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Education Laws and Regulations

603 CMR 28.00

Special Education


  • 28.01: Authority, Scope and Purpose
  • 28.02: Definitions
  • 28.03: Administration and Personnel
  • 28.04: Referral and Evaluation
  • 28.05: The Team Process and Development of the IEP
  • 28.06: Placement and Service Options
  • 28.07: Parent Involvement
  • 28.08: Continuum of Options for Dispute Resolution
  • 28.09: Approval of Public or Private Day and Residential Special Education School Programs
  • 28.10: School District Responsibility
  • View All Sections

Most recently amended by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education: September 20, 2022

28.04: Referral and Evaluation

(1) Referral for Initial Evaluation. A student may be referred for an evaluation by a parent or any person in a caregiving or professional position concerned with the student's development.

  1. (a) When a student is referred for an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education, the school district shall send written notice to the student's parent(s) within five school days of receipt of the referral.

  2. (b) The notice required by 603 CMR 28.04(1)(a) shall meet all of the content requirements set forth in M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3, and in federal law and shall seek the consent of a parent for the evaluation to occur, and provide the parents with the opportunity to express any concerns or provide information on the student's skills or abilities.

  3. (c) School districts shall provide the student's parents with an opportunity to consult with the Special Education Administrator or his/her designee to discuss the reasons for the referral, the content of the proposed evaluation, and the evaluators used.

  4. (d) Upon referral, school districts shall evaluate children who are two and a half years of age and who may be receiving services through an early intervention program. An initial evaluation shall be conducted in order to ensure that if such child is found eligible, special education services begin promptly at age three.

(2) Initial Evaluation. Upon consent of a parent, the school district shall provide or arrange for the evaluation of the student by a multidisciplinary team within 30 school days. The assessments used shall be adapted to the age of the student and all testing shall meet the evaluation requirements set out in state and federal law. The school district shall ensure that appropriately credentialed and trained specialists administer all assessments.

  1. (a) Required assessments.

    1. An assessment in all areas related to the suspected disability.

    2. An educational assessment by a representative of the school district, including

      1. a history of the student's educational progress in the general curriculum. Such assessment shall include information provided by a teacher(s) with current knowledge regarding the student's specific abilities in relation to learning standards of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the district curriculum; and

      2. an assessment of the student's attention skills, participation behaviors, communication skills, memory, and social relations with groups, peers, and adults.

      3. The school district shall also thoroughly evaluate and provide a narrative description of the student's educational and developmental potential.

      4. When a child is being assessed to determine eligibility for services at age three, an observation of the child's interactions in the child's natural environment or early intervention program is strongly encouraged.

      5. For children who are receiving early intervention services, school districts are encouraged to use current and appropriate assessments from early intervention teams, whenever possible, to avoid duplicate testing.

  2. (b) Optional assessments. The Administrator of Special Education may recommend or a parent may request one or more of the following:

    1. A comprehensive health assessment by a physician that identifies medical problems or constraints that may affect the student's education. The school nurse may add additional relevant health information from the student's school health records.

    2. A psychological assessment by a licensed school psychologist, licensed psychologist, or licensed educational psychologist, including an individual psychological examination.

    3. A home assessment that may be conducted by a nurse, psychologist, social worker, guidance or adjustment counselor, or teacher and includes information on pertinent family history and home situation and may include a home visit, with the agreement of a parent.

  3. (c) Reports of assessment results.Each person conducting an assessment shall summarize in writing the procedures employed, the results, and the diagnostic impression, and shall define in detail and in educationally relevant and common terms, the student's needs, offering explicit means of meeting them. The assessor may recommend appropriate types of placements, but shall not recommend specific classrooms or schools. Summaries of assessments shall be completed prior to discussion by the Team and, upon request, shall be made available to the parents at least two days in advance of the Team discussion at the meeting occurring pursuant to 603 CMR 28.05(1).

(3) Annual reviews and three-year reevaluations. The school district shall review the IEPs and the progress of each eligible student at least annually. Additionally, every three years, or sooner if necessary, the school district shall, with parental consent, conduct a full three-year reevaluation consistent with the requirements of federal law.

