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Early Childhood Special Education

Indicator 7: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Early Childhood Outcomes Reporting For Children In Preschool Special Education Programs

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State Data Collection Requirements

  1. Why is the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) collecting outcomes data?

    IDEA-2004 requires states to develop a six-year strategic State Performance Plan (SPP) that evaluates each state's efforts to implement the requirements and purposes of IDEA. In the SPP, each state is required to provide baseline data, establish performance targets, and outline improvement activities that respond to 20 indicators identified by the Federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). In addition, for each Indicator, the state is required to publicly report data at both the state and district levels.

    For Indicator 7, each state is required by OSEP to set a performance target to maximize the outcomes for young children three to five years of age with disabilities, in three federally required focus areas. These areas are:

    • Positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships)
    • Acquisition and use of knowledge and skills (language and literacy)
    • Use of appropriate behaviors to meet needs

    States set performance targets for the State Performance Plan (SPP), based on the reported data from local districts. Data is reported to OSEP each February in the Annual Performance Report (APR), comparing actual performance to state established targets.

LEA Data Collection Procedures

  1. How and when does ESE collect data from LEAs?

    ESE conducts local data collection activity through a cohort schedule for 6 of the indicators, including Indicator 7. Districts are assigned to one of 4 cohorts and data collection activities for each year are based on cohort assignment. Information about cohort assignments and data collection by year can be found online. Districts reporting data do so through a SmartForm uploaded to the ESE security portal that allows them to report data for all students in one document.

  2. When is Indicator 7 data reported to ESE?

    LEAs participate in entry data collection once every four years, except for Boston which reports every year due to its size. Exit data is reported over the following three years as children that were included in the entry data collection exit preschool or no longer require special education services.

  3. On which children will data be collected?

    Entry data:

    This year entry data will be collected on children who are entering special education preschool programs or are placed on IEPs for the first time for the entire school year - September through June 1st. Children who are "services only" should be included in entry data collection. The entry data is reported to ESE each June. If a student was receiving special education services prior to August 1, 2016 then entry data should not be reported but we strongly encourage you to collect and analyze data on these students locally.

    Exit data:

    Exit data will be reported on those children for whom entry data was collected, as long as the child received special education services for a minimum of 6 months and the child is exiting the program (leaving the preschool program or no longer on an IEP). This exit data is reported in June of each year until all students who participated in entry data collection have exited the program.

  4. Is the Indicator 7 process only for children with IEPs?

    Only students with IEPs should be included in data collection and reporting to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for special education Indicator 7. However, the Child Outcomes Summary Process can also be utilized for students without disabilities. Information on best practices in early childhood assessment, including regular education students, can be found on the Department of Early Education and Care's website.

  5. What data instrument will be used to collect the Indicator 7 data?

    Massachusetts uses the Child Outcomes Summary Process developed by the Early Childhood Outcomes Center (ECO), now a part of the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTAC). Starting in 2011, the ECO Center and ESE began using the term "Child Outcomes Summary Process" (rather than the Child Outcomes Summary Form or COSF) to emphasize that this measurement approach is a team process, not just a form. This process is not an assessment, but is intended to help assimilate information from a number of sources into one document. The form used to collect Indicator 7 data and that is completed during the Child Outcomes Summary Process (also referred to as "the COS Process") can be downloaded from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. Please see the section on the process below for more information.

  6. How should districts gather information about children?

    Districts may gather information in a number of ways. Examples of information sources include, but are not limited to:

    • observations and reports by family members, care providers, school and other service providers;
    • early intervention outcome reports;
    • developmental screenings (e.g., Ages and Stages);
    • curriculum-based assessments (e.g., AEPS);
    • norm-referenced assessments (e.g., BDI-2);
    • progress monitoring;
    • classroom or other environment observations; and
    • relevant information identified during assessment, planning, or IEP meetings.
  7. When should a child receiving special education preschool services be rated the first time (at entry)?

    The Child Outcome Summary Process should be used within four to six weeks (maximum) after the development of the IEP and the student's entry into the preschool program.

  8. What constitutes exit from the special education preschool program?

    When a child leaves the preschool program, for any reason, this is considered exiting the program. Examples of leaving are as follows: entering kindergarten, moving out of state, moving to a new district. However, for data reporting purposes exit data is collected only on the children who have reported entry data and have attended the special education preschool program for six months or more.

