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Office of Planning and Research

Reports by Dr. Thomas Hehir and Associates

April 2012 (Updated July 2013)

At the request of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Thomas Hehir and his associates prepared several reports on the status of special education in the Commonwealth using available data and resources. Dr. Hehir, a professor at Harvard University, is a former Director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and the former director of special education for the Boston and Chicago Public Schools.

Massachusetts has a long-standing commitment of ensuring that all students, including those with disabilities, receive an education that prepares them for success after high school. While Massachusetts is home to many successful programs, services, and resources that public schools provide to students with disabilities, there remains an achievement gap between students with disabilities and their peers without disabilities. Also of concern to educators and other stakeholders is the persistently high percentage of students in the state who are identified as having disabilities - currently, about 17 percent of the student population - and the rising costs of providing services to students with disabilities.

To understand better the variation in identification, placement, and performance of the Commonwealth's students with disabilities, Dr. Hehir conducted a series of studies of special education in Massachusetts. This work was informed by conversations between Dr. Hehir and his colleagues and key stakeholders, focused on exploring policies and practices that will ensure effective and high quality services and instruction for students with disabilities while addressing cost containment and management of available resources. Besides meeting with the stakeholder group, Dr. Hehir met with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and other individuals and organizations. He and his team performed extensive statistical analyses using the state student databases to examine district-level practices and policies.

The findings and recommendations from Dr. Hehir's research are contained in the below reports. These reports identify ways to promote stronger outcomes for students with disabilities. These reports are useful to stimulate discussions across the Commonwealth about special education practices and services that increase the likelihood that all students will be successful in school and in post-secondary education and careers.

Last Updated: September 24, 2014

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