OBSERVATIONS OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
1. The purpose of the observation is to evaluate the appropriateness of a specific educational program as to whether it meets the needs of an individual child. It is not to evaluate a teacher’s ability to perform his or her contractual job duties. (MASC #10)
2. The disclosure of confidential or personally identifiable information relating to other children is prohibited by law. Staff will remove materials which may be part of students’ records from plain view. The observer shall be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the observation. (MASC #11)
3. Parents’/ Guardians’ request to observe their child(ren), current program, or a potential placement must be made in writing to the Special Education Director and/or Principal.
4. The Special Education Director or Principal shall contact the parent(s) / guardians for initial scheduling conversation within five (5) days of receipt of the parents’ request. Observations will be scheduled within 15 school days.
5. When a parent requests an observation of a special needs student or program, the Special Education Director or Principal shall give approval before the observation occurs. Such approval may only be withheld for those reasons outlined within law and DESE regulation. Any denial for those reasons will be presented to the parent / guardian in writing within 10 school days.
6. The Special Education Director and Principal shall work with the classroom teacher and the observer to set up the specifics of the observation (including, but not limited to, scheduling and placement of the observer in the classroom).
7. The number, frequency, and duration of observation periods shall be determined on an individual student basis in accordance with law and regulation. The start and end time of observation periods and a schedule of observation periods will be stated in advance and in writing. In order to minimize classroom or student disruption, the length of individual observation periods may be limited.
8. If the observer is not the parent / guardian, the parent / guardian must sign a release for the individual to observe.
9. The number of observers at any one time may be limited by the Special Education Director or Principal.
10. The observer will be informed that he/she is not to interfere with the educational environment of the classroom. If his/her presence presents a problem, he/she shall be asked to leave. The presence of parents/guardians can influence both the performance of their child(ren) and those of others.
11. If documentation of the observation is to be used in any subsequent Team meeting(s), hearing(s), or legal proceeding(s), a written report shall be submitted to the administration 2 school days prior to the TEAM meeting being held.
12. A school administrator, or designee, also shall observe at the same time and take notes as to what is observed, paying particular attention to note anything that is non-typical concerning the period. The school administrator’s (or designee’s) observation summary will be placed in the student’s special education file and provided to the parent(s)/guardians prior to any follow-up TEAM meeting.
LEGAL REF.: MGL 71B:3 Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2009-2 dated January 8, 2009
CROSS REF.: KI, Visitors to Schools
NOTE: The following quotes from the DESE Advisory are important points of understanding to the implementation of this policy.
“School districts and parents have reported that, typically, observations are between one and four hours. While useful as a general rule, the Department recommends that district policies and practices specify that the duration and extent of observations will be determined on an individual basis. Districts should avoid rigid adherence to defined time limits regardless of the student’s needs and settings to be observed. The complexities of the child’s needs, as well as the program or programs to be observed, should determine what the observation will entail and what amount of time is needed to complete it. Discussion between school staff and the parent or designee is a good starting point for resolving the issue.”
“The observation law states that districts may not condition or restrict program observations except when necessary to protect:
the safety of children in the program during the observation; the integrity of the program during the observation; and children in the program from disclosure by an observer of confidential or personally identifiable information he or she may obtain while observing the program
Second reading, first vote: 06-17-10
Final vote: 07-19-10