November OSEP Update

Monthly OSEP Update


Volume III     Issue XI


The National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) Webinar

NCSI hosted a "webinar-lite" to introduce the center by providing an overview of the center's overarching goal, intended outcomes, structure, collaborating partners and initial activities. This 30 minute webinar was presented by NCSI's Co-Director's Kristin Reedy, Ed.D., Director of Northeast Regional Resource Center (NERRC) Learning Innovations at WestEd, and Rorie Fitzpatrick, Director of Special Projects at WestEd. 

To access the recording and the materials see


Save the Date!

The 2015 Leadership Conference will be held July 26th -29th at the Marriot Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C. 

The annual gathering brings together Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B State Directors, IDEA Part C Coordinators, Preschool Coordinators, Parent Center leaders, and other OSEP (  technical assistance providers, and aims to support better outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families.


RDA Website Re-launch

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) would like to share with you the re-launched Results Driven Accountability (RDA) Website.  This website is designed to serve as a tool for sharing information with partners and stakeholders about RDA.  The site provides general information about RDA including a description of its’ major components and core principles, a news section that will house updates from OSEP and the field about RDA, a section for resources that includes useful documents and helpful links and a section on accountability that provide a link to State Performance Plans, Annual Performance Reports, supporting Documents and current determinations.  

Access the website at

 and contact Marsha Goldberg at if you have any questions or comments. 


SPDG National Meeting

The State Personnel Development Grants projects came together in Washington, D.C. October 9th and 10th to share professional development and implementation support tools and activities they had developed.  They also learned more about engaging families and supporting districts to help sustain their project work.  In addition, Gregg Corr and David Guardino from OSEP, along with Pam Williams from Missouri, shared how the SPDG efforts can be useful to SSIP work.



Applications for New Awards

  • Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities--Personnel Preparation in Special Education, Early Intervention, and Related Services (84.325K) was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: December 5, 2014.
  • Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities--Preparation of Special Education, Early Intervention, and Related Services Leadership Personnel (84.325D) was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, October 22, 2014.  Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: December 12, 2014.

OSERS Investments

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) recently announced more than $121 million in grants to help improve the outcomes of individuals with disabilities—from cradle through career. The investments are aimed at promoting inclusion, equity and opportunity for all children and adults with disabilities to help ensure their economic self-sufficiency, independent living and full community participation.

"These investments are significant in assisting individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "We want all individuals with disabilities to succeed and these investments symbolize our values and commitment as a nation toward achieving excellence for all."

Among the grants is $54 million from OSERS' Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to support the implementation of special education programs and related services through model demonstrations projects, technical assistance, technology, personnel development and parent-training and information centers.

In addition to special education, OSERS' Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) awarded $47 million to fund its comprehensive and coordinated programs of vocational rehabilitation, supported employment and independent living for individuals with disabilities. OSERS' National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) distributed $19 million to institutions of higher education and private and non-profit organizations for innovative, cutting-edge research projects.

Highlighted below are some of the key OSEP grants that will help improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities and their families.

Funded at $8.7 million the Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) at WestEd along with partners from AIR, CCSSO, NASDSE, SRI, and the Center for Parent Information and Resources, will provide technical assistance to State agencies to build capacity that improves results for children with disabilities, and to assist States with the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Expected outcomes are (1) increased State capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate State Systemic Improvement Plans (SSIPs); (2) increased State agency knowledge, selection, and use of evidence-based practices; (3) improved State agency infrastructures and coordination; (4) increased use of effective dissemination strategies; (5) increased involvement of stakeholders in all components of the SSIP; (6) increased utilization of TA resources; and (7) increased State agency capacity to implement effective systems of general supervision.

Funded at $2.5 million, the National TA Center on Improving Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students with Disabilities (Transition Center) is the first major investment funded jointly out of RSA and OSEP to create a seamless transition process from high school through employment. The Transition Center, to be located at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will work with states, school districts, and vocational rehabilitation agencies to implement evidence-based and promising practices and strategies to ensure that students with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills, and supports needed for success in postsecondary education and employment.

Funded at $2 million, the Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Technical Assistance Center will provide technical assistance to states participating in the PROMISE model demonstration projects to help improve services and supports to children with disabilities who receive supplemental security income (SSI) and their families. Last year, OSERS awarded more than $211 million to five states and a consortium of six states to establish and operate the PROMISE model demonstration projects. These projects will help child SSI recipients achieve better outcomes, including graduating from high school and college and becoming career ready.

Funded at $3.2 million, the IDEA Data Fiscal Center (IFDC) at WestEd is designed to provide technical assistance to state education agencies (SEAs) with their federal special education fiscal data collection and reporting obligations.  The IFDC will work collaboratively with States and other federally funded technical assistance centers with the primary goal of improving outcomes for children and youth with disabilities. The IFDC intends to accomplish this goal by (1) improving the capacity of SEA staff to collect and report accurate fiscal data related to two specific requirements associated with services provided to children ages 3–21+ under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act IDEA Part B; and (2) increasing SEAs knowledge of the underlying fiscal requirements and the calculations necessary to submit valid and reliable data.

Funded at over $2.9 million, the Leadership Consortia in Sensory Disabilities and Disabilities Associated with Intensive Service Needs will support two leadership training consortia to prepare doctoral-level leaders in special education, early intervention and related services for children with low incidence disabilities. Each university consortium, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Salus University in Pennsylvania, will prepare doctoral-level leaders with highly specialized skills, knowledge, and expertise in sensory disabilities or students with disabilities with intensive service needs, respectively. The consortia will prepare leaders who can act effectively in leadership positions in universities, state educational agencies, local educational agencies, lead agencies, early intervention services programs or schools.

