Evaluating the Federal Investment for Personnel Preparation in Special Education

May. 15, 2009

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 32 no. 2, p. 150-65.
(May 2009)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In light of the current federal intent to evaluate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Personnel Preparation program and the potentially high stakes of this evaluation, the purpose of this paper is to review previous evaluation studies and offer recommendations for the future.

Evaluations of the Personnel Preparation Program

Three general types of evaluation of the federal Personnel Preparation program have been conducted since its inception. First, several evaluations of the overall Personnel Preparation program have been conducted, primarily under the auspices of contracts from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) or its predecessor organizations within the U.S. Department of Education. The second type of evaluation has focused on grants funded under specific priority areas. The third type of evaluation is that which individual grantees undertake to assess progress toward meeting their own project objectives.

Common Methodology Across Evaluations

Similar methodology was used by all of the overall program evaluations and the priority-specific evaluations. Virtually all the program evaluations included historical and contextual information, that is, analyses of policies and events that shaped and promoted changes in the program. All included analyses of trends in funding in terms of overall appropriations, funds awarded under specific priorities, and/or number of qualified personnel available, as reported by states, in relationship to expenditures.

Common Finding Across Evaluations

A common finding with regard to federal funding and number of grants funded under particular priority areas was that the number of grants funded and level of funding were shrinking annually when adjusted for inflation.

A second finding was that the Personnel Preparation program seemed to have had the intended catalytic effect on capacity development and on numbers of personnel prepared. Virtually every evaluation of the overall program indicated that the number of special education personnel preparation programs in colleges and universities had grown and that the number of personnel prepared to provide special education or related services had increased. Personnel shortages in areas of specific need and the need for continued program foci on particular needs or on implementing certain policies continued. Evaluations indicated that differences of opinion existed among grantees, stakeholders in the field, and federal officials regarding extant emphases of the program as expressed through priorities, and some priorities (e.g., initiatives for preparation of regular educators during the 1970s) were sharply criticized.
The authors also provide recommendations for future research.

Updated: Jun. 29, 2009