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Nonpublic Oversight: Certificate of Approval & Monitoring

To be eligible to serve a student with a disability whose education is funded by the District of Columbia government, a nonpublic special education school or program, except under rare and exceptional circumstances, must hold and maintain a certificate of approval issued by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

The certificate of approval process maintains oversight of nonpublic special education schools or programs to ensure that every District of Columbia student with a disability who is placed in a nonpublic school - including day schools, residential treatment or psychiatric residential treatment facilities - is afforded a free and appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment, in a school where the health and safety of students are protected.

Initial Application for Certificate of Approval
A nonpublic special education school or program seeking to obtain a certificate of approval from OSSE must complete an initial application on OSSE’s standard form. OSSE will review each application submitted for an initial certificate of approval according to the criteria specified in 5A DCMR 2800 and will consult with other District agencies and agencies of other state and local governments as applicable. A certificate of approval will become effective as prescribed by OSSE. OSSE may, at its discretion, schedule site visits, interviews, or other inspections, and/or consult with counterparts in the host state, District agencies or other relevant stakeholders prior to granting a certificate of approval. OSSE will provide the applicant with written notice of its actions and the reasons for such actions. In no case shall approval at any level be awarded unless the nonpublic special education school or program demonstrates to the satisfaction of OSSE that the health and safety of students are protected and that the school or program is able to implement the provisions in each student’s individualized education program (IEP).

Renewal of an Existing Certificate of Approval
A nonpublic special education school or program may have its certificate of approval renewed for up to three years at a time. An application for renewal must be submitted not later than 180 calendar days prior to the expiration date of the current certificate of approval, using a standard renewal form. It is the responsibility of the nonpublic special education school or program to apply for renewal of certification. Any corrective actions required by OSSE and in place at the time of application for renewal of a certificate of approval must be completed as a condition of renewal.

OSSE may revoke or decline to renew a certificate of approval for any of the reasons pursuant to D.C. Official Code §38-2561.11 and 5A DCMR 2800.

Monitoring Nonpublic Schools
On an annual basis, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) monitors local education agencies (LEAs) that have students placed in nonpublic schools to ensure compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the federal regulations that govern the provision of specialized instruction and related services to students with disabilities. The OSSE IDEA Part B Student Compliance Monitoring Tool is used by OSSE monitors for monitoring purposes.

OSSE schedules periodic monitoring visits with each nonpublic special education school or program at least once during the validity period of each certificate of approval, to verify compliance with 5A DCMR Chapter 28 Regulations, and federal and local law. During the visit, OSSE monitors schools for compliance with an established set of regulatory requirements that are captured in the monitoring tool.

Representatives of OSSE may make unannounced visits to a nonpublic special education school or program, review student records and conduct interviews with students and staff. OSSE, as the District of Columbia’s state education agency (SEA), is entitled to immediate access to all student records for monitoring and investigative purposes and maintains their confidentiality as required by law. The nonpublic special education school or program is required to cooperate in full with any requests for documentation, file review, interviews and access to the facility during an unannounced visit. OSSE may interview students on site at a school or program without school representatives being present.

OSSE shall issue to the nonpublic special education school or program a monitoring report at least once in every period of validity for a certificate of approval, to include any findings of noncompliance with D.C. Official Code §38-2561 and local regulations, specifically 5A DCMR Chapter 28 Regulations.

Additional Information
For additional information about nonpublic oversight, please select the links below.


Contact Us

For questions or additional information, please email [email protected].

The Nonpublic Oversight and Support Program is administered by OSSE’s Office of Special Populations and Programs within the Division of Systems and Supports, K-12.

[Date Posted: May 11, 2023]