Funded at over $11.6 million, the Special Education—Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities Program provides funds at various locations to help address state-identified needs for highly qualified personnel in special education, related services, early intervention, and regular education programs that serve children with disabilities. Funding will help train educators in such areas as early intervention, early childhood; low-incidence disabilities; related services, speech/language and adapted physical education and secondary/transition—all with the goal to improve results and outcomes for children with disabilities and their families.

Funded at over $6.5 million, OSEP awarded grants to 23 states to operate 23 Parent Training and Information (PTI) Centers for parents and families of students with disabilities. With the new grants, the Department now funds 96 information centers for parents of children and youth with disabilities. Every state has at least one PTI that assists parents as they work to ensure their children receive a free, appropriate public education as guaranteed by federal law. The centers provide parents with the training and information they need to work with professionals in meeting the early intervention and special needs of children with disabilities. Many parent information centers work closely with state and local school systems to engage parents in working collaboratively to improve outcomes for their children. For a list of U.S. Department of Education-funded parent training and information centers, visit

For a complete list of OSERS new FY 14 grant awards, see


Melody Musgrove


Dear Leaders,

We have created a process for informal review and follow up discussion of your draft SSIP.  We are interested in providing feedback so that you are able to develop and submit a high quality Phase I SSIP by April 1, 2015.  You may submit a complete or partial draft of your SSIP either through GRADS 360 or by sending an e-mail attachment to your State contact.  We encourage you to submit your draft between now and January 16, 2015.  We will use the SSIP Evaluation Tool as the basis for the informal review of your draft. 

We look forward to reviewing the work that you and your stakeholders have been doing to develop your SSIPs.  Please let your State contact know if you have any questions about this process.





As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated -- including bullying of America’s 6.75 million public school students with disabilities.  The guidance, in the form of a letter to educators, details schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities.  If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring (see fact sheet).

The guidance builds upon anti-bullying guidance issued in recent years by OCR and the Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) concerning schools’ legal obligations, including:

  • A 2000 letter by OCR and OSERS explaining that bullying based on disability may violate civil rights laws enforced by OCR, as well as interfere with a student’s receipt of special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
  • A 2010 letter by OCR elaborating on potential violations when bullying and harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability; and
  • A 2013 letter by OSERS clarifying that when bullying of a student with a disability results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit under IDEA, the school must remedy the problem, regardless of whether the bullying was based on the student’s disability.  

Visit for additional information on bullying prevention and remedies.



This summer, in remarks and a conversation with teachers and school leaders and in a blog post, Secretary Duncan initiated a dialogue on standardized testing, noting “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools -- oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more” and pledging the Department will be “part of the solution.”

Moving the dialogue forward, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools jointly released “Commitments on High-Quality Assessments,” a series of established principles to guide state and school district leaders in making sure every assessment administered is high-quality, coherent and meaningful to students, parents and teachers.  Specifically, the Chiefs will increase transparency by publishing an easily accessible list of all state assessments; evaluate the quality and coherence of state assessment systems; work with stakeholders to eliminate redundant assessments; and partner with districts to review their benchmark and formative assessments.  And, large city superintendents will review all assessments administered to determine alignment, appropriateness, and technical quality; convene a task force to review findings from a survey of district testing and make recommendations for improvement; streamline and/or eliminate assessments found to be low quality, redundant, or inappropriately used; and improve the use of assessment results to enhance instruction and curtail counterproductive test preparation practices (view webinar recording).

In response, the Secretary stated the Department’s support.  “Assessments must be of high quality and must make good use of educators’ and students’ time,” he said.  “Yet, in some places, tests -- and preparation for them -- are dominating the calendar and culture of schools and causing undue stress for students and educators.  I welcome the action announced today by state and district leaders, which will bring energy and focus to improving assessment of student learning.”  The Secretary also penned an op-ed, and President Obama issued a statement.



CEEDAR recently selected five new States for intensive TA in addition to five others already taking part in a $25 million University of Florida College (UF) of Education project that will improve the preparation of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities.  Montana, Utah, Georgia, Ohio and New Hampshire are the latest States to take part in the federally funded initiative sponsored by the UF College of Education’s CEEDAR Center.




Under a promising effort called the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, in partnership with philanthropies, are helping to foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments while keeping students in school. As part of the initiative, on October 6th and 7th, the National Leadership Summit on School Climate and Discipline brought together teams of educators and justice system professionals from 20 states and the District of Columbia to discuss how to improve school disciplinary practice and reduce student entry into the juvenile justice system. The summit provided the opportunity for states and local jurisdictions to develop strategies and begin taking steps toward disciplinary and juvenile justice reform.



Secretary Duncan announced new guidance, in the form of a Dear Colleague letter to states, school districts, and schools, to ensure that students have equal access to educational resources -- such as academic and extracurricular programs, strong teaching, technology, other instructional materials, and safe school facilities -- regardless of race, color, or national origin, so that they all have equal opportunity to succeed in school, careers, and life.  This guidance, issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), provides detailed and concrete information to education officials on standards set in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It is one part of President Obama’s larger equity agenda, which includes the Excellent Educators for All initiative, and takes into account the ongoing efforts of states, districts, and schools to improve equity (see the fact sheet [English and Spanish], blog post, press call audio recording, and Resource Comparability Materials web site.)

By drawing upon many of the findings and recommendations published in the Equity and Excellence Commission’s 2012 report, “For Each and Every Child.” The guidance is intended to provide education officials with information regarding how OCR investigates resource disparities and what states, districts, and schools can do to meet their civil rights obligations.

Earlier this year, OCR released civil rights data from every public school in the country, as well as snapshots on school discipline, early childhood education, college- and career-readiness, and teacher equity.


Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

Washington, DC, 20024

(202) 245-7426

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