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Massachusetts Department of Education
Problem Resolution System
"Working Together to Resolve Education Problems"
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.
Adult basic education programs
Bilingual education programs
Private day and residential special education programs
Private proprietary school programs
Public early childhood, elementary and secondary school programs
Public school or collaborative special education programs
Vocational education programs
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
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
What happens when individuals contact the Problem Resolution System?
When the Department is contacted by telephone or in writing, the following
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:
the name of the Education Specialist who will be providing assistance
information on the Problem Resolution System
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.
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.
Of course, you may always contact the Department again at some point in
the future should you have a need for further assistance.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
No. Federal special education regulations prohibit the review of the
same problems through these two systems at the same time.
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.