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Office of Public School Monitoring (PSM)

Public School Tiered Focused Monitoring System

Scope of Tiered Focused Monitoring

District/charter schools are reviewed every three years through Tiered Focused Monitoring. This review process emphasizes elements most tied to student outcomes, and alternates the focus of each review on either Group A Universal Standards or Group B Universal Standards.

Group A Universal Standards address:

  • Student identification
  • IEP development
  • Programming and support services
  • Equal opportunity

Group B Universal Standards address:

  • Licensure and professional development
  • Parent/student/community engagement
  • Facilities and classroom observations
  • Oversight
  • Time and learning
  • Equal access

In addition, the Department has reserved a specific set of criteria, collectively known as Targeted Standards, employed when LEA or school-level risk assessment data indicate that there is a potential issue. Identified Targeted Standards are assessed in addition to the Universal Standards.

Universal Standards and Targeted Standards are aligned with the following regulations:

Special Education (SE)

  • selected requirements from the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA-2004); the federal regulations promulgated under that Act at 34 CFR Part 300; M.G.L. c. 71B, and the Massachusetts Board of Education's Special Education regulations (603 CMR 28.00), as amended effective March 1, 2007.

Civil Rights Methods of Administration and Other General Education Requirements (CR)

  • selected federal civil rights requirements, including requirements under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, together with selected state requirements under M.G.L. c. 76, Section 5 as amended by Chapter 199 of the Acts of 2011 and M.G.L. c. 269 §§ 17 through 19.
  • selected requirements from the Massachusetts Board of Education's Physical Restraint regulations (603 CMR 46.00).
  • selected requirements from the Massachusetts Board of Education's Student Learning Time regulations (603 CMR 27.00).
  • various requirements under other federal and state laws.

Targeted Standards

  • The Department has reserved a specific set of criteria, collectively known as Targeted Standards. If LEA data indicate there is a potential issue, the related criteria to that standard will be added to the review. Data sources include, but are not limited to, Problem Resolution System (PRS) complaints and School Safety and Discipline Reports (SSDR). Identified Targeted Standards are assessed in addition to the Universal Standards.

Tiered Focused Monitoring allows for differentiated monitoring based on a district/charter school's level of need, the Tiers are defined as follows:

LEAs in Tiers 1 and 2 have been determined to have no or low risk:

  • Tier 1/Self-Directed Improvement: Data points indicate no concern on compliance and performance outcomes — meets requirements.
  • Tier 2/Directed Improvement: No demonstrated risk in areas with close link to student outcomes — low risk.

LEAs in Tiers 3 and 4 have demonstrated greater risk:

  • Tier 3/Corrective Action: Areas of concern include both compliance and student outcomes — moderate risk.
  • Tier 4/Cross-unit Support and Corrective Action: Areas of concern have profound effect on student outcomes and ongoing compliance — high risk.

The Web-based Approach to Special Education and Civil Rights Monitoring

The Web-based Monitoring System (WBMS) is a collaborative online portal used throughout the cycle that allows LEAs and PSM to review self-assessment data, reporting documentation, and progress reporting activities.

Phases of Tiered Focused Monitoring

Depending on the group of Universal Standards under review, the phases of Tiered Focused Monitoring are as follows:

Self-Assessment Phase:

  • District/school reviews special education and civil rights documentation for required elements, including document uploads into WBMS.
  • District/school reviews a sample of special education student records selected across grade levels, disability categories and levels of need.
  • Upon completion of these two internal reviews, the district/school's self-assessment is submitted via WBMS to the Department for review.

On-site Verification Phase:

  • Review of student records for special education: The Department selects a sample of student records from those the district reviewed as part of its self-assessment, as well as records chosen by the Department from the special education student roster. The onsite team conducts this review, using standard Department procedures, to determine whether procedural and programmatic requirements are being met.
  • Review of additional documents for special education or civil rights.
  • Surveys of parents of students with disabilities: Parents of students with disabilities are sent a survey to solicit information regarding their experiences with the district's implementation of special education programs, related services, and procedural requirements.
  • Interviews of staff consistent with those criteria selected for onsite verification.
  • Interviews of parent advisory council (PAC) representatives and other telephone interviews, as requested, by other parents or members of the general public.
  • Observations of classrooms and other facilities: The onsite team visits a sample of classrooms and school facilities used in the delivery of programs and services to determine general levels of compliance with program requirements.

Report: For Tier 1 & 2 Tiered Focused Monitoring Reviews

Following the onsite visit, the onsite team will hold an informal exit meeting to summarize its comments for the superintendent or charter school leader and anyone else he or she chooses.

LEAs in Tiers 1 and 2, as part of the reporting process, will develop a Continuous Improvement and Monitoring Plan (CIMP) for any criteria receiving a rating of "Partially Implemented," "Not Implemented," and "Implementation in Progress."

The CIMP outlines an action plan, identifies the success metric, describes the measurement mechanism and provides a completion timeframe to bring those areas into compliance with the controlling statute or regulation. LEAs are expected to incorporate the CIMP actions into their district and school improvement plans, including their professional development plans.

Report: For Tier 3 & 4 Tiered Focused Monitoring Reviews

LEAs in Tiers 3 and 4 will receive a written report of findings. The Draft Report will be issued within 45 working days of the onsite visit. The Final Report will be issued within 60 working days of the onsite. Final Reports are not issued from mid-June through mid-August.

LEAs in Tiers 3 and 4 will develop a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) for any criteria receiving a rating of "Partially Implemented," "Not Implemented," and "Implementation in Progress." Once the report is issued, PSM works with LEAs to develop an appropriate CAP, providing targeted, ongoing technical assistance to support CAP implementation. Both tiers are required to provide written progress reports.

Last Updated: April 14, 2023

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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