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Massachusetts Department of Education

Problem Resolution System

"Working Together to Resolve Education Problems"

Introduction

The Massachusetts Department of Education (Department) provides information on the education opportunities and rights provided for all students in the Commonwealth. Specifically, the Department provides information on the following types of programs: Department staff welcome questions about these programs, and will work with parents, educators, students, community members, and others so that students receive the educational services to which they are legally entitled.

The Department recommends that individuals with concerns first contact the school (for example, the Principal or Superintendent of Schools) to present the concerns to the people closest to the situation and who are most able to resolve the concern quickly. If that does not work, or does not seem possible under the circumstances, individuals may contact the Department's Problem Resolution System at the address below to state their concern.

Problem Resolution Intake Specialist
Program Quality Assurance Services
Massachusetts Department of Education
350 Main Street
Malden, MA 02148-5023
Telephone: 617-388-3300 ext. 291
TTY: N.E.T. Relay 1-800-439-2370


What is the Department of Education's Problem Resolution System?

The Problem Resolution System is the Department's process for receiving, reviewing and resolving concerns from the public regarding students who allegedly are not receiving educational services or procedural protections that by law must be provided. The System is staffed by Education Specialists who respond to questions regarding education law or regulations and refer questions to other knowledgeable persons where necessary.
 

Who may use the Problem Resolution System?

Any concerned person has the right to contact the Department. Most concerns come from parents, students, teachers and individuals or organizations acting on students' behalf. If an individual does not write to speak English, is not comfortable communicating in English, or requires some other accommodation, the Department will make arrangements to communicate appropriately with the individual.
 

What happens when individuals contact the Problem Resolution System?

When the Department is contacted by telephone or in writing, the following occurs:
 
  1. For majority of contacts, the Intake Specialist will log-in the concern and send an acknowledgment that the concern has been registered with the Department. The acknowledgment response will provide the following:
    1.  
    2. the name of the Education Specialist who will be providing assistance
    3. information on the Problem Resolution System
    4.  an Intake Information Form that will provide the Department and the applicable local agency with general information about the student, the nature of the concern and the attempts that have been made to resolve the problem at the local level.
     
  2. When the Department receives the signed Intake Information Form, an Education Specialist will contact the individual within 5 business days to discuss the concern in more detail. Concerns are responded to in the order received. Please note: If the Department does not receive your Intake Information Form within 30 days, we will presume that you do not wish to have the Department assist you further with your concern. In this case, your issue will be placed in an "inactive" status.
  3. Of course, you may always contact the Department again at some point in the future should you have a need for further assistance.
  4. Concerns regarding students alleged to be receiving no education or who are in dangerous situations will receive immediate attention by an Education Specialist prior to the receipt of the signed Intake Information Form.
 

How will the Department address a concern?

  1. An Education Specialist will review the concern with the individual to determine if the concern is related to an education law or regulation. If the concern is not related to a law or regulation, the Education Specialist will inform the individual that the Department does not have the authority to address the concern. Where possible, the Education Specialist will provide advice on how the individual may proceed next with the concern.
  2. If it is determined that the concern is related to an education law or regulation, the Specialist will immediately contact the school to determine the best method of resolving the issue. If the Specialist determines that the school has not yet had an adequate opportunity to address the concern, the Superintendent of Schools or Director will be contacted to allow the school to address the concern directly. The Department will expect a report of this local review in most cases no later than 15 calendar days from the date the Department notifies the school of the concern. A copy of the school's response will be sent to the individual filing the concern.
  3. The Education Specialist will review the local investigation report and decide whether any further investigation or action must be taken by the Department before the concern is considered resolved and, therefore, closed. In all cases, the Education Specialist will carefully review the concerns will all appropriate parties to determine whether the education law and regulations are being followed. If the Department determines that the school is not meeting requirements of the law, the Department will work with the school officials to correct the situation.
In most cases, the Department of Education will resolve problems brought to its attention within 60 calendar days from the date the signed Intake Information Form is received. In cases where this is not possible, the Department will send a letter explaining the reason for the delay and the projected date by which the concern is expected to be resolved.
 

How will individuals know the concerns have been resolved?

For any concern that is related to an education law or regulation, the Department of Education will send a letter explaining the results of the review of the problem and, where necessary, the actions that have been taken to resolve the concern.
 

Will the Department help people who do not want to give their names?

It is difficult for the Department to help individuals who do not identify themselves, since it is not possible to contact them to gather any additional needed information or to share the results of the Department's actions. For this reason the Department will ask for names and addresses. Upon request, the Department will keep this information confidential until authorized by the individual to do otherwise.

Can individuals appeal the Department's determination?

For concerns other than special education, the Department's determination is final. For concerns involving special education programs and services, individuals may request the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary of Education, to review the state Department's decision.

Can special education concerns be addressed at the same time by the Department's Problem Resolution System and the Bureau of Special Education Appeals?

No. Federal special education regulations prohibit the review of the same problems through these two systems at the same time.
 

Conclusion

The Massachusetts Department of Education is committed to assisting individuals and schools in the prompt resolution of problems. Education laws and regulations exist to protect the rights of all students in the Commonwealth and to ensure that all students receive equal educational opportunities. The Department looks forward to working together with school and the public in reaching the goal of high quality educational services for all students.