in a particular outcome area. Data analysis included disaggregating child data statewide and by regional territories within the state. Data were also disaggregated by age, race/ethnicity and type of disability. Qualitative data were collected through a focus group methodology to determine root causes and reasons why certain populations of infants and toddlers and their families were experiencing poor performance in the outcome area. Success was reflected by the following:
- An outcome area was identified with the characteristics of infants and toddlers most likely to experience low performance in the outcome area.
- Root causes defining why the selected infants and toddlers were experiencing low performance in the outcome area were identified.
As a result of technical assistance provided by SIG, DHS was able to meet the new requirements from OSEP. More importantly, the Illinois Department of Human Services has a clear path that will lead to improved outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities in the state of Illinois. Specifically, the DHS is able to organize their capacity and resources around the following: performance.
Issues and Challenges
The Illinois Department of Human Services were required by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to identify characteristics of infants and toddlers with disabilities experiencing the greatest need in an outcome area as well as root causes to the poor performance in the outcome area. This required extensive data analyses including quantitative and qualitative data. Because this type of work is not typically required of DHS staff, there was a lack of experience and expertise in conducting this level of analysis with fidelity. This is particularly true when collecting and analyzing qualitative data.
Because the DHS state database was created many years ago for a different purpose, DHS staff experienced data quality issues as well as lack of data in some cases. This created a need to explore other sources of data and to improve the overall quality of data collection and analysis.
How Our Services Helped
The Systems Improvement Group was able to offer the experience and expertise needed to conduct high quality analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data. Once a data security agreement was established, the SIG conducted data analyses that provided DHS with outcome data for infants and toddlers by race/ethnicity, age and disability type. This included data displays providing a visual that clearly presented the conclusions of the analyses. In addition to completing the data analysis, SIG facilitated problem solving discussions with the DHS staff to ensure only data of the highest quality were being considered and that the extensive data analyses were completely understood.
A process to identify the root causes to poor performance by certain populations of infants and toddlers was created utilizing a focus group process. SIG staff developed the focus group questions and assisted DHS in identifying focus group members. At the conclusion of the focus group process, SIG staff facilitated the analysis of the data thereby identifying the most significant root causes to poor performance.
Wisconsin Parent Involvement Survey (Indicator 8)
Data collection and analysis services conducted by the SIG for the Special Education Team of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, to meet public reporting and accountability requirements of the U. S. Department of Education. SIG team designed a random sampling process and online data collection system to collect survey data of parents of children with disabilities. The Parent Involvement Survey is intended to assess the extent to which Wisconsin schools facilitated parent involvement as a means of improving services children with disabilities. What is simply referred as “Indicator 8” of DPI’s Annual Performance Report submission, the Parent Involvement Survey serves several purposes:
- The information provides the Special Education Team with information about the strengths and weakness with regard to how the State facilitates parent involvement.
- The information can be used by the Special Education Team to develop and implement strategies designed to improve parent involvement in collaboration with the Wisconsin Statewide Parent-Educator Initiative (WSPEI).
- The information provides the DPI with reliable and valid information that is used to demonstrate accountability with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The results of the Parent Involvement Survey are reported to the U. S. Department of Education and are publically reported for every school district in the state that was selected from the sample. The results are used to plan and implement parent involvement initiatives statewide.
Issues and Challenges
While many States have opted to use a “census” (i.e., collecting surveys from all parents in the state) approach to conducting their Parent Involvement Survey (i.e., “Indicator 8 survey”), Wisconsin has selected the much more scientifically-based methodology of sampling. For a number of reasons sampling yields much more reliable and valid results than a census. Any time people are asked to complete a survey, the number that actually do so is often much less than expected. This is particularly the case with a census survey, one simply does not know why some people chose to complete the survey and others did not. Interpreting the results from such a survey is often problematic. Sampling, on the other hand, has “built-in” statistical methods which can provide important information about accuracy and precision of the results. While sampling requires more “up front” work initially, its benefits far outweigh that of surveying a census. The biggest challenge is working hard to make sure that the return rate will allow for a thorough analysis. As such, one must be diligent in sending follow-up “reminders” and using other resources to ensure a satisfactory return rate. This work takes persistence and creativity methods (using incentives, etc) to obtain a high rate of completion.
How Our Services Helped
The Wisconsin DPI used this service because it provided the State with a scientifically sound method for the collection and reporting data about how parents statewide perceive the how well schools facilitate parent involvement for parents of children with disabilities. Parent involvement is a very strong part of IDEA and collecting reliable and valid information for public reporting purposes is imperative. SIG staff have designed a sampling strategy and online survey data collection tool without the State having to “create” a similar service that consumes valuable staff time and resources.
Results of the survey are shared with a wide range of stakeholders and are used to plan and implement initiatives aimed at increasing parent involvement. For example, the Wisconsin Statewide Parent-Educator Initiative has been instrumental providing training and professional development opportunities to District Family Engagement Liaisons (FELs) statewide to assist the school district with activities and strategies regarding Indicator 8 and to disseminate information to parents, guardians, and staff about special education topics, family engagement, WSPEI outreach initiatives.