To learn what the concerns are among parents, many SEPACs conduct a “needs assessment” to identify the greatest areas of need and to assist the SEPAC to meet its statutory obligation to advise the district and participate in the planning, development and evaluation of the school district’s programs.
A formal assessment survey is one tool which will capture what is currently happening in the district and allow the SEPAC to frame issues to address. Developing a non-biased survey is difficult and the SEPAC should work with the district to develop a survey which will be fair and comprehensive. The goal is to get feedback on the system as a whole. Whatever tool the SEPAC uses, all data should be shared with the district to create trust in the results. Information gathered by these surveys can identify the primary concerns among families of students with disabilities and shape the SEPAC’s actions, programs, workshops and support efforts.
The SEPAC can also use informal assessments such as focus groups or discussion round-tables to allow all stakeholders to have a voice in the process.
SEPACs should also survey their membership to help with planning workshops and presentations and to get a sense of what is working. Does the membership want all day or evening meetings, what is the best way to communicate news and information, or would having child care help attendance? Membership changes every couple of years and new members may have different needs.
The data collected from needs assessments can be a valuable asset to help the SEPAC fulfill its role.