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   IDEA 2004

Archived Information

Special Education

The Massachusetts Annual Performance Report: 2002-2003

Executive Summary

The Massachusetts Annual Performance Report: Students with Disabilities School Year 2002-03 provides an overview of activities related to special education specific to federally identified clusters for the period beginning July 1, 2002 and ending June 31, 2003. In the past, this report was conducted every two years and was referred to as the Massachusetts Biennial Performance Report. However, under new reporting requirements, this analysis will now be conducted and produced annually and will be referred to as the Massachusetts Annual Performance Report (APR). This report responds to the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), section 34 CFR 80.40.

The APR provides data and information related to identified goals and system implementation and incorporates other federally mandated reports as a tool in maintaining and improving systemic performance. Throughout this report, there are several key pieces that are integral to the understanding of Special Education in Massachusetts:

  • The Massachusetts Special Education Regulations were revised in January 2000. The majority of analyses in this report are based on data collected after the change. There exist, however, some variations in data that are due primarily to the changes in regulations and the time required to understand and implement these changes.

  • In an effort to increase the validity of reported data and to create systems of collection that enforce timely and accurate reporting, there have been significant changes in the data collection systems in school year 2002-03 (noted throughout this report). Overall, school year 2002-03 is considered a transitioning year since the State moved districts from aggregate collections to student-level collections and greatly refined already implemented student-level collections. In its second year of collecting student-level data for the Federal Child Count (Table 1) and the Educational Environment/Placement (Table 3) data, DESE made multiple revisions to the collection system, including additional validations, data checks, and refining of placement and other definitions to ensure more accurate data. Also, DESE transitioned districts from reporting aggregate data to submitting student-level submissions for other required collections including exit status through the Student Information Management System (SIMS) and student exclusion/suspension information through the student-level exclusion/suspension on-line submissions.

  • Coordinated Program Reviews (CPR) are a central part of the data collection and analyses in this report. CPRs are reviews in which DESE visits a school district, reviews documentation, interviews personnel, evaluates the districts' procedures around various state and federal standards, and works with districts to develop corrective action plans if required. All school districts, charter schools, and approved private special education schools in the Commonwealth are monitored through the DESE's CPR system on a six-year cycle with an additional mid-cycle follow-up visit (Mid-Cycle Review) taking place three years after the initial CPR. The CPR and Mid-Cycle Review data provided throughout this report represents the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) that participated in either a CPR or Mid-Cycle Review within the identified school year (unless otherwise noted). Consequently, when examining such baseline/trend data, one is not examining the Commonwealth's overall compliance rate each year but rather is determining the compliance rate of the districts visited that particular year. In future reporting years, we anticipate being able to measure progress within specific LEAs by comparing their Mid-Cycle Review data to their initial CPR data.


This report is organized into five cluster areas defined by OSEP. Within each cluster area, the APR includes federal requirements, the Commonwealth's assessment in collaborating with a steering committee, the Massachusetts Biennial Performance Report's areas of interest, and other pertinent data. The APR also integrates the state's self-assessment, or Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP), which identifies key areas of focus and improvement plan. These areas are referred to as CIP Areas throughout the APR. In addition, the APR includes the topics of significance identified by a letter dated October 2003 from the Office of Special Education Programs' (OSEP) which details the results from OSEP's verification visit to Massachusetts in July 2003. These areas are identified as OSEP Areas throughout the report.

Content of Each Cluster Area

Each cluster area responds to a federal inquiry consisting of underlying compliance components, identifies an overall goal and measurable targets, gauges performance through indicators established for the reporting period, details the reasons for slippage and/or progress, and identifies planned activities for school year 2003-04. Goals or targets of students with disabilities that are consistent with the goals and targets of students without disabilities are noted by an asterisk.

Cluster Area Summaries

Cluster 1 - General Supervision
Cluster I: General Supervision examines the goal that effective general supervision of the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is ensured through the State Education Agency's (SEA) utilization of mechanisms that result in all eligible children with disabilities having an opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This cluster specifically details the general supervision instruments and procedures (including monitoring, complaint and hearing resolutions, complaint investigations, mediations, and due process hearings, etc.) used by DESE to ensure that federal special education requirements are met. The cluster reviews DESE's indicators of its effectiveness in correcting IDEA noncompliance in a timely manner and identifies and considers the instruments and procedures used to identify and remediate systemic issues.

