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CAST, Partners to Lead Effort to Improve IEP Process in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education logo

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

3-year, $1.5 million effort will address family, race, and culture in special-ed planning

CAST is pleased to announce that it will join three other partners in Massachusetts to launch state-funded effort to strengthen and improve the process for writing Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs. CAST joins the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, the Federation for Children with Special Needs, and BlackPrint Education Consulting in forming the Students and Families First Coalition (SFFC).

The Coalition will collaborate with school and district staff across Massachusetts to explore ways of using IEPs to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, with special attention to the role of race, family engagement, and culturally responsive practice in special-education decision making. Questions for consideration include:

  • Who is invited to IEP planning teams?
  • How can we ensure that information and opportunities to participate are accessible and available to all?
  • Who facilitates the review of student data?
  • What does the data suggest about racial inequity and the causes of inequity?

After a period of collaborative exploration and program design, SFFC partners will work with schools on implementation of new IEP practices. This phase will include professional development, online communities of practice, and supports.

“We look forward to working with families, teachers, school administrators, related personnel, and students themselves on improving the process of making Individualized Education Programs,” says CAST’s Director of Professional Learning, Jennifer Levine. “The IEP process is a potentially life-changing opportunity for students with disabilities—and ensuring that students’ voices and those of their families are heard alongside those of other stakeholders is essential.”

This 3-year, $1.5 million project brings together experts in special education, inclusion, and instructional effectiveness; improvement science; family engagement; and culturally responsive practices. SFFC members include:  

  • CAST is a non-profit educational innovator with decades of groundbreaking work to create a world where "learning has no limits." For more than three decades, CAST has helped schools, districts, and states design inclusive learning environments that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.
  • The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy aims to improve public education through well-informed decision making based on deep knowledge and evidence. The Center has worked with educators in more than 100 school districts across Massachusetts to build their capacity to design, implement, and evaluate the use of evidence-based reforms.
  • The Federation for Children with Special Needs has a long history of supporting families of students with special needs in Massachusetts. A non-profit, parent-run organization, FCSN has led Massachusetts and the nation in family-based training and support for both parents of children with special needs and the professionals who serve them
  • BlackPrint Education Consulting supports districts, schools, and organizations to create the structures, competencies, and practices necessary to produce educational equity and excellence for historically marginalized student populations.
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