Growth of Educational Collaboratives

The General Court of Massachusetts has enacted several pieces of legislation that encourages a collaborative approach to educational needs. Chapter 40, Section 4E of the Massachusetts General Laws is significant as the original legislation permitting two or more school committees to authorize agreements for joint educational activities. Each school committee that becomes party to a collaborative agreement does so on a voluntary basis and continues to maintain its local autonomy. The legislation is designed to help school districts expand and strengthen school programs and increase educational opportunities for students.

Local school districts, faced with the twin phenomena of declining school enrollments and increasing educational costs, supported educational collaboratives in the 1970’s as a cost effective delivery system. With the passage of Chapter 766 of the Acts of 1972, An Act Further Regulating Programs For Children Requiring Special Education and Providing Reimbursement Therefor, local school committees recognized the potential of a cooperative effort in meeting the needs of a low incidence student population. Experience began to indicate that programs such as vocational education, certain regular education programs and services and staff development could also be operated effectively and efficiently on a cooperative basis. School districts formed educational collaboratives not only to help them meet the special education mandate but to provide other programs and services as well.

Thirty-five collaboratives currently offer Massachusetts local school systems a mechanism to find joint solutions to common problems. Although they were originally viewed as temporary structures because of their ability to provide flexible programming, over the past two decades collaboratives have continued to strengthen and improve their capacities. Today, over 250 cities, towns and regional school districts across the Commonwealth are members of educational collaboratives. Collaboratives provide a variety of services to their member school districts and serve over 6,000 public school students in regular education, special education and occupational education programs.

Purpose of Educational Collaboratives

The collaborative concept is not new and the traditional reasons for collaboration are well-known; collaboratives are a means of sharing ideas and resources, a means of bringing dissimilar organizations together to address a common need, and a means of providing effective and creative options for school districts. The educational programs and services conducted by collaboratives are designed to complement and strengthen the programs of member school committees and increase educational opportunities for students.

The thirty five collaboratives that serve Massachusetts vary greatly in size and scope. Some are single purpose, providing member districts with only one service, such as special education of vocational education. Others provide a variety of programs and services.

Collaborative offerings are geared to local priorities and needs. Some examples of programs and services follow:

Regular Education Programs and Services

  • Alternative High Schools
  • Career Education
  • Drop-out Prevention Programs
  • Gifted and Talented
  • School/business partnerships
  • Summer enrichment
  • Telecommunication projects


  • Cooperative Purchasing
  • Cooperative Transportation
  • In-service Training
  • Like job groups meetings
  • Resource Centers

Special Education Programs and Services

  • Alternative High Schools
  • Prevocational
  • Deaf & Hard of Hearing
  • Speech, Occupation & Physical Therapy
  • Early Childhood Screening
  • Pre-school
  • Multi-handicapped programs
  • Nursery
  • Summer Programs

Vocational Education and Chapter 74 Programs

  • Agricultural
  • Building Trades
  • Career Education
  • Child Care
  • Electronic Technology
  • Food Services
  • Office & Computer Operations
  • Mechanics