  9. What is the requirement for parent participation in making the rating decision?

    While there is no specific requirement for parental involvement in making rating decisions, ESE strongly urges districts to collect information and input from parents prior to making a rating decision. The rating process should be a team responsibility involving family members, other individuals familiar with the child in various settings and situations, and school personnel.

    School districts should advise parents of the rating requirement and the process the district uses to make rating decisions. Parents should be informed that the rating will be part of the child's file which they can review at any time. A parent may choose to not participate in the rating process. However, the district is still required to report entry and exit data on all children. Parental consent is not required for the rating process. Because families are also interested in their children's progress, ESE urges districts to share rating information with families.

Child Outcome Summary Process

  1. How do we know a child's true potential, what s/he could be expected to achieve?

    Each outcome rating compares a child to a typically developing child - not to the child's individual potential. The child's initial rating on his/her functioning in relation to typically developing children of the same age will be used to look at progress achieved during participation in the special education preschool program. A list of age-anchoring resources which outline age-expected development is available from ECTA.

  2. Are data collected on children who qualify in only one area such as communication disorder or orthopedically impaired or children who are receiving related services only outside of the preschool program?

    Yes. Children who only qualify in one area for special education services are subject to the same entry/exit reporting expectations as all other preschool children receiving special education services.

  3. The COSF and Summary Process seem subjective, so data may not be valid, reliable, or meaningful.

    The Child Outcomes Summary Form (COSF) is a tool to facilitate discussion about a child in each of the three outcome areas and to summarize information from multiple sources of information including in part formal assessments. The COSF provides a scaffold for discussion by members of the child outcomes summary process team. Discussion of the functional outcomes for each child receiving special education services will guide teams in making rating decisions.

  4. How can I use the assessments my program is already using to complete the Child Outcome Summary Process?

    The ECO Center cross-referenced the functional skills assessed by various published instruments with the three child outcomes addressed in the Child Outcomes Summary Process. These can be found on their website.You can also use other assessments not listed on the ECO Center website to inform the completion of the COSF.

  5. How do you complete the Child Outcomes Summary process for students who use assistive technology?

    If assistive technology or special accommodations are available in the child's everyday environments, then the answer should describe the child's functioning using those adaptations. However, if technology is only available in some environments or is not available for the child, rate the child's functioning with whatever assistance is usually present. Answers should reflect the child's actual functioning across a range of settings, not his/her capacity to function under ideal circumstances.

  6. How do we take children's cultural backgrounds into consideration through this process?

    It is important to take a child's culture into consideration with considering age expected functioning. For example, if the child is from a culture that has expectations that differ from published developmental milestones for when young children accomplish common developmental tasks, such as feeding themselves or dressing themselves, use the expectations for the child's culture to decide if child's functioning is at the level expected for his or her age.

  7. The box for describing progress on the COSF form is not large enough to include all the child has learned to do since the initial rating.

    There is no requirement to enter extended examples of the child's progress towards IEP goals. The progress description box allows the child's team to acknowledge and document progress the child is making, and again assist in the discussion for determining the appropriate rating.

  8. What do you do when children are rated 7 on the rating scale but you know that there are several family factors that might affect their development in the near future?

    A rating of a 7 indicates that there are no concerns about the child's functioning in this area among any members of the Child Outcomes Summary Process team. A rating of a 6 indicates that a child's functioning is generally considered appropriate in this area there are some significant concerns about the child's functioning that are substantial enough to suggest monitoring or possible additional support. You may want to consider a rating of a 6 for this child.

  9. What do you do when there is a rating disagreement amongst the team? (a rating of 3 vs. 4; a rating of 2 vs. 3).

    The Child Outcomes Summary Process Team should refer to age-anchoring resources, the decision tree, and the definitions of the outcomes ratings when trying to determine a student's rating on an outcome. The focus should be on a child's overall functioning across settings and situations. Functioning that is displayed rarely or in unique circumstances should have little bearing on the rating. Districts should develop a local level policy for how to handle rare cases of ratings disagreements (eg: majority, supervisor, additional information, etc.).

