OSEP Monthly Update

OSEP Monthly Update


Volume 4 Issue 9

"Our work is motivated by the belief that all students - regardless of race, gender, income, disability, and English learner status - need and deserve a world-class education." 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, announcing release of English Learner Toolkit

Dyslexia Guidance

In early October, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated that Learning Disability / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness Month is an important period of awareness across our country for the one in five public school students who experience learning disabilities and attention issues.  Emphasizing that supporting students with learning disabilities so that they may thrive in school is a critical responsibility each of us shares if we are to help all students achieve their dreams.

Later in the month, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitiative Services (OSERS) Assistant Secretary, Michael Yudin, issued new policy guidance clarifying that there is nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) documents. [PDF available here]

Assessment Peer Review

On September 25, the Department released updated guidance regarding the criteria and process for demonstrating that statewide assessment systems meet the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended. The guidance recognizes State efforts to refine and improve their State-developed standards and create an assessment system that supports student learning, and is aligned to those standards as part of a broader strategy to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. 

The updated guidance, along with the corresponding peer review process to be conducted using panels of educators and assessment experts from outside ED, will help determine whether assessment systems meet the requirements of the ESEA. The Department will initiate peer review sessions in late January, late March, and May 2016. States are encouraged to contact their Office of State Support program officer by November 18, 2015 to express interest in the peer review of the State’s assessment system.

Testing Action Plan

On October 26, President Obama issued an open letter to parents and teachers and Facebook video about student testing.  “I’ve asked the Department of Education to work aggressively with states and school districts to make sure that any tests we use in our classroom meet three basic principles,” he said.  “First, our kids should only take tests that are worth taking -- tests that are high quality, aimed at good instruction, and make sure everyone is on track.  Second, tests should not occupy too much classroom time or crowd out teaching and learning.  Third, tests should be just one source of information, and we should use classroom work, surveys, and other key factors to give us an all-around look at how students and schools are doing.”

Later that day, Secretary Duncan and incoming Acting Secretary King joined a panel hosted by the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS).  The event featured the release of “Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools: Where Do We Go From Here?” -- CGCS’s two-year study on the frequency of student testing.  CGCS released recommendations with the report that call for retaining current annual tests in core subjects but eliminating tests that are either redundant or low quality (video).   While asserting that schools should still have a way to assess student performance at least once per year, Secretary Duncan has acknowledged that federal policy had partially created the over-testing problem by encouraging states to evaluate teachers in part on test scores. 

This push corresponds with a fact sheet released on October 23, outlining core principles for fewer and smarter assessments, Administration actions to reduce over-testing, and examples of State and local leadership in reducing over-testing and calls on Congress to reduce over-testing via reauthorization the ESEA.

Refocus on Early Learning and #RethinkDiscipline

“Research confirms what every parent knows: that the first five years of a child’s life matter greatly in determining what sort of adult he is likely to become…That’s why President Obama and I believe we must expand access to high-quality early childhood education.”
     - Secretary Arne Duncan

 The Department has ramped-up efforts in early learning with the recent joint secretarial statement released in support of inclusion, and debut of new early learning webpage.  The site, which houses resources for administrators, educators, students, parents and community members, states that teachers and students deserve school environments that are safe, supportive, and conducive to teaching and learning. Creating a supportive school climate—and decreasing suspensions and expulsions—requires close attention to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students.

In September, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a report showing Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge states are rapidly improving the quality of early learning programs while enrolling more children, especially from low- and moderate-income families, in the highest-quality programs.  The report comes from the annual performance reviews for the 20 states that have received more than $1 billion in Race to the Top grants since 2011.  These reviews capture the successes achieved and obstacles overcome by states in the last year.

Other recent early learning publications include an annotated bibliography covering early childhood suspension and expulsion is now available on the Center On Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes website. It identifies selected research studies and federal and state policy resources on early childhood suspension, expulsion, and discipline and what can be done to prevent these practices.

In the same vein, OSERS Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin expanded on the #RethinkDiscipline campaign on October 15, convening national experts for an online discussion about the use of suspensions and expulsions in early childhood settings, and local efforts to end the use of exclusionary discipline for young children.

Federal Register

The following notice published in the Federal Register October 9, 2015:  OSERS/OSEP -- Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities -- Preparation of Special Education, Early Intervention, and Related Services Leadership Personnel (CFDA No. 84.325D). 

Purpose of Program: The purposes of this program are to (1) help address State-identified needs for personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, related services, and regular education to work with children, including infants and toddlers, with disabilities; and (2) ensure that those personnel have the necessary skills and knowledge, derived from practices that have been determined through scientifically based research and experience, to be successful in serving those children.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications:  December 8, 2015.

The notice can be reviewed at the Federal Register Web site.

The following notice was published in the Federal Register October 15, 2015: OSERS/OSEP -- Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities -- Personnel Preparation in Special Education, Early Intervention, and Related Services (CFDA No. 84.325K).

