Administrative Letter: Annual Notification of Eligibility for Schoolwide Programs that Include Students with Disabilities

Administrative Letter: #18
Policy Code:  BGE
To: District and School Administrators, Special Education Directors
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D., Commissioner
Date: September 5, 2018
Subject: Annual Notification of Eligibility for Schoolwide Programs that Include Students with Disabilities

Schools that receive federal Title I funds, have poverty rates of at least 40 percent and have approved Title IA Schoolwide Plans are eligible to use their Title I funds – and funds from other sources – to develop “schoolwide programs.”

Schoolwide programs are comprehensive reform strategies aimed at raising the achievement levels of all students.

To facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities in schoolwide programs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the federal regulations at 34 CFR §300.206(a) allow school administrative units (SAU) to use a portion of the funds they receive under Part B of IDEA for any fiscal year to fund such schoolwide programs.

SAUs can use those funds as long as students with disabilities receive the services to which they are entitled under their Individualized Education Programs and that are guaranteed under IDEA.

The amount of Part B funds a school expends for schoolwide programs cannot exceed the amount the SAU has received for that fiscal year, divided by the number of children with disabilities in that unit, multiplied by the number of children with disabilities participating in the schoolwide program.

For more information visit Maine DOE’s ESSA Webpages or contact Maine DOE’s Title IA Data Specialist Daniel Weeks at daniel.r.weeks@maine.gov, or Director of Special Services Jan Breton at janice.breton@maine.gov.

Administrative Letter (Updated): New Requirements for Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

Administrative Letter: #17
Policy Code:
 BGE
To: District and School Administrators, Special Education Directors
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D., Commissioner
Date: August 27, 2018
Subject: New Requirements for Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

The following Administrative Letter has been updated with the correct revised IEP form.

On April 14, 2018 in Administrative Letter #13, the Maine Department of Education announced new requirements for Individualized Education Programs (IEP) beginning on May 1, 2018. The purpose of the new requirements was to appropriately document certain services that are both educationally and medically necessary in accordance with both IDEA and Section 65 and Section 28 of the MaineCare Benefits Manual.  Subsequently in a communication dated May 16, 2018, the Department delayed the start date pending consideration of some questions raised by the field through counsel for the Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities (MADSEC).

After careful consideration and assistance from the Department’s counsel, we are now ready to move ahead with implementation of a revised IEP that addresses educationally necessary, MaineCare billable services. The new implementation date is October 1, 2018.

The Department recognizes that what we initially viewed as a change in documentation has caused confusion and concern in the field, and wants to address several important points about what this change means and does not mean for IEP Teams and school administrative units:

  • First, nothing has changed about the IEP Team’s responsibility for determining if a child who needs special education also needs related services, such as behavioral health services, in order to benefit from their special education.
  • Second, nothing has changed about the requirement that an IEP address the behavioral health needs of a student with a disability whose behavior is impacting their education. MUSER has contained a category of related services called “school health services” for several years, and the scope of what is contained within that category has been limited only by the Supreme Court’s rulings in Garret F. and Tatro¹ that these services are services that do not need to be provided by a doctor. A social worker, or an educational technician certified as a behavior health professional could be a potential provider.
  • Third, nothing has changed with respect to the IEP Team’s responsibility for determining the least restrictive environment (LRE) in which a child with a disability will receive special education and related services. Not every student with a disability who requires behavioral health services needs to be served in a day treatment program. The IEP Team must consider the unique needs of the student in determining placement, just as they must consider the unique needs of the student in developing the rest of the IEP.
  • Finally, the only thing that has changed is that if the IEP Team determines that a child with a disability is going to receive a service or be served by a professional covered by MaineCare and the child’s parent has consented to the use of MaineCare as a payment source, the service must be documented in Section 8, on the applicable section of the service grid on the IEP.

The Department understands that there will be additional questions from the field and we intend to provide support and guidance. For questions, please contact Roberta Lucas (Roberta.lucas@maine.gov) or Mary Adley (Mary.adley@maine.gov).

¹ Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., 526 U.S. 66 (1999); Irving Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984).

Administrative Letter: 2018-2019 Maine Schools/Public School Approval Now Open

Administrative Letter: 16
Policy Code: KLL
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: July 12, 2018
SUBJECT: 2018-2019 Maine Schools/Public School Approval Now Open

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 206 and Maine Department of Education (DOE) Rule Chapter 125, to maintain continued approval status for the school administrative unit and all schools within it, the superintendent shall submit timely completed annual school reports to the Commissioner, including the annual approval report for the unit and for each school in the unit certifying progress on the Comprehensive Education Plan.
Public schools complete the annual school approval process in the NEO information system, verifying required organization and school administrative unit and school approval information in the NEO Maine Schools module.

This year the two separate processes – Maine Schools Update, and School Approval – were integrated into a one-step process, thereby allowing submission of both organizational information and school approval checklist items in one sitting. In addition, the information may be saved when partially finished to complete at a later time. While completing the approval process, the page should be saved often, as there is a time-out period.

Public School and NEO

Maine Schools/School Approval NEO Module
The Maine Schools module in the Maine DOE’s NEO information system is now open for the 2018-2019 school year. The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public schools to inform the Maine Department of Education of school and district contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. This module new includes the school approval component for public schools. As a preliminary step, in order for an organization to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must first be entered into the NEO Staff Module. Access to NEO staff can be obtained by submitting a NEO Access Request Form (Excel) form to the MDOE Data Helpdesk.

Filling out the Maine Schools/School Approval Module: All fields with the exception of Administrative Office Fax are required. PO Boxes will not be accepted in the “Physical Address” box. Mailing address is needed only if different from Physical address. The Cost Center information references the three-digit code that the business office uses in the public financial system to assign building level costs (may require two codes).
At the bottom, check the box to confirm that all information has been reviewed before signing and submitting the form.

