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Approved Special Education Schools

Approved Special Education Schools Web-Based Monitoring System (WBMS) and Review Process

Every Program and Mid-cycle Review is conducted using the Web-Based Monitoring System (WBMS). This allows both programs and the Department to submit, review and exchange documents and information through the Department's security portal.

The review criteria selected for each program or mid-cycle review begins with the agency conducting a self-assessment in WBMS across all monitoring criteria. For mid-cycle reviews, a subset of the monitoring criteria are self-assessed by approved special education school programs, along with any criteria that resulted in a prior finding of noncompliance as well as any new monitoring criteria. The Office of Approved Special Education Schools (OASES), through its' desk review procedures, then examines the self-assessment submissions and determines which criteria will be followed up on through onsite verification activities.

WBMS Monitoring Phases

Self-Assessment: This is a requirement for all agencies participating in the web-based monitoring system and is completed in the year prior to the onsite review. It includes submission of documentation for required monitoring elements, as well as input of a sample student and, when appropriate, staff records. Upon completion of all required portions of the self-assessment, it is submitted to the Department for review.

Desk Review: The chairperson assigned to each agency reviews the responses, document uploads, student record review data, and staff record review data (if applicable) submitted by agency as part of their self-assessment. The outcome of this review, along with 3-year trend data available to DESE (i.e., restraints, restraint injuries, serious incidents, complaints and required notifications), is used to determine the scope and nature of the Department's onsite activities.

Onsite Verification: Depending upon the scope of onsite activities that have been identified through the desk review, a 2-3 member OASES team will conduct the onsite review. This review includes activities such as:

  • Interviews of administrative, instructional, and other staff consistent with the criteria selected for onsite verification.

  • Collection of surveys sent to parents/guardians, as well as requested interviews with parent representatives to solicit information regarding their experiences with the agency's implementation of special education, related services, and procedural requirements.

  • Review of student and staff records: The Department selects a sample of student and staff records from those the agency reviewed by the approved special education school program as part of its self-assessment to verify the accuracy of the data. The Department also conducts an independent review of a sample of student and staff records that reflect activities conducted since the beginning of the school year. The onsite team will conduct this review, using standard Department procedures, to determine whether procedural and programmatic requirements have been implemented.

  • Observation of classrooms and other facilities: The onsite team visits a sample of classrooms and other school facilities used in the delivery of programs and services to determine general levels of compliance with program requirements.

Review Process After Onsite Verification

Report: The Program and Mid-cycle reports will be based on a review of the written documentation regarding the operation of the school's programs and the information gathered from the Onsite Verification Phase. A Draft Report for comments will be issued via the WBMS for Program Reports only. Agencies may respond to the factual accuracy of the report within 10 business days.

A Final Report will then be issued via WBMS and in hard copy (mid-cycle reviews will not be issued a draft, but only a final report). Detailed findings for each program area describe determinations of the Department about the implementation status of each requirement (criterion) reviewed.

Response to Program Review Final Report findings: Where criteria are found not to be fully implemented, the approved special education school program is required to propose a corrective action plan (CAP), within 20 business days of receipt of the final report, to bring those criteria into compliance with the respective statutes or regulations. Additionally, a program is encouraged to incorporate any required corrective action as approved by the Department into its internal improvement plans, including the program's professional development plans. In mid-cycle reviews, after the final report is issued, the program enters progress report information directly into WBMS for any criteria found not to be fully implemented and, for this reason, no corrective action plan is created.

Program Approval: Upon issuance of the Final Report, the program will receive an updated approval status. For programs receiving a "Full Approval," this approval will remain in effect for three (3) years expiring on August 31st of the third year of approval. This approval will be contingent upon continued compliance with all regulations contained within 603 CMR 28.00, "Special Education Regulations," 603 CMR 18.00, "Program And Safety Standards For Approved Public Or Private Day And Residential Special Education School Programs," and 603 CMR 46.00 "Prevention of Physical Restraints If Used" as well as the Department's approval of the required corrective action plan. The Department may change this approval status at any point during the three-year period if circumstances arise that warrant such a change. For programs receiving a "Provisional Approval" or "Probationary Approval," the Department will clearly indicate the reasons for the reduced approval, along with timelines for compliance and an expiration date of the approval status. The Department will review the CAP and issue written determinations regarding approval or disapproval of each corrective action plan activity. Subsequent progress reports will be requested so the approved special education school can show the implementation of the changes they have made to bring the program into compliance with the specified criterion. These requirements vary and range from updating policies to then training staff on the revised policies once they have been approved through the progress report.

Note: For programs undergoing Program Reconstruction, the approval status will depend on whether there were findings from the program or mid-cycle review, when the program reconstruction is submitted to the Department and where in the cycle the approved special education school program is regarding reporting on progress towards full compliance for each criterion.

Last Updated: October 4, 2019

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