Federal Standard for the Correction of Noncompliance with Special Education Laws and Regulations within One Year
|To:||Superintendents of Schools, Charter School Leaders, Special Education Directors, and Directors of Approved Private Special Education Schools|
|From:||Jeffrey Nellhaus, Acting Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education|
|Date:||April 25, 2008|
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) recently submitted to the US Department of Education its Annual Performance Report for Special Education (Report) and the State Performance Plan (Plan) revisions. These documents can be found at http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/spp/
The Plan, which covers the period from 2006-2011, was developed in accordance with federal requirements and responds to the 20 performance indicators identified by the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for all states to address. While each of the 20 performance indicators is important to address, at this time I want to draw your attention to Indicator 15: Identification and Correction of Noncompliance.
Indicator 15: Identification and Correction of Noncompliance
The federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has set a one-year standard for the correction of noncompliance findings as identified through our Problem Resolution System (PRS), our Coordinated Program Reviews (CPR), and our Mid-Cycle Reviews (MCR). This means that within one year of an area of noncompliance being identified, the school district, charter school, or approved private special education school must correct the area fully. The federal time standard is based on the principle that students with disabilities are entitled to receive special education and related services in a timely manner.
The data in our recent Report under this Indicator are as follows:
1,125 findings of noncompliance were made through the PRS, CPR, or MCR system between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. These findings include, but are not limited to, having required written policies and procedures, conducting required staff training, meeting timelines for the delivery of services to students, having required IEP Team composition and attendance, informing parents of their rights in their native language, and having appropriately licensed staff.
Of the above, 707 findings of noncompliance were corrected within one year of the finding, for an overall one-year rate of correction of 63%. (It is important to note that the Department continues to work with districts, charter schools, and approved private special education schools until all findings have been corrected.)
Our further analysis of these data identified a 100% one-year correction rate for complaints that were filed with our Problem Resolution System. This is commendable and we thank you for your ongoing cooperation in helping to resolve complaints within one year. We are concerned, however, that findings of noncompliance from our Coordinated Program Reviews or Mid-Cycle Reviews often take more than one year to be corrected fully. I recognize that meeting the one-year standard for correction may be a challenging timeframe for some findings, particularly those requiring physical facilities changes, the recruitment and hiring of qualified staff in license areas where there are statewide shortages, or the reallocation of funds late in the school year. However, we need to do a much better job of correcting any finding within a year and to put systems in place at the state and local levels in order to sustain compliance. It should be a goal for us all to be in full compliance with all special education laws and regulations.
I have asked our Program Quality Assurance Services and Special Education Planning and Policy Development units to make it a top priority to improve districts' correction of noncompliance promptly and certainly within the one-year standard set by the federal Office of Special Education Programs. OSEP is charged with making a determination related to each state's performance and the compliance outcomes for students with disabilities. Our continued receipt of federal funds is dependent on strong monitoring and compliance records. To achieve this, we will ask you to make this a top priority as well.
As part of our work to meet this federal requirement, the Department intends to reach out to your professional organizations to form a focus group to discuss ways we can best assist you in meeting this responsibility. We want to hear from you on what help is needed and discuss who can provide the needed assistance. We are in the process of conducting an analysis of the areas of compliance that seem to be the most difficult to correct within one year. Once we have completed this review, we will convene the focus group.
I thank you for your ongoing support and your efforts on behalf of all of your students.
|cc:||Darlene Lynch, Director, Program Quality Assurance Services|
Marcia Mittnacht, State Director of Special Education
Carole Thomson, Associate Commissioner