The California Department of Education (CDE) Special Education Quality Assurance Process (QAP) evaluates school district, county office of education, and Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. The following information provides a brief overview of QAP. QAP verifies that students with disabilities receive the programs and services they need, positive results are achieved, and procedural safeguards (DOC) are provided. This process evolved as the result of a visionary effort to ensure students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). QAP consists of Data Review, Special Education Self-Reviews (SESR), Verification Review (VR), Sanctions, and Technical Assistance.
California Special Education Management Information System (CASEMIS) is an information data reporting and retrieval system in special education developed by the CDE. The CDE designed the system to assist the QAP at the local, regional, and state levels. Data generate indications of school district performance on state Key Performance Indicators (KPI), and federal and state timeline compliance (e.g., annual individualized education program [IEP], triennial assessments, transition). These data are used to select districts, each year, for participation in compliance monitoring.
The CDE utilizes a comprehensive data system to collect, monitor, and analyze alleged violations to ensure state and federal laws and regulations are implemented including school district complaint and due process histories. These data are then utilized by the CDE and school districts for SESR and VR processes.
Parent input meetings , an integral part of the CDE monitoring processes, involve facilitated groups highlighting school district strengths and weaknesses. Patterns of identified concerns provide focus for both local and state reviews (i.e., SESR, VR).
Structured individual interviews are conducted during both local and state compliance reviews. Responses from open-ended questions provide insight to school district implementation of IEP.
Special Education Self-Review and Verification Review
Yearly, one quarter of the over 1,000 California school districts conduct a SESR process. The process includes a self-review of each school site completed by school district personnel with a follow-up review by school districts held six months later to ensure school district fulfillment of legal obligations.
CDE staff may conduct VR as a result of any of the following:
- An allegation or reason to believe that a violation(s) of compliance exists based on data from CDE staff responsible for program approval and compliance. VRs may also result from complaint investigations.
- Rank ordering school district performance on statewide issues (e.g., over-identification of children with disabilities, least restrictive environment, academic performance). School districts subject to VR demonstrate significantly subaverage performance.
- Deficiencies in compliance identified in previous years and noted again in the current year.
Both review processes incorporate these components:
- Monitoring Plan
As a result of the data analysis, a monitoring plan is developed for both the SESR and VRs. The key areas for focusing the review are derived from CASEMIS data analysis, complaint and due process history, and parent input meetings.
- Review of Student Records
During both SESR and VRs, 860 federal and state regulatory items are the basis of pupil records reviews. The relevant items are customized to each school district based on data review and parent input. The student records targeted for review are randomly generated through CASEMIS. All potential findings of noncompliance derived from student record reviews are corroborated through a review of additional student records.
- Educational Benefit
In the educational benefit review process, the team determines whether individualized instruction is reasonably calculated to provide students the opportunity to benefit from special education and related services. Student assessment and subsequent IEPs are chronologically charted according to present levels of performance, goals, placements, services, and progress. These are analyzed to determine if the student’s program is reasonably calculated to result in educational benefit.
- IEP Implementation
IEP implementation data indicate the status of services contained in the IEP and verify students receive all services contained in the IEP. A combination of observations and interviews with parents, service providers, and students provide evidence to determine if student IEPs are implemented as written.
- Structured Interviews
Structured individual interviews are conducted during both local and state compliance reviews. Responses from open-ended questions provide insight to the school district’s implementation of IEPs.
- Local Plan Governance Review
The school district’s policy and procedures are reviewed to ensure they meet federal and state requirements. The purpose of the SELPA governance review is to determine if the SELPA implemented the required components of the special education local plan, including annual budget, service plan, and local interagency agreements with the county mental health agency.
When a district, SELPA, or county office of education fails to comply substantially with a provision of law regarding special education and related services, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may apply sanctions (e.g., special conditions, withholding funds, writ of mandate).
"Substantial noncompliance" means an incident of significant failure to provide a child with a disability with a FAPE, an act which results in the loss of an educational opportunity to the child or interferes with the opportunity of the parents or guardians of the pupil to participate in the formulation of the individual education program, a history of chronic noncompliance in a particular area, or a systemic agency-wide problem of noncompliance (California Code of Regulations Section 3088.1, ).
Technical assistance is threaded throughout the compliance system. Technical assistance may be defined as assisting local educational agencies in accomplishing the tasks required to design and implement a program that assures students with disabilities a FAPE, which complies with both federal and state statute.