Since the introduction of the current Massachusetts IEP form in 2000, the Department has received numerous requests from stakeholders to improve both the IEP development process and the form. Additionally, administrators, teachers, families and others have asked MA to support a unified IEP system. The current project responds to these requests.
Today, the advanced state of technology offers a strategic opportunity to support IEP Teams in making individualized service decisions and in implementing IEPs effectively through powerful online tools. In addition, a recent series of studies focusing on special education data and practice by Dr. Thomas Hehir and Associates has led to greater understanding of statewide practices that can promote effective, high-quality services and instruction to support the Commonwealth's goal of closing achievement gaps for students with disabilities. The IEP Improvement Project is intended to support the use of best practices in IEP development and ensure that students with disabilities are able to access and participate in the general curriculum and in all aspects of the life of the school.
The primary focus of the project is improving outcomes for students with disabilities, which is aligned with state priorities. Three core strands of this comprehensive project are:
Stakeholder feedback is absolutely essential to a successful process and outcome for the IEP Improvement Project.
Input from stakeholders prompted the Department to undertake this project. Initial input from over 550 stakeholders was used to create the first representative models now posted online. Currently the Department continues to solicit additional feedback in order to refine existing ideas and create new ones. To date, we have received approximately 500 additional survey responses and emails regarding the models posted on the website. Feedback is incorporated into the project planning and development when it is received. This extensive outreach will continue throughout the development process.
No, school districts will not be required to adopt the Department's online IEP system. Districts may continue to contract with third-party vendors or use in house systems they may have.
All third-party vendors will have the opportunity to align with the Department's new IEP development process and forms. In order to support this alignment, the Department will provide the revised forms, process and relevant guidelines. School districts will continue to be expected to use standard Department forms.
The Department's new online system is being created in response to a clear request from numerous stakeholders in diverse roles — including district administrators — that Massachusetts provide a unified IEP system. It is hoped that this Commonwealth alternative will be helpful to districts during times of financial austerity.
Much student, teacher, and course information will automatically be available in the new system, reducing, and in some cases eliminating the need for duplicative data entry. Tools and reports will be available with the click of a button. Dashboards, intuitive design, and individualized menus will allow fluid movement between overviews and targeted information. At-a-moment's-notice, supports for best practice will be easily accessible. Individualized menus tailored to the needs of each unique student will ensure a focused conversation.
Although the decision-making process at the IEP table is the same, the new online system is intended to free the Team from cumbersome paperwork and duplicative processes, so that they can focus on what is most important — each student.
Yes. Special Education requirements consistent with state and federal laws have not changed. The new system will be compliant, as are the current forms. The IEP Improvement Project system is building on the current IEP Process Guide , existing Department trainings and guidance, and best practices for implementing state and federal regulations.
Although the content of the IEP development process is the same, some sections will move or will now have new names. For example, stakeholders overwhelmingly requested a rethinking of PLEP A and PLEP B; our current plan proposes combining these two parts of the IEP into a new Access and Participation section. The student's Vision would be addressed at the start of the IEP, as stakeholders have suggested. When finalized, the Department will publish a new IEP Process Guide that aligns with this process. The Guide can and should be used by Teams to facilitate IEP development, regardless of whether the district is using the Commonwealth's online system.
Yes. For clarity, and in response to stakeholder feedback, the new IEP system will now guide and memorialize current parts of the IEP Team's discussion. The new IEP system will reflect the new IEP development process and new IEP forms.
"Life of the school" is every other part of the school experience that lies outside of the MA Curriculum Frameworks including, but not limited to: social interactions in school and school sponsored events or activities; guidance; after-school sports, activities, and clubs; post-secondary planning; dances; and student government. Life of the school applies to all students — students without and with disabilities.