(4) Unscheduled evaluations for medical reasons. If, in the opinion of the student's physician, an eligible student is likely to remain at home, in a hospital, or in a pediatric nursing home for medical reasons and for more than 60 school days in any school year, the Administrator of Special Education shall, without undue delay, convene a Team to consider evaluation needs and, if appropriate, to amend the existing IEP or develop a new IEP suited to the student's unique circumstances.

(5) Independent education evaluations. Upon receipt of evaluation results, if a parent disagrees with an initial evaluation or reevaluation completed by the school district, then the parent may request an independent education evaluation.

  1. (a) All independent education evaluations shall be conducted by qualified persons who are registered, certified, licensed or otherwise approved and who abide by the rates set by the state agency responsible for setting such rates. Unique circumstances of the student may justify an individual assessment rate that is higher than that normally allowed.

  2. (b) The parent may obtain an independent education evaluation at private expense at any time.

  3. (c) Public funding of independent education evaluations - When the parent requests public funding for an independent education evaluation, the district shall abide by the following provisions for a sliding fee scale:

    1. If the student is eligible for free or reduced cost lunch or is in the custody of a state agency with an Educational Surrogate Parent appointed in accordance with federal law, then the school district shall provide, at full public expense, an independent education evaluation that is equivalent to the types of assessments done by the school district. No additional documentation of family financial status is required from the parent.

    2. If the family financial status is not known, the district shall offer the parent information about the sliding fee scale and the opportunity to provide family income information to determine if the family may be eligible for public funding of all or part of the costs of an independent education evaluation. Provision of financial information by the family is completely voluntary on the part of the family. The lack of financial information provided by the family will disqualify the family from such additional public funding of all or part of the costs of an independent education evaluation under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(c) but shall not limit the rights of parents to request public funding under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(d).

    3. If the family agrees to provide financial information, such information shall include anticipated annual income of the family, including all sources of income and verifying documents. Financial information shall be reviewed by the district, shall be kept confidential during review by the district, shall not be copied or maintained in any form at the district except to note that information was provided and reviewed and met or did not meet sliding fee scale standards. Financial documents shall be promptly returned to the parent upon the district's determination of financial income status.

    4. The district shall consider family size and family income information in relation to Federal Poverty Guidelines and shall contribute public funds to the costs of the independent education evaluation according to the following standards:

      1. If the family income is equal to or less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 100% of the costs of an independent education evaluation.

      2. If the family income is between 400% and 500% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 75% of the costs of an independent education evaluation.

      3. If the family income is between 500% and 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 50% of the costs of an independent education evaluation

      4. If the family income is over 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall have no obligation to cost-share with the parent.

    5. When the parent seeks and receives public funding for an independent education evaluation under these provisions, the parent may request independent assessments in one, more than one, or all of the areas assessed by the school district.

    6. The right to this publicly funded independent education evaluation under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(c) continues for 16 months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees.

  4. (d) If the parent is requesting an independent education evaluation in an area not assessed by the school district, the student does not meet income eligibility standards, or the family chooses not to provide financial documentation to the district establishing family income level, the school district shall respond in accordance with the requirements of federal law. Within five school days, the district shall either agree to pay for the independent education evaluation or proceed to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals to show that its evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate. If the Bureau of Special Education Appeals finds that the school district's evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate, then the school district shall not be obligated to pay for the independent education evaluation requested by the parent.

  5. (e) Whenever possible, the independent education evaluation shall be completed and a written report sent no later than 30 days after the date the parent requests the independent education evaluation. If publicly funded, the report shall be sent to the parents and to the school district. The independent evaluator shall be requested to provide a report that summarizes, in writing, procedures, assessments, results, and diagnostic impressions as well as educationally relevant recommendations for meeting identified needs of the student. The independent evaluator may recommend appropriate types of placements but shall not recommend specific classrooms or schools.

  6. (f) Within ten school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent education evaluation, the Team shall reconvene and consider the independent education evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.

Regulatory Authority:
M.G.L. c. 69, § 1B; c. 69, §§ 1J and 1K, as amended by St. 2010, c. 12, § 3; c. 71, § 38G.

For an official copy of these regulations, please contact the State House Bookstore, at 617-727-2834 or visit Massachusetts State Bookstore.

Last Updated: December 6, 2022

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