FSU researchers partner to improve statewide assessment for persons with disabilities

Yaacov Petscher, associate professor of social work and director of the Quantitative Methods and Innovation (QMI) division

The Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University along with the FSU College of Social Work is partnering with Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities to evaluate and improve their assessment tool for people with developmental disabilities.

The Questionnaire for Situational Information (QSI), administered by the agency, provides a way to determine the level of need for the individuals they serve.

“It’s essential for consistency,” said APD Waiver Support Coordinator Blake Little. “It provides a baseline for each client’s needs and the level of support required from caregivers.”

The nature of the assessment requires the 10-year old test to periodically undergo its own evaluation. This year, the Quantitative Methods and Innovation division of the Florida Center for Reading Research, in collaboration with the College of Social Work, will be evaluating the next generation of the QSI assessment.

The goal of the two-year contract with APD is to measure the assessment’s reliability and validity, then provide an overall psychometric evaluation of its content.

“The Agency for Persons with Disabilities always wants to look for ways to improve our assessment tool to make it as accurate as possible at identifying our clients’ level of need,” said APD Director Barbara Palmer. “We are working with FSU to ensure the next generation QSI is even better at determining the critical service needs of our customers.”

To accomplish these tasks, Yaacov Petscher, associate professor of social work and director of the Quantitative Methods and Innovation (QMI) division, has assembled a cross-section of talent from throughout the College of Social Work, each bringing their unique expertise to the table.

“Our social work colleagues bring such a critical understanding of this population to the table,” Petscher said. “We wouldn’t be able to accomplish this without their understanding and experience.”

Assistant Professor Lisa Schelbe, a qualitative methodologist, will lead the qualitative component of the evaluation, along with Assistant Professor Jeffrey Lacasse, who has expertise in medical social work. Assistant Professor Michael Killian will lend support to the quantitative and statistical modeling of the assessment scores.

Petscher will spearhead the psychometric evaluation.

“Given our division’s experience in supporting development of the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading in partnership with the Florida Department of Education and the Reading Assessment for Prescriptive Instructional Data with Lexia Learning, this felt like a natural extension of our work,” Petscher said.

In addition to showcasing QMI’s methodological expertise, the project also highlights the partnerships that make FSU a pioneering institution for multidisciplinary innovation.

“This project is an exciting synergy of methodological excellence that comes alive through multidisciplinary team science,” said Jim Clark, dean of the College of Social Work. “This is the kind of work we deeply value at the college, because it improves the well-being of children and families.”