DESE Issues Technical Assistance to Schools Related to COVID-19 Compensatory Services
On Monday, August 17, 2020, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Special Education (“DESE”) issued technical assistance addressing COVID-19 Compensatory services and recovery supports for students with IEPs. The guidance outlines three types of supports/services that special education teams need to consider this fall for students on IEPs: (1) general education recovery supports, (2) COVID-19 compensatory services, and (3) new IEP services. An explanation of each type of support and/or service is discussed below. Unless parents agree to consider a student’s need for these services outside of the IEP team process, these discussions will occur at an IEP team meeting.
General Education Recovery Supports
DESE advises school districts to consider whether students on IEPs need general education recovery supports to “mitigate impacts of the emergency shift to remote instruction, and to assist their successful transition to the 2020-21 school year.” These supports can be available to all students, or may be offered through the school’s or district’s Tiered System of Support or the District Curriculum Accommodation Plan (DCAP). Examples of recovery supports provided by DESE include, but are not limited to, academic scaffolds, accommodations, and differentiated core instruction informed by assessment data and observations; Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions targeted at demonstrated academic need; behavior plans, counseling, and other social emotional supports; and support for following new health and safety protocols (e.g., masking, hallway passing, hand washing, disinfecting, etc.).
COVID-19 Compensatory Services
DESE defines COVID-19 compensatory services to include “services that a student’s IEP Team determines are needed to remedy a student’s skill or knowledge loss or lack of effective progress that resulted from delayed, interrupted, suspended, or inaccessible IEP services because of the emergency suspension of in-person education related to the COVID-19 pandemic” through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
DESE outlines several questions that an IEP team should consider when determining whether a special education student requires COVID-19 compensatory services. Such questions include whether services in the student’s IEP were not offered or that the student could not access during the period of suspended in-person instruction; the extent of demonstrated skill regression; whether the student failed to make effective progress towards their IEP goals and in the general curriculum; and whether the school has general education recovery supports available that will effectively support the student “in recovering from educational gaps in learning or loss of skill, or the impact on student’s emotional well-being, caused by the unexpected suspension of in-person education.” DESE made clear that COVID-19 compensatory services will not necessarily need to be provided in a 1:1 ratio compared to missed IEP services.
New IEP Services
DESE also instructed special education teams to consider, as part of the discussion about Covid-19 Compensatory Services, whether a student has additional disability-related needs, including but not limited to mental health needs, following the suspension of in-person services in the spring of 2020. If a team determines that a student does have additional disability-related needs, the IEP team must identify what new services the student requires and amend the student’s IEP to include the new services in the service delivery grid.
We will be publishing additional blogs relating to this guidance document. However, if you have any questions about information contained in the guidance, or other concerns related to the provision of special education services during this pandemic, please give us a call at (781) 930-3127. We, like you, are in new territory but we are here to support you and work with you through this.