Eligibility

A Team meeting must be convened within forty-five working school days after the receipt of the written consent form regarding an initial or re-evaluation. The Team should consist of members who are knowledgeable about the student including: the child’s general education teacher, person(s) who conducted evaluations, special education teacher, parent, and student who are fourteen years or older. The Team Chairperson will facilitate the meeting and is authorized to commit district resources. The Team Chairperson is responsible for scheduling the Team meeting and will contact the parent(s)/guardian(s) to arrange the eligibility meeting. At the meeting, the Team will review all evaluation data and decide whether the student qualifies for special education services. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has created a flowchart (see attached) for Team members to use as a guide in the eligibility process.) 


The key questions to determine a student’s eligibility are:

1. Does the child have a disability?  Massachusetts has ten disabilities which are listed below (603 CMR 28.02)

(a) Autism - A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction.The term shall have the meaning given it in federal law at 34 CFR §300.8(c)(1).

(b) Developmental Delay - The learning capacity of a young child (3–9 years old) is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: receptive and/or expressive language; cognitive abilities; physical functioning; social, emotional, or adaptive functioning; and/or self-help skills.

(c) Intellectual Impairment - The permanent capacity for performing cognitive tasks, functions, or problem solving is significantly limited or impaired and is exhibited by more than one of the following: a slower rate of learning; disorganized patterns of learning; difficulty with adaptive behavior; and/or difficulty understanding abstract concepts. Such term shall include students with mental retardation.

(d) Sensory Impairment - The term shall include the following:

Hearing Impairment or Deaf - The capacity to hear, with amplification, is limited, impaired, or absent and results in one or more of the following: reduced performance in hearing acuity tasks; difficulty with oral communication; and/or difficulty in understanding auditorily-presented information in the education environment. The term includes students who are deaf and students who are hard-of-hearing.

Vision Impairment or Blind - The capacity to see, after correction, is limited, impaired, or absent and results in one or more of the following: reduced performance in visual acuity tasks; difficulty with written communication; and/or difficulty with understanding information presented visually in the education environment. The term includes students who are blind and students with limited vision.

Deafblind - Concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes severe communication and other developmental and educational needs.

(e) Neurological Impairment - The capacity of the nervous system is limited or impaired with difficulties exhibited in one or more of the following areas: the use of memory, the control and use of cognitive functioning, sensory and motor skills, speech, language, organizational skills, information processing, affect, social skills, or basic life functions. The term includes students who have received a traumatic brain injury.

(f) Emotional Impairment - As defined under federal law at 34 CFR §300.8(c)(4), the student exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects educational performance: an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The determination of disability shall not be made solely because the student's behavior violates the school's discipline code, because the student is involved with a state court or social service agency, or because the student is socially maladjusted, unless the Team determines that the student has a serious emotional disturbance.

(g) Communication Impairment - The capacity to use expressive and/or receptive language is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: speech, such as articulation and/or voice; conveying, understanding, or using spoken, written, or symbolic language. The term may include a student with impaired articulation, stuttering, language impairment, or voice impairment if such impairment adversely affects the student's educational performance.

(h) Physical Impairment - The physical capacity to move, coordinate actions, or perform physical activities is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: physical and motor tasks; independent movement; performing basic life functions. The term shall include severe orthopedic impairments or impairments caused by congenital anomaly, cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures, if such impairment adversely affects a student's educational performance.

(i) Health Impairment - A chronic or acute health problem such that the physiological capacity to function is significantly limited or impaired and results in one or more of the following: limited strength, vitality, or alertness including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli resulting in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment. The term shall include health impairments due to asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia, if such health impairment adversely affects a student's educational performance.

(j) Specific Learning Disability - The term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. Use of the term shall meet all federal requirements given in federal law at 34 CFR §§300.8(c)(10) and 300.309.

2.  Does the disability impede effective progress?  Are students making progress academically, socially and emotionally?

Effective progress in the general education program shall mean to make documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, including social/emotional development, within the general education program, with or without accommodations, according to chronological age and developmental expectations, the individual educational potential of the student, and the learning standards set forth in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the curriculum of the district. The general education program includes preschool and early childhood programs offered by the district, academic and non-academic offerings of the district, and vocational programs and activities (603 CMR 28.02 (17).

3.  Does the child require specially designed instruction to make progress or require related services to access the general curriculum?

If the student is unable to progress effectively in the general education program without the provision of specially designed instruction, or is unable to access the general curriculum without the provision of one or more related services, the Team shall determine that the student is eligible.


EXTENDED EVALUATION PROCESS

There are times that a TEAM may deem a student is eligible for special education however, they need more evaluative data.  In these cases an extended evaluation is appropriate, the Team shall write a partial IEP with the information available.  In the "additional information" section of the IEP the district will specify that an extended evaluation is being conducted and list the assessment(s), location of where the extended evaluation will take place, and the estimated date of completion. In addition, the school district must complete an Extended Evaluation Form. On this form, the district will indicate the current evaluation findings, what assessments need to be completed, the location where the extended evaluations will be completed, the anticipated completion date, among other required information. The school district must also complete all sections of the Administrative Data Sheet (ADM-1) form. The "assigned school information" section of the ADM-1 form should list the school of origin not the location of the extended evaluation. The school district should attach the ADM-1 form to the partial IEP and the Extended Evaluation Form (EE-1 and EE-2) and provide it to the parents and/or guardians in order to seek parental consent of the partial IEP and for the extended evaluation. The school district should retain a copy for the student's file.