In addition, this cluster evaluates the availability of administrators, teachers, related service providers, paraprofessionals, and other providers to meet the identified educational needs of all children with disabilities and details the DESE's procedures and practices to ensure timely and accurate collection and reporting of data.

This cluster ends with a discussion on DESE's efforts to increase the validity of reported data and to create systems of collections that enforce timely and accurate reporting including DESE's movement toward an entire student-level collection of data, the consolidation of multiple reports, the addition of validations, and the clarification of required data (including educational environment/placement data) via training sessions, web support and technical assistance.

Cluster II - Early Childhood Transition
Cluster II: Early Childhood Transition examines the goal that all children who are eligible for Part B services must receive special education and related services by their third birthday. This cluster specifically investigates whether local educational agencies (LEAs) initiate and have methods of ensuring that students who are referred by Part C (Early Intervention) and found eligible for Part B special education services have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in effect by the date of their third birthday. This cluster also details the results of the Coordinated Program Reviews (CPR) that LEA's have appropriate methods of outreach and continuous liaison with other local agencies in order to identify students in need of special education.

Cluster III - Parent Involvement
Cluster III: Parent Involvement focuses on the goal that the provision of a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities is facilitated through parent involvement in special education services. Specifically, this cluster reviews data related to reviewing LEAs policies and procedures to initiate and have appropriate methods of ensuring that parents are invited to either attend or participate in Team meetings in alternative ways and identifies the counts of parents of students with disabilities who are invited to participate in Team meetings over a specific period of time for those communities participating in CPRs each year.

Cluster IV - Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment
Cluster IV: Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment (FAPE) examines data related to the goal that all children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that promotes a high quality education and prepares them for employment and independent living. This cluster remains the largest of all the clusters since it encompasses a variety of FAPE issues.

First, it explores the policies and procedures of LEAs to address issues of disproportionality in their district and the methods of DESE to ensure appropriate local policies. Disproportionality refers to the over or under representation of specific groups of students, including students with disabilities, in selected categories. Second, this section details efforts to ensure that the percentage of children with disabilities, by race/ethnicity, receiving special education is proportionate to the percentage of children, by race/ethnicity, in the general population and their educational environments.

Next, this section examines the high school dropout rates for children with disabilities as compared to dropout rates for nondisabled children. This area also examines the graduation rate for students with disabilities as compared to the graduation rate for nondisabled students and discusses Massachusetts specific considerations related to our state MCAS graduation requirement, the competency determination rate, and our data collection activities. Fifth, suspension/expulsion data are examined in relation to the rates for children with disabilities as compared to nondisabled children.

This cluster also analyzes student performance as it relates to the requirement for proficiency (under NCLB) and considers the achievement to date of students with disabilities in English Language Arts and Mathematics using data from our Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS. Specifically, this cluster explores the participation and performance of students with disabilities compared to nondisabled students in English/Language Arts and Mathematics and meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and the AYP determination process.

Next, this section reviews data related to placement of students with disabilities. DESE notes that our data in this area are longitudinally challenged as our data definitions of placement only recently were revised to be consistent with the federal placement definitions.

The FAPE cluster concludes with an examination of the quality of Massachusetts' preschool classrooms.

Cluster V - Secondary Transition

Cluster V: Secondary Transition details DESE's efforts and data related to the goal of ensuring that students with disabilities have effective and appropriate preparation for post-school activities, such as employment or education. DESE details its efforts in this area and highlights this area as a key initiative area for our statewide continuous improvement plan.

DESE is pleased to present this data in this comprehensive form and format and will use the APR for our discussions of Massachusetts' efforts and initiatives in special education. We are scheduled to discuss the APR with our state special education advisory council in April and with our full state special education steering committee in June 2004. It is additionally DESE's intention to post the APR on our website and make it widely available for public discussion.

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Last Updated: May 17, 2004
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