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 Center and the University of Florida, is conducting the Evaluation of Preschool Special Education Practices, Phase I (EPSEP) under contract to 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/or social-emotional/behavioral development of such children. The survey sample included Section 619 special education coordinators in 50 states plus Washington, DC, and a nationally representative sample of 1,200 district special education coordinators. The study team achieved a response rate of 100 percent of states and 91 percent of districts. The surveys were fielded from April 2015 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 in which they proposed an intervention that met our criteria. When we select the final intervention and training provider, we will recruit districts and schools, randomize, and train teachers in summer 2019. The intervention will be implemented in the 2019–2020 school year with an option for a second year of implementation in 2020–2021 if the Institute of Education Sciences exercises it.