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Statewide System of Support (SSoS)

Making Money Matter (M3)

The Making Money Matter (M3, AKA "M-cubed") project, is part of the Massachusetts Results Driven Accountability (RDA) initiative. This initiative is intended to promote targeted use of federal special education funds in ways that are designed to lead to improved outcomes for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Districts identified for M3 participation are directed to use a portion of the funds made available under the IDEA Part B special education entitlement grant, known as Fund Code (FC) 240, for the improvement of performance issues identified through the Special Education Determination system.

The title of this initiative, Making Money Matter, represents the power of leveraging a small percentage of funds to effect systemic impact on outcomes for students with IEPs. The nomenclature, M3 (M cubed) focuses on the exponential benefits districts can obtain with this set aside to outcomes for individual students through system level improvements.

M3 districts are required to direct at least 2% of their total special education entitlement allocation toward targeted systemic improvement of performance outcomes for students with disabilities. Districts may choose to direct more of their IDEA allocation toward M3 activities in order to create meaningful and sustainable systemic change and to accelerate progress for students with IEPs.

All districts participating in M3 must submit the M3 Year-end Report by June 30.


Districts required to participate in M3 are those with a special education determination level of Needs Intervention (NI).

Districts that have been designated for participation previously and have participated for less than 3 years are encouraged to continue so that they can complete the goals of their 3-year strategic improvement plan.

For additional information regarding special education determination of district need for technical assistance or intervention, please review the DESE Determination of Need for Special Education Technical Assistance or Intervention webpage.


Districts must identify the amount of funds (at least 2%) being directed toward the M3 initiative, and reflect the district's M3 Spending Plan in the grant application.

All M3 set aside funds must be identified in the FC240 application, and districts are encouraged to blend and braid funds from other sources toward achieving the wider goals and strategies for improved performance for students with IEPs that are coherent with district priorities for improving achievement for all students. Blending and braiding are processes for using multiple funding streams to support a common initiative. Blending refers to wrapping together multiple resources toward a common goal, and braiding refers to coordinating and tracking multiple funding sources toward the project.

As part of the FC 240 application, districts identified for M3 participation, where the district will report the following information in the DESE Statewide System of Support prior to application approval.

Fund Use

M3 funds may be used at the district and/or school level. Schools designated as Requiring Assistance or Intervention under the MA Accountability Framework should be prioritized for school level interventions.

M3 initiatives should be coherent with district/school improvement and action plans, prioritizing services at schools that have been identified for achievement gaps in the Students with Disabilities category under the MA Accountability Framework and addressing the gaps and needs identified in the Needs Intervention determination.

M3 funds should be used to:

  1. Engage in self -assessment in order to uncover system gaps, with an emphasis on identifying gaps related to the intersectionality of ableness with historically underserved student groups. Toward this goal, participating LEA's will use data teams to collect and examine qualitative and quantitative data across schools, including teacher, home caregiver, and student perceptions, for differences that may be related to institutional bias in identification, placement, IEP objectives and services, service implementation, resource allocation, discipline, attendance, access to high quality, grade level evidence-based curriculum in the least restrictive environment, behavior management, extra-curricular participation, cultural relevance, WIDA standards support for multi-lingual learners, student sense of belonging to the school community, and academic performance across identifiable groups of students with IEPs; examine the root causes for differences; and with an evidence-based planning framework, develop methods for eliminating differences across student groups and providing equitable and academically rigorous services for all students with IEPs to thrive regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, primary language, family income, trauma experience, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or any other historically underserved student characteristic
  2. Identify and implement culturally and linguistically sustaining, high impact, asset and evidence-based practices to close gaps, which emphasize Tier 1 inclusive instructional practices, services, and supports for all students with IEPs, interrupting inequitable practices and ensuring inclusive school environments and opportunities for all students
  3. Build capacity and implement sustainable structures and systems to sustain high quality, culturally relevant, academic and nonacademic services to all students with IEPs with fidelity and at scale, with an emphasis on building IEP service equity across student groups that addresses root causes of disparities through an equity conscious continuous improvement approach
  4. Seek to ensure equity in education by supporting individual cultures, identities, talents, abilities, languages, and interests of each student with an IEP to ensure that they receive the opportunities, resources, and academic rigor to meet their unique needs and aspirations and to reach their full potential, prioritizing racial equity because students of color have been historically prohibited and structurally excluded from educational opportunities

Continuing districts will implement their Action Plan for the year toward continuing to enact their 3-Year Strategic Plan and/or re-assess the gaps and needs of students with IEPs, using data teams and evidence-based planning frameworks, emphasizing closing gaps for students experiencing intersectional challenges. Participating districts will make data-based midcourse corrections as needed. Guidance on evidence-based planning frameworks can be found below.

