Evaluation of Preschool Special Education Practices

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Mathematica, along with partners at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and the University of Florida, is conducting the Evaluation of Preschool Special Education Practices, Phase I (EPSEP) as part of a contract with the Institute of Education Sciences. The first component of EPSEP is a descriptive study consisting of (1) a survey of a representative sample of state and district staff that seeks to understand the context in which preschool children with disabilities are served and (2) a systematic review of interventions that affect language, literacy, and social-emotional/behavioral development of such children. The survey sample included Section 619 special education coordinators in 50 states and Washington, D.C., and a nationally representative sample of 1,200 district special education coordinators. The study team achieved a response rate of 100 percent among states and 91 percent among districts. The surveys were fielded from April to mid-August 2015.

EPSEP’s second component is a small randomized efficacy trial of an intervention for preschool children with disabilities served in inclusive classrooms. The study team developed a conceptual framework that identified two characteristics of interventions of interest: (1) a content-specific curriculum and (2) targeted instructional supports for children who need more assistance. Mathematica held a competition for training providers willing to participate in a randomized controlled pilot test, and selected a collaborative led by Vanderbilt University along with the University of Denver, and the University of South Florida.

The intervention for the efficacy trial is the Instructionally Enhanced Pyramid Model (IEPM), a three-tiered approach to supporting children in inclusive classrooms. IEPM provides targeted instructional support strategies for children with disabilities by building upon the tiers of supports in the Pyramid Model for Promoting Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children (Pyramid Model) with targeted instructional support strategies drawn from Learning Experiences Alternate Program for Preschoolers and Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children. Each tier includes a set of integrated training materials and guides to support implementation. Teachers will also receive workshop trainings for each tier’s practices, as well as near-weekly practice-based coaching and feedback. The implementation of IEPM aims to promote greater inclusion and child engagement in inclusive preschool classrooms and improve children’s social-emotional, behavioral, and language skills development. The efficacy trial will report on intervention fidelity for IEPM’s component parts both separately and overall and measure inclusion quality, child engagement, and child outcomes in social-emotional, behavioral, and language skills development.

We will recruit districts and schools in fall and winter 2018–2019, randomly assign participants to a condition, and train treatment group teachers in summer 2019. The intervention will be implemented in the 2019–2020 school year with an expected second year of implementation in 2020–2021.