Log in to the NEO information system. Click on Maine Schools. If you do not see this option on your menu, and are a superintendent, technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov with questions or comments about the school approval.

Administrative Letter: 2018-2019 Private School Approval, NEO Maine Schools, and Staff Now Open

Administrative Letter: 15
Policy Code: KLL
TO: Private School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: July 12, 2018
SUBJECT: 2018-2019 Private School Approval, NEO Maine Schools, and Staff Now Open

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 117, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) requires private schools seeking approval status to be approved annually.

Private schools seeking approval status must enter required organization and staff information into the NEO information system and submit their annual school approval report. Related documentation should be submitted to Maine DOE’s School Enrollment/Approval Specialist, either electronically or by mail. The NEO requirements need not be completed prior to the submission of the annual report; however, school approval will not be issued until the NEO information is complete and verified.

Private School and NEO

Maine Schools NEO Module
The Maine Schools module in the Maine DOE’s NEO information system is now open for the 2018-2019 school year. The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public and private schools to inform the Maine Department of Education of school and district contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. As a preliminary step, in order for an organization to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must first be entered into the NEO Staff Module. Access to NEO staff can be obtained by submitting a NEO Access Request Form (Excel) form to the MDOE Data Helpdesk.

Filling out the Maine Schools Module: All fields with the exception of Administrative Office Fax are required. PO Boxes will not be accepted in the “Physical Address” box. Mailing address is needed only if different from Physical address. The Cost Center information references the three-digit code that the business office uses in the public financial system to assign building level costs (may require two codes). Since this is a required field but currently not used for private schools, a value of “001,” “002,” etc. should be entered there to indicate this is an excluded field.

At the bottom, check the box to confirm that all information has been reviewed before signing and submitting the form.

Log in to the NEO information system. Click on Maine Schools. If you do not see this option on your menu, and are a superintendent (for private schools, this is the head of school), technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.

Staff NEO Module
For security and privacy purposes, all staff information must be entered in the NEO Staff module. The Maine DOE school approval process will include a clearance check for every school employee, as well as appropriate certification checks where applicable.

Guidance for Completing the Annual School Approval Report and Documentation

2018-2019 Approval Reports and requirement checklists are linked below, and also available from the updated Private School Approval  web page. If unsure of which form is appropriate for your needs, please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, School Enrollment/Approval Specialist.

Changes/Additions/Clarifications:

  • Organization of annual report rearranged to make it clearer for schools meeting differing requirements according to accreditation and funding status.
  • Non-profit status.
  • Grade span may not include Pre-K. The Department does not “approve” private Pre-K schools. These schools are licensed by Maine DHHS.
  • Records maintenance and release policy
  • Schools receiving public funds must report the data that the Department requests, including attendance data for private schools enrolling 60% or greater publicly-funded students, per M.R.S. 20-A Section 2952.
  • Out of state private schools were “grandfathered” on previous approvals through 2017-18. For 2018-2019 these schools are no longer eligible to accept public funds unless they undergo the private school basic school approval process, including Maine fingerprint/background check, curriculum alignment with the Maine Learning Results, and movement toward proficiency-based diplomas.
  • Approval year will mirror the public school approval year – July 1 through June 30.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov with questions or comments about the school approval.

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Guidance on multiple disabilities eligibility category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Administrative Letter: 14
Policy Code: BGC
To: Public School Administrators and Special Education Directors
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
Date: May 7, 2018
Subject: Guidance on multiple disabilities eligibility category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Maine Department of Education’s Office of Special Services is providing the following information regarding the identification of “multiple disabilities” as an eligibility category for students with disabilities. This guidance is intended to help Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams correctly identify students with multiple disabilities consistent with the definition in federal law.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, for a child to qualify under the category of “multiple disabilities,” the following criteria must be met:

  1. The child has impairments that occur concomitantly (two or more disabilities that occur at the same time); and
  2. the result of the combination of the impairments causes such severe educational needs that the child cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments.

Based on these criteria, the category of multiple disabilities requires the presence of severe educational needs, not solely the presence of two or more disabilities. For example, a child who has an intellectual disability and blindness or a child who has an intellectual disability and orthopedic impairment would be categorized as multiply disabled. An example of a child that should not be classified as having multiple disabilities could be child who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and has a speech language disability.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that Maine has much higher identification rates of children in the category of multiple disabilities than the national average.  In 2016-17, for ages 6–21, the national multiple disabilities rate (pooling across all states and territories for which data were available) was 2.34 percent while Maine’s rate was 10.77 percent. There are very few states/territories with higher rates than Maine’s.

Maine Multiple Disabilities Identification Rate Compared to National Average

National 2.34%
Maine 10.77%
These values represent the percentages of multiple disabilities out of all children with disabilities, not out of all children both with and without disabilities. 

Maine Multiple Disabilities Identification Rate 2014 – 2016

2016-17 10.46%
2015-16 10.04%
2014-15 9.68%
These values represent the percentages of multiple disabilities out of all children with disabilities, not out of all children both with and without disabilities. 

Given the significant difference between Maine’s identification rate and the national average, the Department will be working on supportive efforts to ensure that students are being correctly identified in this category. As such, the Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services’ monitoring team will be working with school districts with high identification rates in multiple disabilities as part of the general supervision system of monitoring and supports.  It is recommended that this information be shared with anyone who is a part of identification and/or triennial evaluations.

For more information about this topic, please contact the Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services by phone at (207) 624-6713 or via email to Jan Breton, Director of Special Services at janice.breton@maine.gov.