Parent Educational Choices in Autism Assessment

Parents are often making choices about a young child’s educational future at the time of an autism assessment. Many educational angles are presented to parents during the autism assessment process. The following information includes five choices that parents make during the autism assessment.

Choice to Give Consent for Autism Testing

First of all, the parent has a choice as to whether or not to give permission or consent for a team to conduct an autism or early childhood educational assessment. Once the information is explained to parents, some parents make the choice to opt out or not have the child tested in the assessment process. However, many parents gladly accept this opportunity to learn more about their child’s skills and abilities as well as letting professionals give their opinions related to autism characteristics.

Choice to Agree or Disagree with Autism Results

Second, parents have a choice to agree or disagree with the results and recommendations of the autism eligibility meeting and team. Some parents are right on board with the results of the multidisciplinary team assessment, while other parents don’t see their children in the same way. It is not uncommon for parents to say that he or she ‘does not act the same way at home as he or she behaved in the assessment.’ At other times, the educational team may have different ideas than a doctor or early childhood intervention specialist so parents must make a choice in how they review the results of the assessment. There are times when parents disagree with the eligibility results, but still agree to have the child put in a special education program.

Choice to Complete Part of the Educational Assessment & Program

Third, some parents complete an autism or early childhood assessment and complete only the eligibility portion of the assessment. However, after the results are presented some of these parents will make the choice not to complete the Individual Educational Program from the local school district. Perhaps, the child is doing well in another program or with behavior therapy so the parent opts out of accepting a structured educational program in the school district.

Choice of Placement Options

Fourth, parents have choices to discuss placement options for the child with autism. Some children need more structured programs with intensive interventions, while other children need less support and can function in regular education programs with limited special education support and consultation.

Choice of Placement Changes

Finally, parents have a choice to work with special education staff to consider autism placement changes. If a special education program is not meeting the child’s needs then the type of program selected for the child may need to be modified. Parents have the option to ask the school to reconvene and have another meeting to discuss trying an optional educational program on a temporary or part time basis to see if the child with autism can function and adapt in the new educational situation. Most importantly, parents are making significant educational choices to help young children with autism. Parent input is extremely helpful and valuable in the child’s autism assessment and educational planning process.

School Choice and Voucher Implementation

Advocates believe more school choice will allow better student-school fit than public education. But others maintain better matching will not improve performance unless financial pressures improve educational practices. A voucher-based educational market linking funding to pupil counts based on parental choice could motivate improvement, especially in inefficient public schools, eliminating allocations unrelated to student achievement. This market model of school choice assumes an efficient market of equivalent products, buyers and sellers of comparable size, mobile market entry and exit, and perfect knowledge among market participants. Although no market is entirely efficient, this model’s proponents believe vouchers would increase competition and yield more efficient achievement-to-cost ratios.

The Market and Public Schools

Public-school advocates argue it is inappropriate to view public schools in a market context. They note that beyond individual instructional effects, public schools influence social cohesion, with some research suggesting more school choice would increase racial and socioeconomic segregation, thus decreasing social cohesion. But established housing patterns already relatively segregate schools today. Choice proponents maintain vouchers could break the school-housing link. This claim cannot yet be evaluated, because broad voucher systems have not yet been implemented. Another argument against vouchers has been that competition would result in fewer resources for the most needy students; however, little evidence exists on how vouchers might impact spending on public schools or distribution of spending.

Another reason to be skeptical of the market view of schools is the crucial role information plays in market efficiency. Inadequate parental information about schools’ quality may result in poor choices. Many schools, though, are providing more information in public report cards. Studies show positive relations between parental choice and school quality, suggesting parents make academically beneficial decisions. This relationship seems strongly related to the school’s or community’s socioeconomic status. Because of unavoidable inequalities in school and student achievement, even perfect parental information and school access cannot guarantee equal distribution of gains. Whatever the market conditions, unless families base choices on academic quality, not features like proximity and cocurricular programs, increased competition may not boost achievement.

Competition’s Impact on Schools

Since theory alone cannot determine vouchers’ feasibility, evidence on school choice should be considered. Of many competing forms of school choice, open enrollment within and between public school districts and private-public school competition parallel most closely the likely effects of voucher programs. Research on these choices has produced mixed results.

Public-Sector Competition

A study of open enrollment in Chicago, where half of high-school students chose to change schools, showed changing did not significantly raise changers’ graduation rates or harm those left behind, except in the case of Chicago’s “Career Academies,” where those attending experienced small benefits. These results suggest better school-student fit can improve outcomes. Since such intradistrict choice does not affect revenue, it may not stimulate school improvement; thus interdistrict choice, threatening student loss, seems a better model of competitive educational markets. Anecdotal evidence indicates interdistrict choice leads to innovations to attract and keep students, even when few actually move. Moreover, studies of interdistrict competition with virtual choice due to large numbers of area districts showed competition led to improved school quality and student performance.

