Attention Administrators of Special Education re: Students in Out-of-District Placements- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Family & Community

Attention Administrators of Special Education re: Students in Out-of-District Placements

TO: Administrators of Special Education
FROM: Marcia Mittnacht, State Director of Special Education
DATE: December 3, 2004

I am writing at this time because your district is about to provide the Department with confirmation of your special education "count" as part of your obligation to meet federal data requirements. I am asking you to very carefully review data provided by your district for each student that your district has placed in an out-of-district setting.

In a memo from the Commissioner on July 6 to Directors of Approved Private Special Education Schools (copied to public school administrators), you will recall that notice was given regarding apparent problems with MCAS participation by students in many private special education schools. At least some of the students identified as non-participants in MCAS were subsequently determined to be the result of inaccurate reporting of SIMS data for these students by their sending districts. A summary of this memo is provided below.

Summary of July 6 Commissioner's Memo
The Commissioner outlined several concerns in his July 6 memo regarding participation in the 2003 MCAS by students in out-of-district placements, particularly those attending approved private special education schools. Briefly, those concerns were as follows:

  • A small, but significant, number of students in approved private special education schools do not appear to have participated in 2003 MCAS, based on a comparison of MCAS data and the information reported for these students in the Student Information Management System (SIMS) in March 2003;
  • A lower-than-expected number of students in these placements participated in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt), considering the comparative severity of disabilities and the high level of need for services by students in these settings; and
  • A full discussion of various MCAS participation options may not have occurred at all IEP Team meetings for these students; and
  • A small but significant number of students in these placements have not, as yet, been given ten-digit State Assigned Student Identifiers (SASID's).

Follow-up actions taken by the Department
Since July, the Spring 2004 MCAS participation data have been provided to approved private special education schools. These data reports include a list of students enrolled in tested grades who do not appear to have participated in 2004 MCAS, but were enrolled in a tested grade, according to March 2004 SIMS reports sent to the Department by the sending district.

Approved Private Special Education Schools have been asked to review their school's data and report to the Department on the status of each student regarding their apparent non-participation in Spring 2004 MCAS; and to inform sending districts when SIMS information for the student(s) has been reported incorrectly. One or more approved private schools may have already contacted your district to correct SIMS inaccuracies for students attending their schools (i.e., for students reported in the incorrect grade or placement).

Soon, the Department will also provide information to educational collaboratives regarding apparent data discrepancies for students in those placements.

The Department requests that you take the following actions
I am supporting this effort by asking you to review the current SIMS status of all students in your district who attend out-of-district placements, including all approved and unapproved private special education schools, in and outside Massachusetts; and educational collaboratives. Please ensure that the following information is reported accurately by the district in all future SIMS reports:

  • all students have a State Assigned Student Identifier (ten-digit SASID number). The sending school district is responsible for obtaining SASID's for all students in out-of-district placements
  • all students are currently enrolled in the placement being reported in SIMS
  • all students are reported in the correct grade for SIMS, since this is the grade in which they are scheduled to take statewide assessments, and for which the district is held accountable
  • >each student participates in MCAS using the most appropriate assessment format (i.e., testing, either with or without accommodations; or MCAS-Alt)

In addition, we ask that you inform your out-of-district placement coordinator of the necessity to accurately report all students in SIMS; and take necessary steps to ensure that the coordinator provides updated information on a regular basis to the district's SIMS contact person regarding the enrollment status of all students in out-of-district placements. Your SIMS contact person can view the district's current SIMS student data file on the Department's secure internet web page.

Please address questions regarding this memo to the Student Assessment Office at (781) 338-3625. Questions regarding SIMS may be addressed to the Data Collection Help Line at (781) 338-3282.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter.

Last Updated: December 2, 2004

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