Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Lori Korinek


The study investigated the construct of eligibility decision congruence as it applied to professional decision-makers for children with suspected developmental delays. Professional status and judgement format were the key variables of interest. Three distinct professional groups were surveyed: school administrators, psychologists, and social workers. The control group used professional judgement to determine eligibility, whereas the experimental group used a structured worksheet and eligibility criteria. One hundred and twenty subjects participated in a simulation of the eligibility decision process. Each subject was given five case summaries. A correct determination of eligibility was established for each case based on the decision of one multidisciplinary team and application of the Virginia Department of Education criteria. The control group received a form containing five distinct eligibility outcomes to select from in their determination of eligibility, whereas the experimental group received the same choices as part of the structured worksheet. Results from the investigation yielded a moderate level of congruence among the three professional groups. A weak positive correlation was also found with number of years experience on an eligibility team with the total number correct determinations of eligibility. Use of the structured format for determining eligibility improved the accuracy rate for the experimental group in one case with missing assessment components. Marginal congruence was noted in three of the five cases, leading to the conclusion that the professionals failed to use the criteria or applied the criteria incorrectly in their determination of eligibility for preschool services. Marginal to high degrees of accuracy were found in four of the five cases presented. The case with the lowest accuracy rate resulted in a false-negative error in which a child with disabilities was made ineligible for services. The overall accuracy rate in determining eligibility was 70.34%. Limitations and implications for further research were discussed.



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