Internal Quality Assurance System

UCEDD Promising Practice Brief

July 25, 2008

A Project of the Center for Disabilities, University of South Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences Department of Pediatrics 


What makes a promising practice?

An innovative UCEDD practice is identified by Administration on Developmental Disabilities through the MTARS (Monitoring and Technical Assistance Review System) grantee monitoring process.  An innovative practice is noticeably superior to what is regarded as common practice among grantees and may be a research or evaluation project, policy analysis, data assessment, outreach initiative or awareness effort.  It may provide direct service or supported opportunity to people with developmental disability, indirect support to family and community care givers or interdisciplinary training for students, fellows, professionals and policymakers.  It may involve leadership development, community work or clinical practice.

While innovative practices are unique in their workings, each shares these common characteristics:

  • It reaches the population of focus
  • It is an effort characterized by quality
  • Its impact is measurable
  • It addresses the aspirations of individuals
  • It is respectful in its methods
  • It safeguards those it intends to benefit


Why is the Internal Quality Assurance System a Promising Practice?

The Internal Quality Assurance System described below is notable because of its comprehensive nature (it includes evaluation of all core function areas) and provides a means for collecting evaluation data to create a full picture of the Center for Disabilities performance.  This robust evaluation informs the Center's leadership, its Consumer Advisory Committee, its parent university, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities through annual reporting, of program achievements and areas for improvement in order to assess the Center's impact on the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. 

The Internal Quality Assurance System was identified as promising during the 2005 MTARS Reviews.


Project Description

Internal Quality Assurance System (IQAS) grew from both the goal of the Center for Disabilities to assure quality programs and a University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine directive that all university programs develop internal program evaluative measures.  The ultimate outcome for the Center's evaluation is identifying whether people with developmental disabilities in South Dakota have moved toward more independence and self-sufficiency than their current status in these areas.  The Center for Disabilities' evaluation strategy is a systematic approach for synthesizing various program evaluations for a comprehensive management review of the Center's achievement of the goals set forth in its five-year plan as a University Center of Excellence.  

IQAS brings together evaluations of academic training programs and participant satisfaction from community education and service.  The evaluation criteria examine the delivery and quality of programs and assess whether programs have contributed to advocacy, capacity building, and systems change.  These assessments of program quality are then paired with knowledge-based assessments, outputs recording by objective areas, including NIRS data, and anecdotal information into a centralized, internal Management Information System (MIS) to form a complete, formative evaluation of Center activities.  This formative evaluation is further supplemented with a summative evaluation that focuses on the success of improvements in the lives of people with developmental disabilities and effective collaborations.  These summative measures enrich the data from the formative evaluation to gain a more complete picture of the impact of Center programs on the population of focus-people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The integration of all of these evaluation mechanisms into the IQAS is represented in a schematic chart contained in the System Description document, available for download below.  This graphic represents the flow of information from the core function areas into the comprehensive Internal Quality Assurance System.  In addition to evaluation reviews related to specific programs, the Center's evaluation staff provides reports quarterly on this information to the Center's Core Directors and the Executive Director for review to determine if Center goals are being achieved and to identify areas for improvement.  The Center also reviews these data sets twice a year with the Consumer Advisory Committee to keep them informed of Center initiatives and achievements and to solicit their input.  The Center leadership also uses this meeting to engage the Council in discussion of specific concern areas in order to collaborate in finding solutions.

Annually, the Center reports the results of this comprehensive evaluation through the UCEDD Annual Report Template.  While the template provides a guide for reporting much of the information synthesized in the IQAS, Center staff have found that through IQAS they now have data on a wider set of criteria than the template requires and so utilize the appendices option in the report to further provide the Administration on Developmental Disabilities a richer picture of Center activities, program improvements, and overall achievement.  The Center also reports these results to local, state and national professionals, policymakers, families and people with disabilities through its annual executive summary.  In its fullness, the Internal Quality Assurance System serves the leadership of the Center for Disabilities, its parent university, the Consumer Advisory Committee, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities by providing a complete and robust evaluation of the Center's fulfillment of its core functions and its role in improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families.


Suggestions for replicability

The IQAS system could be easily replicated into any UCEDD in its entirety or by subcomponents only.  The primary aspect of the system is a process of QA collection through a variety of forms disseminated to participants.  The forms are created to be accessible and easy to complete.  The Center ensures that each form asks the same specific questions about satisfaction and customer service; however, other aspects of the forms can be easily modified to gather project specific data.  The internal MIS is a database system that allows for changes to meet any reporting needs.  The evaluation staff uses a basic, easy to use and comprehend format for reporting data back to the Center's Core Directors and Executive Director for quarterly reviews.  This format can be adjusted to meet the needs of any reporting requirements as it is based on the goals and objectives for the 5-year plan.


For More Information

Kristen Blaschke, MA, Development Director

Center for Disabilities

Sanford School of Medicine of The University of South Dakota