In 1984, the Wisconsin Regional Service Network (RSN) was developed through the collaborative efforts of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the state’s Cooperative Education Services Agencies (CESAs) to meet the educational needs of students identified as having disabilities. The RSN includes representatives from each of the 12 CESAs. In a structure designed to be mutually supportive, DPI works through the RSN to organize and coordinate regional professional development opportunities for LEAs. The RSN supports the work of DPI’s special education team by providing ongoing and systematic communication and regional technical support to LEAS in the areas of compliance with special education law, improvement of LEA performance on State Performance Plan (SPP) indicators, and assistance in implementing special education initiatives.
In 2011, CESA 3, the fiscal agent for the RSN, contracted with AIR to conduct a formative evaluation of this statewide network. The primary goals of the evaluation were to obtain information about the specific types of training, technical assistance, and informational products provided by each of the CESAs to school and district staff and to identify major successes and challenges of the RSN as well as perceived strengths and weakness of RSN structure and processes. To address these goals, AIR conducted in-depth interviews with key RSN personnel, including the RSN directors at each of the CESAs.
Through the interviews, AIR identified several RSN strengths and areas for improvement. The most frequently mentioned strengths included collaboration and communication within the RSN, effective dissemination of information by DPI, and improvements in RSN trainings on SPP indicators and the LEA procedural compliance self-assessment. The evaluation team also presented DPI with several suggested areas for improvement, which included greater clarity about the goals of the RSN, less top-down decision making by DPI that sometimes excludes RSN directors from key decisions about network activities, and more effective use of time at meetings between DPI staff and RSN directors.