Specialized Reviews

Focus on Special Education, Students with Disabilities, and Diverse Learners

Considering a Special Education Review?
SchoolWorks has been providing objective, evidence-based third-party reviews of educational programs since 1998. Our process utilizes a team of experienced educators from SchoolWorks to collect and analyze data about the critical aspects of culture, organization, and academic programs.

In addition to our comprehensive School Quality Review, which provides a overall insight into the effectiveness of educational programs, we offer a variety of specialized reviews – including organizational assessment, personalized learning program review, and instructional inventories, to name a few. In the past few years, we have evolved a process to conduct specialized Special Education Program Reviews in order to meet the growing needs of schools and districts in gaining insight into the effectiveness of their services and compliance to federal requirements in this area.

Why would an authorizer, district, network, or school consider a special education review?
An organization may seek an evaluation like this for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a significantly higher or lower percentage of students are qualifying for services compared to the state average, and the organization seeks to ensure that identification processes are aligned to federal guidance. Or perhaps data indicate that the majority of students receiving services are located in one school or building, while support staff are distributed across the district. In most cases, these specialized reviews are contracted to examine the practices associated with an outcome within the organization’s current state.

How are Special Education Reviews customized to meet key objectives?
In general, SchoolWorks Special Education Reviews measure: 1) compliance with federal law; 2) equity of access to services across schools within a district or network; and/or 3) the effectiveness of key processes, such as the identification of students in need. To ensure that our review teams approach this work with sensitivity and understanding of these complex systems, SchoolWorks begins each engagement by developing a custom protocol (and/or rubric) for the evaluation. The protocol defines the key questions, indicators and criteria that will be used by the review team to collect evidence, and will provide guidance for ratings within each indicator. Areas of inquiry for the resulting review frequently include Child Find referral and eligibility, Individualized Education Program (IEP) development and implementation, existence and effectiveness of multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) or Response to Intervention (RTI) programs, and services for English language learning (ELL) needs/dual-identified students.

What are the steps in the process?
Once a protocol has been established, the review is typically executed through the following steps:

  • Pre-visit Planning: The review team lead meets virtually with the school or district leader to discuss on-site scheduling. After this session, a schedule for observations and focus groups/interviews is organized and developed, and the school(s) submits documents for review.
  • Evidence Gathering: The review team begins to collect evidence.
    • Survey: SchoolWorks works with the school team(s) to administer surveys to key stakeholders.
    • Document Review: Review team members examine documents, including school and teacher schedules, curricula and related teaching documents, professional development records, and services for student assessment results pertaining to diverse learners.
    • IEP Audit: SchoolWorks may audit a representative sample of IEPs in accordance with federal guidelines.
    • Interviews and Focus Groups: SchoolWorks conducts a series of interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders. Stakeholders typically include the school leader, school administrators, teachers, special education administrators, and special education leads and teachers. Stakeholders may also include paraprofessionals and related service providers.
    • Classroom Observations: Review team members utilize the SchoolWorks Classroom Visit Tool to conduct observations. The SchoolWorks Classroom Visit tool prompts observers to review supports for diverse learners within the Purposeful Teaching dimension.
  • Development of Findings: The review team works together to discuss evidence and come to consensus on a set of findings and corresponding ratings.
  • Written Report: 4-to-6 weeks following the review, the school/district will receive an 8-10-page written report that formalizes the findings discussed on site. Findings of the report will speak to: 1) whether or not the school has processes and programs in place to identify and provide services for diverse learners; and 2) the effectiveness of implementation.
"The process, from start to finish, was highly professional, communicative, and dedicated to meeting our needs. The product included the areas of strength and then clearly identified areas for improvement which then drove part two of our improvement efforts. We were very pleased with the outcomes and report."
- Kimberly Roberts Morandi, Assistant Superintendent of North Adams Public Schools

How does SchoolWorks help schools and districts act on the findings?
To help educators identify and prioritize areas that need to be addressed, these reviews often include an action-planning and prioritization session on the last day of the visit. The purpose of this session is to review the findings and assist the school in identifying areas for improvement that should be addressed first. The end-result of this process is: 1) a prioritized list for improvement planning, ranked according to impact potential; and 2) an action plan for the top item on the list, including strategies, dates, and benchmarks for measuring progress.

Need Some Help?
Email info@schoolworks.org to set up a quick phone call. To access one of our related case studies, click here.

Assess. Plan. Achieve.


by: Michael Montoya   on: 08/04/23

Good morning, we are really interested in having a third party look at our special education department as a whole. We are a district with 4000 students including our gifted population. Would like to get some more information on the process and obviously the cost. Look forward to hearing from you.

by: Stephanie Bignault   on: 09/25/23

Hi Michael,
Thank you for your interest and our apologies for missing your comment last month! If you are still looking for a support partner, please feel free to reach out to us here: info@schoolworks.org. We look forward to connecting and seeing how we might best serve your improvement efforts.

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