Improving Systems, Practices, and Outcomes

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An outcome is a benefit experienced as a result of services provided to children and families. Child and family outcomes are connected. A positive outcome experienced by the family serves to promote the child outcomes and outcomes achieved by the child benefit the family. Data is collected on outcomes to measure individual and program progress.

Child Outcomes

The goal of early intervention and early childhood special education is to enable young children with disabilities to be active and successful participants during their early childhood years and in the future. States collect, analyze, and use data on three child outcomes to measure individual child and family progress toward improved results and to improve their systems and services.

Child Outcomes include:

  1. Child has positive social-emotional skills (e.g.; social relationships)
  2. Child acquires and uses knowledge and skills (e.g.; early language/communication)
  3. Child uses appropriate behaviors to meet their needs

States use several different approaches to measure child outcomes as illustrated in the national maps ECTA develops annually. Most states use the Child Outcomes Summary Process, a team process for summarizing information about a child’s functioning across multiples sources.

Family Outcomes

Early intervention and early childhood special education also support families in a variety of individualized ways to help them care for their children and have the resources they need to participate in their own desired family and community activities. States collect, analyze, and use data on the percent of families participating in Part C who report that early intervention services have helped.

Family outcomes include:

  1. Family knows their rights
  2. Family effectively communicate their children's needs
  3. Family helps their children develop and learn

States use surveys to collect family outcomes data. Many states use the ECO Family Outcomes Surveys and the NCSEAM Survey to collect data. Some states have developed their own survey.

Data Quality

State early intervention and preschool special education programs collect, analyze, and use child and family outcomes data to measure progress towards reaching the best individual and system-wide outcomes. Child and family outcomes data must be valid in order to make decisions about system and practice improvements. Ensuring quality data is a multistep process. This includes:

  • training and support for staff before and during data collection
  • a good data system and data entry procedures
  • ongoing supervision and feedback to implementers
  • analysis of the data after data collection
  • validity checks

States must have high quality data on child and family outcomes linked to other demographic information, service and systems data.

How do systems, practices, and outcomes work together?

Diagram: SYSTEMS (Building High Quality State Systems, consisting of Governance, Finance, Personnel/Workforce, Data System, Accountability and Quality Improvment, and Quality Standards), leads to PRACTICES (Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices), leads to OUTCOMES (Result: Positive outcomes for children with disabilities and their families)

Local programs implement high-quality, individualized services as required under IDEA to achieve positive outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families. To support local programs, the state system is responsible for critical functions such as establishing personnel requirements, planning for a fiscally sound system, providing policy and procedural guidance, and delivering technical assistance to support local programs and personnel. The local programs are responsible for the implementation of high-quality, individualized services as required under IDEA. A high-quality state system paired with the implementation of effective practices at the local level is aimed at achieving positive outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families.