OSEP Update

OSEP Monthly Update


Volume 4                 Issue 6


“We, as adults, love the chance to work with young people who are committed and resilient. Several of you have battled homelessness, survived violence, and endured the death of a loved one. Yet, you’ve never let those setbacks define or limit who you are. If anything, the adversity has helped to fuel your passion. You’ve shaped your legacy on your own terms, not just by ‘passing’ high schools, but by thriving despite the very real challenges life threw at you. When people look at you, they don’t see you as the sum of your challenges. They see unique individuals who’ve forged your own paths to success.”

-- Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/13/15), delivering the commencement address at Washington, D.C.’s Eastern Senior High School



On June 23, the Department announced that seven states and the District of Columbia have received multiple years of continued flexibility from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind. These recipients are implementing comprehensive, state-designed plans to ensure student success and a continued commitment to college- and career-readiness for every student. Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have three more years of flexibility, through the 2017-18 school year, while New York has four more years of flexibility, through the 2018-19 school year. (Note: Approved flexibility requests and renewal letters are available here.)

In March, the agency approved five states -- Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia --for an additional four years of flexibility. All of the states up for renewal have submitted or will soon submit a request to extend their flexibility, and Nebraska requested flexibility for the first time. More renewal decisions will follow over the coming weeks.

In the event Congress reauthorizes ESEA, the Department will work with states to help them transition to the new law.



In his May 16 weekly address, President Obama again highlighted the importance of expanding opportunity for all Americans. “Everything we’ve done over the past six years has been in pursuit of one, overarching goal: creating opportunity for all,” he emphasized. “What we’ve long understood, though, is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them. That’s true of rural communities with chronic poverty. That’s true of some manufacturing communities that suffered after the plants they depended on closed their doors. That’s true of some suburbs and inner cities, where jobs can be hard to find and harder to get to.”

“That sense of unfairness and powerlessness has helped fuel the kind of unrest we’ve seen in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York,” he continued. “It has many causes -- from a basic lack of opportunity to groups feeling unfairly targeted by police -- which means there’s no single solution. But there are many that could make a difference and could help. And we have to do everything in our power to make this country’s promise real for everyone willing to work for it.”

The President also participated in a summit at Georgetown University, where he touched on economic solutions that can broaden opportunity, the political will to support initiatives that expand those opportunities, and the minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by the decision or indecision to make those investments.

Then, he traveled to Camden, New Jersey -- a city that has faced one of the highest violent crime rates in America -- to meet with local law enforcement, meet with young people, and hear directly about the efforts to build trust between the police and community (fact sheet).

In the same vein, Secretary Duncan traveled to Philadelphia last week for a roundtable discussion with students, parents, and community partners working to expand opportunities for youth. He underscored the need for summer enrichment and employment opportunities that empower students to pursue their interests while building the skills they need to succeed in college and their careers. He further spotlighted nearly $40 million in federal and philanthropic investments in the city since President Obama designated West Philadelphia as a Promise Zone in January 2014.



The following Notice of Proposed Priority--Rehabilitation Training: Vocational Rehabilitation Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, June 17, 2015:

CFDA Number: 84.264G

SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services proposes a priority to establish the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center. The Assistant Secretary may use this priority for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2015 and later years. We take this action to provide training and technical assistance (TA) to State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to improve services under the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program (VR program) and State Supported Employment Services program for individuals with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities, and to implement changes to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law on July 22, 2014.

DATES: Comments due on or before July 17, 2015.




Also this week, the President signed an Executive Order expanding the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program to establish a new category of outstanding scholars in career and technical education (CTE). Fittingly, the White House announced this new award category as it hosted 2015 Scholars, featuring a briefing by a panel of senior staff. The day before, Secretary Duncan awarded each Scholar a presidential medallion at a special ceremony. Next summer, the White House will welcome the inaugural class of 20 CTE Scholars, nominated by Chief State School Officers and selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. The announcement complements a June 30 White House convening on CTE, which recognized students, teachers, and administrators who have shown exceptional leadership in driving innovation in the field of CTE. (Note: In a blog post, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin praises the President’s action for elevating CTE “to a level…on par with traditional academic pathways and the arts.”).



