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Accountability, Partnership, & Assistance

Title I / Federal Support Programs

Alignment of Accountability and Assistance Level Classifications with Determinations of Need for Special Education Technical Assistance or Intervention (2011-12 & 2012-13)

NEW: September 24, 2012 Update


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) is committed to aligning its systems of differentiated accountability, support, and intervention. To that end, beginning with the 2012-13 school year, the classification describing each district's need for special education technical assistance or intervention will be aligned with its state accountability and assistance level. The only exception to this rule will be when a district has significant non-compliance issues; in that case, it may be assigned to a more serious special education designation.


The U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires Massachusetts to determine which districts (including single school districts) have specific needs for technical assistance or intervention in the area of special education based on five categories:

  • Meets Requirements (MR)
  • Meets Requirements-At Risk (MRAR)
  • Needs Technical Assistance (NTA)
  • Needs Intervention (NI)
  • Needs Substantial Intervention (NSI)

In 2011-12 and earlier, districts received a state accountability and assistance level of 1-5 indicating its placement on the district framework for accountability and assistance, as well as a special education determination of 1-5 indicating its need for special education technical assistance or intervention. Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, the five special education determination categories will correspond to the district's accountability and assistance level in the areas of performance and progress. These aligned classifications will help signal whether outcomes for all students in the district indicate progress, including that of students with disabilities, or whether technical assistance and/or intervention is needed to improve outcomes for all children, especially students with disabilities. Because the special education determinations must also take into account compliance criteria, in some instances a district may receive a more serious determination of need for special education technical assistance or intervention. For example, a Level 1 district with significant compliance issues may be classified as Level 1-NSI.

Special Education Technical Assistance and Intervention

The level of technical assistance and intervention required in a district will vary based on the circumstances. For example, a district classified into Level 1 or 2 will, as a general rule, continue to proactively analyze disaggregated data for all student groups, including students with disabilities, to ensure the district's interventions and supports are appropriately aligned to address needs. Conversely, a district classified into Level 3, 4, or 5 may require more direct engagement with ESE to ensure that all funds, including IDEA and Title I, Part A funds, address the needs of the district's lowest-achieving students and/or lowest-performing schools.

Timeline for Classifying Districts into Accountability and Assistance Levels and Determination of Need for Special Education Technical Assistance or Intervention

In June 2012 ESE will provide districts with provisional level classifications for the district and its schools that are based on data from 2009-2011, three of the four years of data that will be incorporated into the preliminary level determinations that ESE will release in August. In all instances, the district's special education determination will align with the district’s provisional level classification; any technical assistance or intervention activities provided over the summer by ESE will be based on information from this provisional assignment.

ESE will first release 2012-13 school and district accountability and assistance levels to districts in mid-August once the complete 2012 English language arts, mathematics, and science MCAS results are available. The data released confidentially to each district in August will be considered preliminary until districts have had an opportunity to report potential MCAS discrepancies and ESE has had a chance to process those discrepancies. ESE expects to publicly release the official 2012-13 accountability determinations in early- to mid-September; at the same time, special education compliance information from the 2011-12 school year will also be available and may affect the district's special education determination. All subsequent technical assistance and interventions will be provided based on this official designation.

Compliance Criteria

When ESE considers special education compliance information, four factors are reviewed: (1) a district's data on all Massachusetts Special Education State Performance Plan (SPP) compliance indicators; (2) whether a district submitted valid, reliable, and timely data for all SPP indicators; (3) any district specific non-compliance findings from Coordinated Program Reviews or Mid-Cycle Reviews over the past two years; and (4) any uncorrected noncompliance from other sources (including complaints or hearings). All districts must meet state and federal special education requirements and, if any specific areas of non-compliance with special education requirements are identified, the district must engage in corrective action(s), regardless of the level of determination. However, if non-compliance is significant or if the district continues to have issues despite efforts to correct non-compliance, ESE will reclassify the district into a more serious special education determination category. Typically, no more than ten districts receive reassignment of the special education determination based on non-compliance.

Additional Analysis of Special Education Data for Districts Classified into Levels 3, 4, or 5

Once the official 2012-13 accountability determinations are released in early- to mid-September, ESE will perform a secondary analysis of the special education data for all districts classified into Levels 3, 4 and 5: (A) whether there appears to be an over-identification of low income students as eligible for special education; and (B) whether there appears to be an inordinate separation of students with disabilities across low income and/or racial groups. Recent analyses of statewide special education data indicate that low income students have a higher risk of becoming identified as eligible for special education. In addition, special education-eligible low income students and students in certain racial or ethnic groups have a higher risk of being placed in substantially separate classrooms where the likelihood of lower performance outcomes is increased. ESE will review the data in these areas for all districts assigned to Levels 3-5 to determine if intervention or assistance is warranted.

We hope that as we move towards greater alignment of our systems for differentiated accountability, support, and intervention that districts will be able to better coordinate the allocation and use of district resources, including (but not limited to) all federal funds. For questions about special education determinations, please contact the Office of Special Education Planning and Policy at For questions about accountability and assistance level classifications, please contact the Office of School Improvement Grant Programs at

Last Updated: June 20, 2012  
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