Researchers evaluate results of social impact bonds

January 30, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of two young girls in classroom.

“Pay-for-success” social impact bonds pay investors when children succeed in school.

Researchers at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities are evaluating the results of the first-ever social impact bond designed to finance early childhood.

The High Quality School Readiness Evaluation has two parts: the evaluation of a social impact bond that funds preschool for at-risk children, also known as “pay for success,” and the evaluation of child performance and preschool quality for newly implemented preschool programs.

“The use of social impact bonds is a growing movement,” said Mark Innocenti, director of the CPD’s research and evaluation division. “It’s a way to fund programs for children.”

In August 2013, the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group (UIG), together with the United Way of Salt Lake and J.B. Pritzker, formed a partnership and jointly committed $7 million to create the Utah High Quality Preschool Program, a high-impact and targeted curriculum focused on increasing school readiness and academic performance among at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds in Utah. In 2014, the Utah State Legislature passed HB96, the Utah School Readiness Initiative. Private investors can now partner with the state to invest in preschool programs that demonstrate lasting results and save taxpayer dollars.  This Act included funding to improve preschool quality throughout the state.

As a result of entering kindergarten better prepared, it is expected that fewer children will use special education and remedial services in kindergarten through 12th grade, which results in cost savings for school districts, the State of Utah and other government entities.

“Special education is really expensive, about $10,000 per child per year, and preschool is not, about $2,500 per child per year,” Innocenti said. “Investors get a return on their investment every year a child stays out of special ed.”

Innocenti said there is a lot of interest in social impact bonds in the business community because companies can be charitable and make money at the same time. Utah is currently looking to develop two other social impact bonds for home visit interventions.

The Utah School Readiness Initiative, a “pay for success” program, currently includes 750 children in the Salt Lake City area, Innocenti said, with the majority in the Granite School District. Six programs, including two school districts, one charter school and three private schools, are involved.

“Our goal is to conduct pre- and post-testing when the kids come into preschool and when they exit, and then use school records to evaluate data through sixth grade,” Innocenti said. The plan is to increase the number of children to between 1,000 and 1,250 during the 2015-2016 school year

The second part of the project is funding to improve preschool quality in school districts and from private providers. Each participating provider submitted a competitive proposal for improving quality. These are funded through the Governor’s Office of  Management and Budget.

“We are also doing evaluation of children as they enter and leave preschool, and also indicators of preschool quality,” Innocenti said.

More than 1,100 children in nine districts or private providers will be involved in the second part of the project this year.  More providers and children will be involved in the future.


Ames named TAESE associate director

January 29, 2015 by Sue Reeves

image of Norm Ames

Norm Ames

Norm Ames has been named an associate director at the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE), a project of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Ames was the associate director of the Mountain Plains Regional Research Center,  but that project ended on October 1, 2014 after 30 years in operation. The MPRRC was the largest project associated with TAESE until the new Utah Professional Development Network began last July.

“The MPRRC is what generated TAESE,” Ames said. “John (Copenhaver, TAESE director) took what the RC was and made it into TAESE.”

When the federal funding for the RRCs was lost, two new centers were developed: The National Center for Systemic Improvement and the Center for Integration of IDEA Data. Many of the RRC employees lost their jobs, a few were picked up by other projects elsewhere, and Ames, Shawna Crane and Wayne Ball remained at TAESE and are working on the new projects.

Ames officially began his new duties on Dec. 1, 2014. He provides technical assistance to school districts and state offices of education in South Dakota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Montana and Utah, along with some added supervisory responsibilities.

“TAESE is building a legacy of technical assistance for our clients that represents the CPD extremely well,” Ames said. “We are now spoken of in the same breath as the big conglomerates like WestEd and Westat.”

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Heidi’s Happenings: Merry Christmas!

January 27, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Heidi Hill is a guest blogger for the CPD’s Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL), a day program for adults with disabilities. Heidi loves to type and each month she’ll be sharing the fun activities that she and her “buds” are doing at DSL.

Man in an ugly sweater.

Participant Jeffrey and his ugly sweater!

In the month of December we all had gone down to the mall to see and talk to Santa, and give him our wish lists, so he’d know exactly what Heidi and her DSL buds would like to have for Christmas. Heidi and her buds enjoyed Christmas time with their friends ’round here! We made pickled treats which were sour, but other than that they were yummy! We also made ugly sweaters for our Christmas party and that was lots of fun!

Someone came dressed in green just like the Grinch that lived just north of Who-ville. The mean Grinch  stole everything including, their tree. Soon though, he’d learned his one lesson the tough way, which is, “never-steal from the whos.” Everyone was kind as could be. Plus, Miss Hill never said one cross word to her buds, plus, she’s always had kindness in her heart. Not only that, but, Heidi’s buds down at the work-site never said a cross word to her either.

We decorated DSL and everybody invited their families to the Christmas party. When everybody came to this glass-windowed work-site, they all enjoyed doing things ’round here. Heidi Sue remembered to wish her friends a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year.

Heidi hopes that her buds and their families had the most wonderful Christmas, ever. This past Christmas just was the humblest one, yet, where we could reflect on the true meaning.

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3 openings on Consumer Advisory Council

January 22, 2015 by Sue Reeves

The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University is seeking three new members for the Consumer Advisory Council, according to consumer advocate Gordon Richins.

The CAC is composed of individuals with disabilities, family members, representatives of government entitites and local agencies who work with people with disabilities, and staff liaisons who advise the CPD director about the Center’s impact on systems change, advocacy, and capacity building. The CAC members work with CPD staff to develop and approve the CPD’s annual goals and regularly reviews progress towards their accomplishment.

The CAC also sponsors the twice-yearly Community Investment Award. Members nominate, campaign for and vote on the award’s recipient, a Utah agency that provides services to people with disabilities. Past recipients have been Active Re-Entry Centers for Independent Living in Price, the Utah Brain Injury Alliance and the Utah Parent Center.

The CAC is currently seeking a self-advocate, a parent or family-member advocate, and an agency representative. CAC members must reside within the state of Utah. Members bring many different perspectives, ideas, and views to the council. They represent the varied geographical areas and disability issues within Utah.

For more information, contact Richins by phone at 435.797.2832 or by e-mail at

CPD people make a difference

January 20, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of thank you notes.

Hand-printed notes of thanks from families who received help from CPD staff at Christmas.

“Dear People who helped my family out on Christmas … “ began the first letter, written in pencil on lined notebook paper.

“Thank you so much for everything you gave us. I thought Christmas was going to be ruined but you saved Christmas,” said another. And another: “I wish you had fun with your family and ate good stuffs with your family and had a lot of fun and God bless you.”

These are the heartfelt thanks of the CPD client families in need who benefited from the generosity of CPD employees, who turned paper tags on a miniature Christmas tree into a mountain of gifts. The clothes, shoes, books and a fleet of refurbished bicycles, courtesy of the AT lab, were distributed to the families in time for Christmas.

“You guys are the very first people who gave me a bike,” said another letter. “God will bless you in many different ways for the help you give others.”