ICI Evaluates MN School Use of Special Olympics Unified Champion School Program
Special Olympics Minnesota has awarded a one-year, $15,000 grant to ICI's Brian Abery and Renáta Tichá to evaluate how participating schools are implementing the Special Olympics Minnesota Unified Champion School Program (SOMN-UCS). Beginning August 1, Abery and Tichá will gather data from a wide variety of stakeholders, including program administrators, trainers, school administrators, teachers, students, and parents to assess whether participating schools are implementing the program with high fidelity and in a manner consistent with SOMN-USC's overall mission and vision, "To promote school communities where all young people are agents of change: fostering acceptance, respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities and thereby anyone who is perceived as different."
Special Olympics Minnesota describes its Unified Schools program as "an education and sports based strategy powered by an engaged youth community. The program aims to increase athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities, while creating inclusive school communities." Abery and Tichá will assess five aspects of program fidelity to to determine how well program curriculum, training, and implementation support the outcomes intended by Special Olympics Minnesota:
- program adherence, the extent to which program components are delivered as prescribed by the model including program content, methods, and activities
- program exposure, the amount of program delivered in relation to the amount prescribed by the program model
- quality of delivery, the manner in which a program is delivered including instructor preparedness, use of relevant examples, and ability to respond to questions
- participant engagement, the degree to which participants engage in the program
- program differentiation, the extent to which the critical components of the program are distinguishable from each other and from other programs at three different levels (i.e., administrators, teachers, and students).
This evaluation will help SOMN-UCS determine the strengths and challenges of implementing the Unified Champion School Program within the context of the Minnesota educational system.
"Special Olympics of Minnesota's UCS program provides students with disabilities the chance to experience not only instructional inclusion, but social and psychological inclusion as well," says Abery. "However, because the program is implemented by schools rather than the program developers, we really need to make sure that training and technical assistance support effective program implementation. This project will help Special Olympics of Minnesota to strengthen its program offering."