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Special Education

State Special Education Determination

To:Superintendents of Schools, Administrators of Special Education, and Other Interested Parties
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D.
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Date:July 30, 2010

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My office recently received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) responding to the annual progress report we filed with it in February, under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Each year, the state report to OSEP includes data and information about progress in meeting the measurable and rigorous targets established in the State Performance Plan for Special Education. This year's report included data from Federal Fiscal Year 2008 (the 2008-2009 school year), which is the fourth year in a six-year reporting cycle. Based on its review, OSEP determined that Massachusetts continues to "need assistance" in meeting its Part B targets1.

As background, federal special education law has four possible categories of determination. A state's determination may be: (1) meets requirements and purposes of IDEA; (2) needs assistance in implementing the requirements of IDEA; (3) needs intervention implementing the requirements of IDEA; and (4) needs substantial intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA. In order for OSEP to find that a state "meets requirements" in all 20 areas of the State Performance Plan, the state must demonstrate at least 95 percent compliance or better in each indicator area, and all data must be timely and accurate.

This is the fourth year that Massachusetts has been placed in the second category: "needs assistance." OSEP's determination was based in large part on the state's procedures for verifying correction of identified noncompliance. (See OSEP's Timely Correction Memorandum 09-022 for additional information.) OSEP has instructed Massachusetts to receive technical assistance in this specific area to improve its performance. By giving this instruction, rather than ordering more stringent enforcement actions, such as conditioning the state's use of special education funds, OSEP recognized that Massachusetts continues to demonstrate a high level of performance in many areas, and has continued to make meaningful progress toward meeting its measurable and rigorous targets.

The state's progress is due in large part to the cooperation and hard work that district leaders have provided in meeting compliance standards under Part B. From FY 2007 to FY 2008, the state improved its performance in 11 of the 20 indicator areas. The most significant improvement was in the area of timely correction of identified noncompliance (within one year of a finding). The state's performance on this indicator, Indicator 15, improved 23.2 percentage points in a one year period to 85.5 percent in FY 2008. We appreciate districts' efforts toward ensuring timely correction of noncompliance.

While correction of noncompliance within one year is the greatest area of improvement for the state, we recognize that additional work in this area is needed. OSEP has informed Massachusetts that the state should revisit its procedures for verifying correction of noncompliance for all compliance indicators. This year, we are reviewing our policies and procedures for verifying the corrective actions that districts have taken to ensure that they are compliant with specific regulatory requirements and that the districts have corrected each individual case of noncompliance, unless that student is no longer in the district's or program's jurisdiction. We will be creating clearer procedures to document the state's process for verifying correction of noncompliance. In the FY 2009 report3, we will be providing OSEP with the information it needs to determine that identified noncompliance has been corrected, and the state has verified correction in accordance with federal procedures.

I look forward to further our partnership to continue to address the needs of all students with disabilities and their families. Thank you for your assistance in these important activities. Should you wish additional information, please contact Marcia Mittnacht, State Director for Special Education, at mmmittnacht@doe.mass.edu.

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1 The performance report process for meeting special education targets is similar to the process that the Department uses to make annual determinations for each school district. Additional information about district determinations is available at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=5545. The full text of OSEP's determination letter is available at: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/allyears.html#ma

2 OSEP Timely Correction Memo 09-02 (Posted 10.17.08) available at: http://spp-apr-calendar.rrfcnetwork.org/explorer/view/id/446/?4

3 The next Annual Performance Report is due to OSEP on February 1, 2011.



Last Updated: August 6, 2010
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