  10. Many of a child's skills we assess overlap across the 3 goals. How do we document that?

    Some of a child's skills may impact progress in each of the three outcomes. For example, a communication delay may impact a child's ability to develop positive social relationships and impact their ability to take appropriate action to meet their needs. It is important to document how these skills impact a child's functioning across settings and situations in each of the three outcome areas and to determine appropriate ratings based on the child's functioning within each specific outcome.

  11. Will training and technical assistance be provided to preschool personnel on the Child Outcome Summary Process and data collection process?

    The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center has developed a self-paced online module on the Child Outcomes Summary Process. For training requests or technical assistance, please contact Special Education Planning and Policy unit at 781-338-3375 or specialeducation@doe.mass.edu.

Questions About the Entry Data Collection Process

  1. How is this entry data collection changed for this indicator?

    Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, ESE moved to a year-long entry data collection cycle in which districts collect entry data throughout the entire school year on students starting preschool special education services. Districts are required to collect entry data on students ages 3-5 starting special education services from September 1 through June 1. While entry data should be collected within 4-6 weeks of a child starting special education services, this data will be due to ESE on or before June 30 of each year.

    The smartform for this data collection activity will be available to participating districts at the beginning of the school year through the ESE Security Portal. Districts are encouraged to use this form locally to record entry data as it is collected throughout the school year.

    Districts participating in this data collection activity are also required to submit exit data on any student receiving at least six months of special education services for whom entry data was collected. Exit data is collected as students exit the program (transition to kindergarten, discontinue special education services, or move out of district). This data should be collected within four to six weeks of a child's exit from the program and is due on or before June 30 of each year.

    With the shift to a year-long entry data collection cycle it is possible that some students will enter and exit preschool special education services over the course of the school year. For these students, entry and exit data should be reported to ESE as part of the June data submission requirement.

  2. When is entry data due to ESE and how should it be submitted?

    Entry data is due to ESE on or before June 30 of each year. All data should be submitted through the ESE Security Portal and under no circumstance should Indicator 7 data be sent via email as it contains personally identifiable information about students.

  3. What should I do if I no students entered my program during the specified timeframe?

    If no students aged 3-5 started special education services during the specified timeframe please email specialeducation@doe.mass.edu with a statement to that effect.

Questions About the Spring Exit Data Collection Process

  1. When is exit data due to ESE and how should it be submitted?

    Exit data will be due to ESE no later than June 30 of each year for districts who are required to report exit data. All data should be submitted through the ESE Security Portal and under no circumstance should Indicator 7 data be sent via email as it contains personally identifiable information about students.

  2. What should I do if I have no students to report this year?

    If no students have "exited" since the last exit data collection period please email specialeducation@doe.mass.edu with a statement to that effect prior to the due date.

  3. What does the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education do with the Indicator 7 data once it is submitted?

    IDEA-2004 requires states to develop a six-year strategic State Performance Plan (SPP) that evaluates each state's efforts to implement the requirements and purposes of IDEA. In the SPP, each state is required to provide baseline data, establish performance targets, and outline improvement activities that respond to 20 indicators identified by the Federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), including Indicator 7. Data is reported to OSEP each February in the Annual Performance Report (APR), comparing actual performance to state established targets.

    When ESE receives local-level Indicator 7 data the submission is reviewed to ensure all of the required information is included and that the information provided is consistent with expected patterns. Data is also analyzed on a district-level and state-wide level.

  4. How do I access my program's Indicator 7 data?

    Indicator 7 data is submitted through the ESE security portal. District administrators should have access to data that has been previously submitted to ESE. In addition, the Child Outcomes Summary Form should be kept as part of a student's temporary record, as defined in 603 CMR 23.00.

Additional Resources

The following additional resources are intended for informational purposes only.

View HTML Page
The ESE Early Childhood Special Education
View HTML Page
Information about the Child Outcomes Summary Process in Massachusetts
View External Link
The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center
View External Link
Child Outcomes Summary Process Self-Paced Module (New Training Resource)
View External Link
Resources for filling out the COSF form (including the Decision Tree)

Who Should I Contact If I Have Additional Questions?

Technical assistance is available via e-mail and telephone from the Special Education Planning and Policy Unit. For training requests or technical assistance, please email specialeducation@doe.mass.edu, or call (781) 338-3375.



Last Updated: September 27, 2017
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