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Early Childhood Special Education

Strategic Areas

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Strategic Plan
  1. Families
    The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) support families and districts to develop partnerships. Parents are equal partners in all steps of the IEP process. Family engagement is essential for improving outcomes for young children with disabilities. ECSE staff collaborates with several internal and external partners to provide resources for the development of parent and community involvement in education. The following links can be useful to assist families and schools build partnerships.
    1. Guidance and Resources
      1. Download PDF Document The IEP Process Guide
        The IEP Process guide was developed to lead the reader through the revised IEP process as well as suggest sound practices.
      2. The Federation to Children for Special Needs
        The Federation for Children with Special Needs provides information, support, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, their professional partners, and their communities. We are committed to listening to and learning from families, and encouraging full participation in community life by all people, especially those with disabilities.
      3. A Parent's Guide to Special Education
        The Guide is meant to serve as a resource for parents, and the organizations that serve them. The Guide contains the most current and accurate information available regarding the special education system in Massachusetts. It is the hope of the Federation that this publication will assist families in obtaining the supports and services that their children with disabilities need to succeed in school.
      4. Download PDF Document Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals
        The Fundamentals define guidelines and research-based practices for the engagement of families, schools, and communities in supporting equitable learning opportunities for students.
      5. Additional Resources for Family and Community Engagement
  2. Early Childhood Transitions

    The Department collects data and reports to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) on the implementation of the IEP by 3 years of age for children who have been found eligible for special education and who have been referred from an Early Intervention (EI) program.

    Transition to Preschool or Kindergarten is an exciting and challenging time for young children and their families. Resources in early childhood transition and knowledge of best practices will make the transition easier and ensure positive outcomes for children.

    1. Guidance and Resources
      1. Early Intervention
        Early Intervention, in the Department of Public Health, provides family-centered services to help children who qualify to develop the skills they will need to continue to grow into happy and healthy members of the community
      2. A Guide to Best Practices in Early Childhood Transition
        This guide is the result of a collaborative effort between the Departments of Early Education and Care, Public Health, and Elementary and Secondary Education.
      3. Frequently Asked Questions: Transition from Early Intervention to Special Education
        A Technical Assistance (TA) document that was prepared by the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Health, and Early Education and Care, in cooperation with participants in the Early Childhood Transition Forums, March 2012, revised and updated October 2013.
      4. Transitions to Kindergarten
        The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest organization for early childhood educators, has a magazine designed especially for preschool educators. Teaching Young Children (TYC) highlights current thinking on best practices in early childhood education, innovations in the field, research and its implications, and interesting ideas for and from preschool teachers.
      5. Connecting the Dots; Early Childhood Transition Training will help early childhood personnel in recognizing the critical attributes of transition services, and taking the appropriate steps to support children and families during this important time.
    2. Data Collection
      1. The Data Collection Schedule by Cohort
        The data collection schedule and district cohort assignments for activities conducted as part of the Massachusetts State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (MA SPP/APR). This is a required activity for LEAs reporting on Indicator 12 - Early Childhood Special Education Transitions.
    3. Kindergarten Information
      1. Full-Day Kindergarten
        Information regarding grant opportunities which support the transition to and delivery of high quality of educational programs for children in full-day kindergarten classrooms.
      2. Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment
        Information to support school districts in using a formative assessment tool that measures growth and learning across all developmental domains during the child's kindergarten year. As part of the MKEA initiative, school districts will use a formative assessment tool that is evidence based and aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
  3. Child Outcomes

    Massachusetts collects and reports data on outcomes for young children three to five years old 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

    To collect this data Massachusetts uses the Child Outcomes Summary Process (COS Process). The COS process is a team process for summarizing information related to a child's progress on each of the three child outcome areas. This valuable information can be used to inform instruction at the individual, classroom, and school level as well as help develop more functional IEP goals for young children.

    1. Guidance and Resources
      1. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA)
        This section of the ECTA Center website provides child and family outcomes measurement tools and references for state and local administrators, technical assistance providers, teachers, other direct service providers, and families.
    2. Forms
      1. The Child Outcomes Summary Process and Form
        Instructions on how to use the Child Outcomes Summary Form including: basic directions for filling out the form, definitions of the outcomes ratings, and scoring methods and considerations.
      2. The Decision Tree
        The decision tree was created as a tool for training in the use of the COS Form. The tree is a series of questions about the extent to which a child exhibits age-appropriate skills and behaviors in each outcome area. Responses guide the user to a specific rating category on the 7-point scale. The decision tree was updated in May 2009 based on input from the COS Training Consortium.
    3. Data Collection
      1. The Data Collection Schedule by Cohort
        The data collection schedule and district cohort assignments for activities conducted as part of the Massachusetts State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (MA SPP/APR). This is a required activity for LEAs reporting on Indicator 7 - Early Childhood Special Education Outcomes.
      2. Indicator 7 Frequently Asked Questions
        A Technical Assistance (TA) document that was prepared by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to answer questions relevant to Indicator 7 requirements and the data collection process and procedures.
      3. Professional Development Resources for the Child Outcomes Summary Process
        Resources provided by the ECTA Center to assist learners to understand the current requirements and the historical roots of federal accountability, the various purposes and uses of outcomes measurement, and an in-depth description of the three child outcomes and the functional nature of the outcomes.
      4. Indicator 7 Training Material


Last Updated: August 17, 2016
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