Purpose of Program: The purposes of this program are to (1) help address State-identified needs for personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, related services, and regular education to work with children, including infants and toddlers, with disabilities; and (2) ensure that those personnel have the necessary skills and knowledge, derived from practices that have been determined through scientifically based research and experience, to be successful in serving those children.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications:  December 14, 2015.

The notice can be reviewed at the Federal Register Web site.

ED seal

Letter from the Director

Melody Musgrove


Dear Leaders,

October was a busy month here at the Department of Education. We reflected on progress made to improve outcomes for children and youth with disabilities and their families, recognizing Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD) Awareness Month, and working with the White House to strengthen and increase accessibility to resources for families of students with disabilities. I am consistently inspired by those affected by LD/ADHD and was able to capture some incredible perspectives on life as a "different thinker" in my most recent post to the OSERS blog.

We also learned that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be stepping down from his post this year. My very best wishes and sincerest gratitude go out to Arne for his leadership and service to our nation's youth these many years. I'm also very excited for our Deputy Secretary, lifelong teacher Dr. John King to take up the mantle. We are certainly in good hands! 

This month is shaping up to be just as exciting as the last. On November 16-17, OSERS will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Keep your eye on the OSERS website, blog and twitter for details on streaming the IDEA 40th events, and your chance to take part in our celebration of inclusion, equity, and opportunity since the law's enactment. 

Finally, please mark your calendars for another event this month, the Federal Partners in Transition Webinar. The event will focus on post-secondary transition activities for students and youth with disabilities, and is designed to help prepare youth for careers. Educational practices, career development and employment strategies, and benefits counseling will be presented, illuminating a wide variety of federally funded resources. Please join us on November 10 for this collaborative event. You can register here through November 9.

Keep up the great work and stay cozy!




OSERS Releases 2015 Transition Data Fact Sheet

In the ongoing effort focusing on the services, needs and outcomes of  children and youth with disabilities and their families, the OSERS transition team has developed the 2015 Transition Data Fact Sheet as a quick reference to inform OSERS staff and the transition community about critical data areas related to the transition of youth with disabilities from school activities to post-school activities. Here, “transition” is defined as the passage from secondary education to participating in postsecondary education, training or both, engaging in meaningful employment, living within one’s community, exercising self-determination, and contributing to society as productive citizens.

Center on Great Teachers and Leaders Releases New Resources

The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL) is a Technical Assistance & Dissemination Center jointly funded and co-managed by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Office of Special Education Programs and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. The Center has released several new resources that can help regional comprehensive centers and states provide better supports to school leaders, and support states with their Equitable Access Plan implementation.

New Professional Learning Module: Recruit, Select, and Support: Turnaround Leader Competencies. Leading a school turnaround is complex work; but research shows that there are specific competencies that school leaders need for successful turnaround efforts. Use this material to learn how to use these competencies to recruit, select, and provide ongoing support to school principals working in a turnaround context. The material was developed through a partnership among four organizations: The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, The Center on School Turnaround, Public Impact, and University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education

New Online Tool: National School Leadership Standards Map. Each State has professional leadership standards that communicate what principals should know and do to improve schools and student learning. With funding from The Wallace Foundation, we developed an interactive online map to quickly and easily locate information about school leadership standards in all 50 States. Explore how leadership standards have been adopted, adapted, and used by States to support principals, as well as how these policies change over time.

The Department also co-hosted ConnectEd Educators Month with GTL and other partners in October, encouraging collaboration and professional development with activities using technology and social media.



On October 26, ED hosted its first ever ParentCampUSA at ED headquarters in Washington, DC. Learn more about this "un-conference" and how it brings together parents, caregivers, community leaders, educators, and children to have conversations about how to best support students, on the Parent Camp website. 


ESEA Update

Appearing jointly, Secretary Duncan and his Senior Advisor, incoming Secretary King, joined U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in hosting a roundtable discussion with students, educators, and civil rights and community leaders on the need for a strong reauthorization of the ESEA that lives up to its legacy of advancing equity and providing opportunity for every child.  The leaders called for a new law that ensures high expectations for all students and expects that, where schools or students are not making progress, actions will be taken to improve outcomes for those schools and students.  The House and Senate have each passed their version of ESEA reauthorization, and they are working together to approve a final bill that can be signed by the President.

ED Celebrates Diversity with English Learners Toolkit

Hispanic Heritage Month spanned September 15- October 15 this year, and spurred many new initiatives for improving outcomes for minorities in the US education system.  On September 21, U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) announced the completion of the English Learner (EL) Tool Kit to support states, districts and schools in meeting their legal obligations to ELs and ensuring access to quality education.

Continuing to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics released a Federal Agencies Investing in Hispanic Education report and set of Federal Agency Data Plans that highlight the Administration’s contributions to education, announced Federal Agency Commitments to Action which invest in Hispanic education and workforce opportunities, and launched its online #LatinosTeach campaign -- featuring a video with Dr. Jill Biden and Erica Castro, both of whom are educators -- calling on more Latinos to enter the teaching profession.

ED released a resource guide to help teachers better support undocumented youth. The guide includes information about the rights of undocumented students, scholarship opportunities, and tips for educators about how to provide academic and social support for undocumented youth.