The CLAS Early Childhood Research Institute has embarked on a full-scale evaluation of the project to determine the efficacy of its work. In the past year, CLAS has been actively engaged in evaluating the impact of the Institute's activities, which are aimed at increasing awareness of issues of cultural and linguistic diversity in early childhood/special education. In order to meet the challenges of evaluating a multi-layered project with a broad array of activities, a comprehensive evaluation plan has been developed to determine the impact of the project in the areas of policy, research and practice.
Since 1997, CLAS has maintained this Website, which currently houses materials and resources collected from all over the U.S. CLAS has specifically targeted early childhood materials that have been designed for families of children with disabilities and the service providers who work with them. In large part, the Institute has focused its dissemination efforts through the development of this Website. Currently, the CLAS Website has about 2,000 visitors each month. Based on data gathered through our Website guestbook (n=900), we found that over 50% of those visiting are service providers in early childhood, early intervention, or early childhood special education. Over 10% of our visitors have indicated that they are parents of a child with a disability. CLAS Website users visit the site for a number of reasons, with professional growth being the most cited reason (19%). Finding materials for planning and program improvement (16%) and identifying information to share (15%) are also frequently cited reasons for accessing the Website.
Evaluating the usefulness and ease of navigation of the Website remains a high priority. Two studies are currently in progress in preschools in Illinois and Wisconsin to evaluate the overall usefulness and organization of the CLAS Website. Findings from these studies will be used to improve the design and layout of the information and resources available at the CLAS Website, as well as make recommendations for other producers of early childhood/special education Websites and databases.
In addition to providing a listing of resources and materials, information is provided to help practitioners review and select materials. Since it is unlikely that any material is appropriate for all people, the CLAS evaluation has also focused its attention on determining a variety of ways materials can be adapted at the local level to better meet the cultural and linguistic needs of individual communities. A special focus of the evaluation has included assessing the appropriateness and meaningfulness by developing a set of Review Guidelines for practitioners to consider when they are selecting materials based on specific topical areas (see Page 1).
Near the end of the project in 2002, an expert review of the CLAS collection of materials is planned. This evaluation will include individuals who have expertise and knowledge about the availability of materials across the topical areas used to catalog the materials and resources collected for our Web-based database. This expert review will provide information about the depth and breadth of the acquisition of materials by the Institute. A more formative periodic review of the acquired materials is currently in place. Frequencies of materials acquired across topic areas are measured to determine areas where we have collected a smaller percentage of the materials believed to be available.
Finally, the evaluation will explore how the range of activities undertaken by the CLAS Institute has impacted its stakeholders. Specifically, the evaluation will try to capture information to determine if the activities made any difference about how people in the field develop, select, or adapt materials to better account for issues of culture and language. More generally, the evaluation will also examine if the work of the Institute has impacted how people think about issues of culture and language in the delivery of early childhood/special education services. For example, we have completed a first set of surveys and selected interviews with individuals who developed materials, which have been reviewed by CLAS, to determine the influence of the review process on their perspectives regarding cultural diversity and if they are revising or changing the ways in which they develop future materials. The overall impact of the Institute will be examined across different stakeholder groups, including material developers, personnel preparation faculty, service providers, and families of children with disabilities. If you would like more information about the evaluation of the CLAS Institute, please contact Drs. Rob Corso or Amy Santos (email@example.com).
Results of Guestbook Survey