Case Study: Review of Early Childhood and Special Education Identification and Placement Systems and Processes
Through a grant awarded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, North Adams Public Schools, North Berkshire School Union, and Adams Cheshire Regional School Districts in Massachusetts contracted SchoolWorks to provide a specialized evaluation of special education identification and placement systems and processes. The purpose of the review was to understand 1) how supports and services were being delivered by central offices and across schools and 2) how well they were working to support students.
- Conduct a detailed qualitative analysis of early childhood special education supports and services across the three districts/school unions using a transparent, research-based set of standards.
- To assure that the process and outcomes of the analysis met the objectives of the districts, SchoolWorks developed a customized site visit protocol for the on-site collection of evidence. The protocol was finalized with input and feedback from district stakeholders.
- Evidence collection consisted of document review, interviews and focus groups, and observations of preschool and kindergarten classrooms (both inclusive and self-contained) that serve students with disabilities across the continuum of services. To understand system-level practices, the review team visited five schools within the participating districts/school unions.
- Stakeholders contributing to the process included special education administrators, school principals, special education teachers, general education teachers, and related services providers (e.g., speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavior specialists).
- The process also included an audit of blindly selected IEPs for early childhood students across various disability categories. The IEP audit provided 1) a general review compliance with required timelines and 2) an assessment of the quality of IEPs (including the summary of assessments, alignment to student need, interventions used prior to evaluation, and links to services and specially-designed instruction to address the students’ disability and areas identified as requiring support).
- The evaluation resulted in a comprehensive report that documented trends across the districts and their schools, provided recommendations to improve future implementation of early childhood special education supports and services, and put forth a potential reallocation of resources, to the degree they would support programmatic adjustments.