At least every three years, districts continuing their participation are expected to participate in a re-assessment cycle, focusing data team efforts on assessment of achievement and opportunity gaps for students with IEPs, identifying the root causes for those gaps, and developing both a 3-year Strategic Plan for improving the outcomes of students with IEPs and an annual intervention Action Plan for implementation, using an evidence-based planning framework.

First year participants will self-assess and create an M3 Action Plan for the following year and a 3-Year Strategic Plan focused on the challenges presented in the Needs Intervention determination assessment. Identified districts are required in their first year to engage in a data team directed self-assessment and utilize an evidence-based planning framework that identifies gap root causes, disaggregated by historically underserved student groups and offers multiple indicators of successful outcomes for students with IEPs. Each district's M3 process and work should mirror and align with sustainable improvement/action plan priorities that are occurring in the district for all students. M3 objectives and strategies must target improved outcomes for students with IEPs, the effectiveness of local special education programs and services, and the improvement of district standards and indicators applications to special education systems. Once the district identifies key assets, issues and challenges, develops priority areas of need, and explores root causes, DESE expects that all district administrators (general and special) will collaborate to identify overlapping strategic objectives and initiatives in order to best use district resources for all students. The DESE M3 First Year Participation and Planning Year Guide provides more detailed guidance about this process.

  • Evidence-based planning frameworks that are approved for this process are:

    • Planning for Success
    • Success Gap Toolkit
    • Active Implementation
    • Data Wise
    • Using Formative Assessment for Results (FAR)

  • Any other planning frameworks used, must include all of the following essential elements:

    1. Data-based Decision Making
    2. Cultural Responsiveness
    3. Core Instructional Program
    4. Ongoing assessment … Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring
    5. Evidenced-Based Instructional and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
    6. District/School Leadership that Facilitates Improvement
    7. Parent/Family Engagement throughout the Educational Process and System

Districts engaged in school sustainable improvement processes in partnership with the DESE Statewide System of Support (SSoS) are strongly encouraged to consult with their DESE SSoS regional representative in the development, implementation, and review of initiatives under this M3 program.


Theory of Action:

If DESE requires that a portion of entitlement funding (at least 2%) be directed toward district improvement of performance outcomes for students on IEPs through evidence-based, inclusive instructional practices and services emphasizing intersectionality equity, particularly racial equity; and provides technical assistance;

Then districts will:

  • Uncover system gaps,
  • Identify high impact interventions to fill those gaps, that
  • Emphasize Tier 1 inclusive practices and supports, and
  • Build capacity and systems to implement and sustain identified practices with fidelity and at scale that promote equity, especially racial equity;

So that all student's performance outcomes, especially students with IEPs, will improve.

Core Principles:

  • Investment in effective, sustainable instructional practices
  • Engagement in a continuous cycle of improvement
  • Collaboration among stakeholders
  • Integration with district/school improvement efforts, including blending and braiding of funds
  • Support from DESE
  • Accountability for outcomes
  • Close equity gaps related to the intersectionality of ableness with historically underserved student groups
  • Prioritize racial equity because students of color have been historically prohibited and structurally excluded from educational opportunities
  • Students with IEPs cannot wait for incremental improvement in their educational conditions

Principles of the Planning Process:

  • The process must be grounded in a cycle of continuous improvement, informed by data, driven by results, and with a laser-like focus on implementation of a few high-leverage strategic objectives.
  • The process requires time, attention, and commitment and should be a central part of district leaders' daily work.
  • Monitoring of progress must focus on outcomes and how the activities outlined in the plan are serving the best interests of students with IEPs.
  • Collaboration between and among stakeholders is essential for accelerated and sustained improvement.
  • The process requires a willingness to challenge and be challenged, to honestly assess progress and confront difficult issues, and to make the necessary mid-course corrections based on a robust analysis of evidence.
  • Regular monitoring and accountability is designed to focus and accelerate the improvement process by providing ongoing feedback.

Contact: Please contact Abigail T. Slayton or (Tel: 781-338-3517) with any questions related to M3.

Helpful M3 Guidance

Additional resource for M3 Planning and Programs: Equity in Special Education Placement: School Self-Assessment Guide for Culturally Responsive Practice by ResearchGate (2005)

Helpful Related Links

Additional information regarding special education determination of LEA need for technical assistance or intervention: 2022-2023 Determinations of Need for Special Education Technical Assistance or Intervention.

Last Updated: June 21, 2023

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