Public-Private Competition

Since an area’s private and public schools compete, a market-based argument suggests competition should improve local student outcomes. Though one study found increased private-school enrollment led not to greater public-school achievement but greater resource investment, this finding seems ungeneralizable. Given public-school funding’s complexities, including possible reciprocal effects of private-school enrollment on area revenues, simple correlation between private-school enrollment and public school funding cannot be predicted. Factors like parental preference, community affluence and educational demand, and private-school establishment where public ones are weak all need accounting for. By considering effects of public-school quality and community features on private-school supply, researchers have found competition from private schools benefits public-school students’ performance. Gains are modest, with public-school test scores and graduation rates rising less than 5%, implying vouchers would not significantly elevate public school efficiency unless students found private schools much more attractive. Differences between these school sectors need further scrutiny.

Student Outcome Differences

Comparing test-score differences between the sectors’ students has yielded mixed results. Recent evidence showed positive private-school effects, especially for urban minority pupils, but the largely nonexperimental data did not rule out alternative causes of improvement. But even if private schools’ student achievement is not clearly superior, their educational cost may be. Private-school education, especially Catholic, can cost 50% less per pupil. If achievement is equivalent and these costs are accurate, then private schools are more cost-effective. However, these estimates ignore subsidies masking additional costs. Also, private schools often enroll advantaged children, who are inherently less costly to educate. Such student differences and unobservables like parental motivation to support education hinder valid comparison of the two sectors’ efficiency in producing achievement.

Voucher Experiments

Since educational experiments use random assignments and control groups to eliminate the need to account for background and unobservables, they are more comprehensible and useful in gaining public support than other means. Though political constraints have limited voucher experiments, recently several providing data on school-sector differences have been privately funded, targeting low-income urban students in various grades. Students were randomly chosen by elective lottery to receive modest vouchers. Postvoucher surveys showed attending private school benefited African Americans. In two years, their test scores narrowed the national Black- White achievement gap by up to one half. These effects were large compared to other interventions like class size reduction. However, assessments did not control for peer effects, so improvement may have been due to student, not school, quality. Also, missing effects for non-African Americans remained unexplained, and attrition may have biased results towards better pupils. Finally, imperfect randomization, possible experimental-setting influences, and failure to account for varying school quality in both sectors argue caution in generalizing from the experiments’ results.

Voucher Policies’ Likely Impact

While voucher experiments furnish evidence favoring general voucher implementation, the possibility of peer effects warns that a general policy rendering both school sectors demographically similar might eliminate a key ingredient that makes private institutions motivate change. Further, nonexperimental evidence, though inconclusive, is important for predicting voucher-policy effects. The evidence of unobservables and other nonmarket explanations of achievement gain indicates optimizing these might cause improvements more efficiently than costly voucher plans. It is also unclear whether increased private-education demand would be met by better schools. Economic theory suggests that the most efficient private schools are now thriving in high-demand markets and that additional schools may be weaker than many public schools, eliminating incentives for change. Another unknown is the voucher plans’ impact on public-school funding. Again, competition might produce public education providing less social support than the current system. As voucher plans change student distribution across schools, affecting social cohesion, trade-offs are likely, as schools sacrifice qualities like diversity for achievement. Voucher programs could be designed to motivate public-school support through taxation, but the effects of such incentives are unknown, as are the effects of voucher plans’ administrative costs.

Conclusions

Although results are mixed, evidence on school competition supports the notion that it improves student outcomes. Despite significant differences between public and private schools, especially in teacher compensation and student outcomes, it is unclear whether schools or students account for differences. Voucher experiments show a positive private-sector effect. But existing theory and evidence suggest future voucher policies’ success depends on policy details like private-school requirements and the size, eligibility, and financing mechanism of vouchers. Though cautious optimism is warranted, socioeconomic effects of widespread voucher implementation are uncertain.