If accepted by the parents or guardians, the partial IEP will be immediately implemented at the same time that the extended evaluation is taking place.  This ensures that a student is not denied services already deemed necessary by the Team. The parents or guardians may also accept, reject, or reject in part, the extended evaluation or request another Team meeting. If the parent accepts the extended evaluation, the school district must proceed to arrange for the extended evaluation and the necessary assessments. If the school district is referring the student to a collaborative or approved special education school for the extended evaluation, it should provide all these forms (ADM-1, EE-1, EE-2, partial IEP) and any recently completed evaluations, assessments, and other relevant information related to the areas of suspected and/or identified disability, to the collaborative or approved special education school. The collaborative or approved special education school is not the student's placement, but rather is the location where the additional assessment(s) is being conducted.

INELIGIBILITY

If the Team cannot find the presence of a disability based on the Massachusetts criteria, or the Team does not find students are experiencing a lack of progress or the need for specialized instruction and/or related services, then the student does not qualify for special education services. In this case, the Team Chairperson will send the parent(s)/guardian(s) a written notice which explains why the student is not eligible for special education services (Please see attached N2 Form.)

PRIVATELY PLACED STUDENTS AT PRIVATE EXPENSE / HOMESCHOOL

Parent(s) and guardian(s) of students who do not attend the Nashoba Regional School District but do reside in Bolton, Lancaster and Stow, may be referred for an evaluation. However, the parent, guardian, or student eighteen years or older, will be required to prove residency.

In order to prove residency, please complete the “New Student Registration” and bring all documentation to the registrar (2020-2021 Registration Link). The registrar will confirm residency. Once residency is confirmed, the Team Chairperson assigned to your child’s home school will send you a consent form. A release of information form will be included so that we may contact your child’s school. The Team Chairperson is responsible for coordinating the referral process and will invite members of the student’s private school to the Team meeting. Testing is generally conducted in the district. However, at times, it may be necessary to assess or observe the student at the private school.

The district cannot start the assessment process without written consent from the parent or guardian.


INDEPENDENT EVALUATION PROCESS


At the eligibility meeting, the Team Chairperson will ask the parent(s)/ guardian(s) if they are satisfied with the district’s evaluation. If the parent(s)/guardian(s) disagree with a particular initial or reevaluation completed by the district, then the parent may request an independent educational evaluation at public expense. Massachusetts has specific requirements pertaining to independent evaluations as noted (603 CMR 28.04): 


(a) All independent education evaluations shall be conducted by qualified persons who are registered, certified, licensed or otherwise approved and who abide by the rates set by the state agency responsible for setting such rates. Unique circumstances of the student may justify an individual assessment rate that is higher than that normally allowed.

(b) The parent may obtain an independent education evaluation at private expense at any time.

(c) Public funding of independent education evaluations - When the parent requests public funding for an independent education evaluation, the district shall abide by the following provisions for a sliding fee scale:

1. If the student is eligible for free or reduced cost lunch or is in the custody of a state agency with an Educational Surrogate Parent appointed in accordance with federal law, then the school district shall provide, at full public expense, an independent education evaluation that is equivalent to the types of assessments done by the school district. No additional documentation of family financial status is required from the parent.

2. If the family financial status is not known, the district shall offer the parent information about the sliding fee scale and the opportunity to provide family income information to determine if the family may be eligible for public funding of all or part of the costs of an independent education evaluation. Provision of financial information by the family is completely voluntary on the part of the family. The lack of financial information provided by the family will disqualify the family from such additional public funding of all or part of the costs of an independent education evaluation under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(c) but shall not limit the rights of parents to request public funding under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(d).

3. If the family agrees to provide financial information, such information shall include anticipated annual income of the family, including all sources of income and verifying documents. Financial information shall be reviewed by the district, shall be kept confidential during review by the district, shall not be copied or maintained in any form at the district except to note that information was provided and reviewed and met or did not meet sliding fee scale standards. Financial documents shall be promptly returned to the parent upon the district's determination of financial income status.

4. The district shall consider family size and family income information in relation to Federal Poverty Guidelines and shall contribute public funds to the costs of the independent education evaluation according to the following standards:

a. If the family income is equal to or less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 100% of the costs of an independent education evaluation.

b. If the family income is between 400% and 500% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 75% of the costs of an independent education evaluation.

c. If the family income is between 500% and 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall pay 50% of the costs of an independent education evaluation

d. If the family income is over 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, the district shall have no obligation to cost-share with the parent.

5. When the parent seeks and receives public funding for an independent education evaluation under these provisions, the parent may request independent assessments in one, more than one, or all of the areas assessed by the school district.

6. The right to this publicly funded independent education evaluation under 603 CMR 28.04(5)(c) continues for 16 months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees.

(d) If the parent is requesting an independent education evaluation in an area not assessed by the school district, the student does not meet income eligibility standards, or the family chooses not to provide financial documentation to the district establishing family income level, the school district shall respond in accordance with the requirements of federal law. Within five school days, the district shall either agree to pay for the independent education evaluation or proceed to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals to show that its evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate. If the Bureau of Special Education Appeals finds that the school district's evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate, then the school district shall not be obligated to pay for the independent education evaluation requested by the parent.

(e) Whenever possible, the independent education evaluation shall be completed and a written report sent no later than 30 days after the date the parent requests the independent education evaluation. If publicly funded, the report shall be sent to the parents and to the school district. The independent evaluator shall be requested to provide a report that summarizes, in writing, procedures, assessments, results, and diagnostic impressions as well as educationally relevant recommendations for meeting identified needs of the student. The independent evaluator may recommend appropriate types of placements but shall not recommend specific classrooms or schools.

(f) Within ten school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent education evaluation, the Team shall reconvene and consider the independent education evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.