Survey of Technology Use In Special Education

During the Fall of 2006, Education TURNKEY Systems conducted a survey of the nation’s largest school districts to gather information about: (a) the manner and extent to which technology products and services are used in special education programs and are likely to be used in two years;
(b) funding sources and expenditures for products and services; and (c) other market-related data. This survey paralleled similar surveys conducted by TURNKEY in 2001
and 1997.

Participating Districts
The districts that participated in the survey are, by the nature
of the survey design, large districts. The average total district enrollment for respondents is about 41, 000 students more
than 5,000 of which are in special education, ranging form as few as 960 special education students to as many as 43,000.

Instructional Technology Use
The most important features of special education instructional products continue to be Adjustable Reading Levels and Individualized Learning. Phonics-based Reading was among the features considered least important now and in past surveys.

Reading is cited as the content area in which computers are used most frequently, followed by Mathematics, Spelling/Grammar, and Writing/Composition. Computer use in other subjects (Science, Social Studies) tends to be considerably lower.

The most important feature in helping teachers meet “inclusion” requirements is Accessibility, followed by Reading Programs which Adjust to Student Difficulty Levels, and Software that accommodates Students with Different Learning Styles and Levels. Less important – but still rated fairly high in overall importance – are instructional products which meet Section 508 accessibility standards for technology.

Early Intervening Services/Response-to Intervention
A new Federal provision requires that districts with disproportional enrollments of minorities in special education programs must take action before students are so placed -- early intervening services (EIS). Almost all respondents thought that Administrative Software Documenting EIS was useful. Survey respondents indicated that -- for instruction software, behavior software, and teacher training -- Positive Review of Evidence on Effectiveness of an intervention was the most important factor influencing district decisions on the selection of EIS/RTI interventions.

The Internet
The most frequently cited uses of the Internet are for Conducting Student Research, Finding Curriculum Materials, and for Professional Development.

Administrative Use
IEP Development and Tracking Applications are noted by respondents as being used by the highest percentage of schools in the district, followed by Online Communication with Home/Parents. Student tracking for CHIP/Medicaid reimbursement is also used by a significant number of schools.

District-Level Special Education Staff were the highest ranked decision-makers for all types of products. For Instructional Software and Supplemental Instructional Materials, the Special Education Teacher is next most influential.

Federal IDEA funds and district funds are the largest funding sources for purchasing special education instructional software. For other types of products – teacher tool software, administrative applications, and professional development – the local district is the largest source of funds. In terms of software pricing arrangements, site licenses were by far the most desirable purchasing arrangement. Per-Station Network Pricing and Individual Title Pricing are considered less useful.

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