5 Steps to a Winning Social Media Marketing Plan

What is the single most important action you can take to improve your chances of success in implementing a social media campaign? Create a well-researched and carefully thought out social media marketing plan, which lays the foundation for executing a winning social media campaign. Although there is no concrete roadmap to crafting an effective social media marketing plan, there are guideposts that can direct you along the way. The following 5 Steps provide the guidance you will need to develop a successful social media marketing plan.Step 1: Establish Definitive and Measurable Goals. Social media marketing goals include, improving brand awareness, search engine rankings, relevant site traffic, and conversions performance (e.g., sales for a product or service), as well as reputation management and engaging with consumers.The challenge for some of these goals, such as engaging with consumers, is to make them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART). In addition, objectives must be established for each type of social media platform in order to maximize results. The following are examples of SMART goals for four popular social media platforms: blogs, microblogs (Twitter), social networking sites, as well as image and video sharing sites:Blogs:20% improvement in the ratio of posts to comments (i.e., visitor’s comments/posts=conversions) within six months
30% increase in total number of unique visitors within six months
20% increase in average number of unique visitors within six months
40% growth in total number of views within six months
10% growth of RSS subscribers within six months
5% growth of RSS feed requests within six monthsMicroblogs (Twitter):20% growth in number of followers within 30 days
30% growth in the number of retweets (message amplification) within 30 days
10% increase in click-through-rate (CTR) of the links posted in tweets within 30 days (Hint: Observing which types of links garner the highest CTRs can help you tune your tweets to provide what your consumers with links they are interested in and, hence, further improve your CTR.)
15% increase in visits to Web site from tweet links within 30 days
10% growth in time on Web site from tweet links within 30 days
5% increase in Web site conversions (e.g., sales) from tweet links within 30 daysSocial Networking Sites:20% growth in the number of friends within five months
30% growth in the number of comments within five months
40% growth in the number of posts and comments in discussion groups within five months
20% increase in the ratio of comments on uploaded videos to number of videos uploaded within five months
20% increase in the ratio of comments on photos uploaded to number of photos uploaded within five months
30% growth in the number of comments left on profiles within five months
50% growth in the number of questions answered or asked within five monthsImage and Video Sharing Sites:30% growth in the number of images or videos viewed within four months
20% growth in the number of unique visitors within four months
10% increase in the number of subscribers to your channel or stream within four months
30% increase in the ratio of comments on images or videos to the number of images or videos uploaded within four months
15% growth in the number of embedded links to your images or videos (i.e., links from other sites to your images or videos) within four months
30% increase in average rankings of images or videos by viewers within four monthsStep 2: Identify Your Target Market Who is your intended audience (target market)? Where do they hangout on the social Web? How do they participating on these social media platforms? Forrester Research’s “Social Technographics Profile” enables you to use age, location, and gender to identify the type of activity people are engaged in on the social Web, such as create content, critique, collect, spectate, and so on. Depending on what they do, you can determine which social media platform they are likely to frequent. As an example, spectators are not likely to participate in social network like Facebook or LinkedIn, while they might watch YouTube videos and read blogs, but not comment on the posts.Step 3: Conduct a Competitive Analysis. What are the trends in social media (i.e., which platforms are growing, which are declining?). What needs are not being meet by your competitors? Who will be your main competitors? What are the best practices in social media marketing? Conduct a SWOT Analysis, identifying your company’s strengths, weaknesses, along with the opportunities and threats in the marketplace and economy.Step 4: Design innovative strategies. Select the optimal social media platforms to reach your target market. Then, construct a specialized strategy for each social media platform to achieve the tailored goals for each platform. Each social media medium has distinctive features and means of communication. For example, a corporate blog strategy will differ markedly from the strategy you use to achieve your goals on social network like LinkedIn. In other words, a one-sized strategy doesn’t fit all.Hence, you must adjust the following 8 C’s of the Social Media Marketing Mix for each social media platform. Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish this feat:Categorize social media platforms by target market relevancy(i.e., the ones where your target audience resides)
Comprehend the “rules of the road” on the platform by listening and learning how to behave, successfully spark conversation, and engage and energize the participants
Converse by acknowledging and responding to other users of the platform, always remembering to be a contributor, not a promoter
Collaborate with platform members as a means of establishing a mutually beneficial relationships with the platform participants
Contribute contentto build your reputation and become a valued member, helping to build the community
Connect with the influencers, so you can enlist them to help shape opinions about your product or service
Community creation enables you to build discussion forums where consumers suggest ideas and receive customer support.
Conversion of strategy execution into desired outcomes (e.g., increased brand awareness, website traffic, sales, etc.)Step 5: Monitor, Measure, and Tune. Accessing your progress, then tune your marketing plan based on the feedback to optimize goal achievement. Reevaluate and adjust your social media marketing plan to account for the ever changing nature of consumer tastes and the social Web. For example, if the number of viewers and subscribers to your blog are declining, you can adjust your content to more closely match your target market’s interests. If the number of comments on your blog posts is declining, you can adjust your strategy by asking a question at the end of each post that inspires people to respond. In short, planning and executing a social media marketing campaign is a never ending cycle. You should constantly monitor and tune your strategies to maximize the impact of your campaign.For more information and resources on planning social media marketing campaigns, be sure to visit my blog at www.SocialMediaMarketingResources.info.