The new IEP system is being designed as a tool for local implementation and local oversight, not for statewide oversight or control. While the new system will maintain a significant amount of data, it is not being designed to be a data collection or compliance tool. It is possible that data from the system might better support districts by — for example — identifying statewide professional development needs or targeting grant funding opportunities. Any possible future statewide use of data from the new IEP system will be extensively discussed with stakeholders prior to any decision-making or implementation.
The new IEP system will meet all Massachusetts security and accessibility compliance requirements. This will ensure that only authorized users have the ability to access relevant student records.
User access will be based upon the role that is designated by each district. For example, a user that is designated as a teacher by their district will be granted access to their students' relevant information based on this role, and building or district-level special education administrators will have access that spans their school or district (respectively). It is anticipated that districts will continue to employ role assignment procedures that ensure staff will be able to access only the information they need in order to fulfill their role responsibilities.
No. The new IEP system is being designed as a tool for local implementation and oversight. All staffing decisions will continue to be made by districts.
We have heard significant concern from stakeholders that a new IEP system needs to ensure that IEP Team members cannot unintentionally overwrite or delete IEP information throughout the development process. In response, the new online system will include a "check out" and "check in" function which will prevent multiple users from over-writing each other's work.
It is intended that the new system will allow for more than one authorized user to access a student's IEP related information at one time, but only one person would be able to edit each portion of a particular student's IEP development process at a time.
It is anticipated that there will be a soft-release of the new IEP system for a limited number of volunteer districts during the 2015-2016 school year. This early release will be flexible and will target the IEP strand for students aged 5–14. The Department will work with districts that volunteer to participate in the early release to outline the parameters of the soft-adoption and to identify the best local approaches. Full statewide implementation of the IEP development process and optional district adoption of a new online IEP system is anticipated to occur during the 2016-2017 school year for those districts that are ready for this full system.
Yes. The Department is currently researching the feasibility of parent access. Significant security concerns must be addressed in order to protect confidential student information.
Not necessarily. These models are not final; they were created to give stakeholders a sense of the possible features and functionality that a new online IEP system might offer. The models are intended as tools to spark conversation and feedback about the possible content, logic, and functions of the new online IEP system.
Nothing is set in stone. Everything is undergoing a process of continuous review. The final online versions that will be made available for district use will likely look different.
The Department is currently working with stakeholders on the creation and refinement of the IEP development process for all age groups, (i.e., 3–5; 5–14; 14–22). However, in order to build the new IEP system in a thoughtful, stepwise manner the Department has begun by focusing on this core age group.
The elements of the ages 5–14 IEP development process form the basis of the IEP for students of all ages. Ongoing and future input will help the Department to ensure that the special considerations inherent in the Early Childhood and Secondary Transition processes for the other age groups can be overlaid on the structure of the IEP development processes for ages 5–14, to create an aligned and consistent IEP system for all ages.
Models of these sections of the new IEP system are currently under development and will be posted to Special Education: IEP Form Improvement Project — Updates for your review as soon as they are available.
Currently, as shown in the posted representative models , the IEP system will include an "Initial/Re-evaluation" tab that will be dedicated to assessment results and the student's evaluation history.
The Department would like stakeholder input to help design the most sensible and helpful way to provide useful at glance assessment information.
There is no change in the types of disability categories under federal and state law. Disability categories are defined in Massachusetts regulations 603 CMR 28.02 and in federal regulations 34 CFR § 300.8. Disability categories that IEP Teams currently use will remain the same.
While not every student has more than one disability, stakeholders have told us that for those who do, it is important to record both a primary and a secondary disability.
While a secondary disability is often discussed at the IEP table, feedback shows that the current form can sometimes act as a barrier to capturing student needs; important considerations are sometimes lost. For example, a student with intellectual disabilities who needs curriculum modifications may also have blindness and may require services from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. The inclusion of a space in the system to record both the primary and secondary disability categories ensures that this information is easily captured.
There are many opportunities for stakeholder input in the project. Please refer to Special Education: IEP Form Improvement Project — Updates for more information.
Thank you for your interest.
Last Updated: December 12, 2018
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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