On May 28, the Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), released“The Condition of Education 2015,” a Congressionally mandated report to the country on education in America today. The report presents 42 indicators grouped under four areas: population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education. The report also underlines some issues of current policy interest: kindergartners’approaches to learning behaviors and academic outcomes, disparities in educational outcomes among male youth of color, and differences in postsecondary attainment by socioeconomic status.

Also, a new NCES “First Look” report offers nationally representative data on public school safety and discipline for the 2013-14 school year. The report presents information on specific school safety and discipline plans and practices, training for classroom teachers and aides, security personnel, frequency of discipline problems, and number of incidents of various offenses. Among the findings: 65% of schools reported at least one “violent incident” occurred at school (at a rate of 15.8 per 1,000 students); 13% of schools reported at least one “serious violent incident” occurred at school (0.5 per 1,000 students); and 2% of schools reported at least one “physical attack or fight with a weapon” occurred at school (0.1 per 1,000 students).




Dear Leaders,

The 2015 Leadership Conference will be held July 27-29, 2015 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Over 1200 have registered for the Leadership Conference which includes Part B school-age and preschool and Part C State leaders, parent center representatives, data managers, TA providers and others.

The Combined Federal Programs Summer Meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 29th in conjunction with the OSEP Leadership Conference, at the same location. This important event brings SEA staff from multiple programs together with the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about cooperation and collaboration across program lines. Don't miss this excellent opportunity for SEA staff to work collaboratively with colleagues from Title I, Title II, Title III, and SIG, all in a single location.

Connect to the Federal Conversation in Special Education:

  • Tweet about the OSEP Leadership Conference using the Official Hashtag: #LC2015
  • Follow @ED_Sped_Rehab for news and information from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education.
  • Follow @IDEAS_That_Work for research, news and resources for grantees, parents, educators and stakeholders in the special education field from the IDEAs That Work Initiative.

Looking forward to seeing you there!




As we continue to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the IDEA, OSERS highlights how the IDEA changes lives through monthly blog posts:

IDEA Changes Lives: My Experience with Early Intervention 

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), I would like to share with you my story of how Early Intervention helped my family and me.

IDEA Changes Lives: Forty Years of Parent Training and Support

2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the same year, the first center to help parents understand IDEA and how to advocate for their children with disabilities was born.



Last week, the Department launched its 2015 Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation and Scale-Up grant competitions. These grants will fund successful innovations that support new teachers and leaders; help educators align their instruction to college- and career-ready standards; improve student learning across science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; or reform high schools by making the standards more engaging, rigorous, and relevant for students. Each Validation grant will provide up to $12 million to fund efforts with prior evidence of success. Each Scale-Up grant will provide up to $20 million to fund the expansion of efforts that have a strong track record of success. As with prior competitions, all projects focus on high-need students, particularly those in rural areas.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to notify the agency of their intent to submit an application for funding by completing a web-based form. The deadline for applications is August 4.



The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is expanding its effectiveTurnaround Arts Initiative into five additional school districts, as the program continues to successfully help turn around low-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap, and increase student engagement through the arts. The expanded program is funded through a public-private partnership, with more than $5 million over three years from the Department, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and other companies and foundations to bring arts education into low-performing schools. The program leverages roughly $10 million contributed in local funds over the same period. The money will be used to hire new arts and music teachers; bring teaching artists, art supplies, and musical instruments into schools; and support arts integration with other core subjects (press release).

Over the last three years, Turnaround Arts has brought intensive arts education resources and expertise into 35 schools and worked with school leadership to incorporate the arts as part of their reform strategy. Research evaluation results show that participating schools are demonstrating improved academic performance, increased student and parent engagement, and value-added culture and climate. On average, Turnaround Arts schools showed a 23% gain in math proficiency and a 13% gain in reading proficiency, as well as sharply increased attendance and reductions of up to 86% in student disciplinary issues.

Note: In addition to its overall work in grades K-8, Turnaround Arts also announced a new focus on early childhood education. The initiative will provide specialized support and resources to Head Start and preschool-through-third-grade classrooms in Turnaround Arts schools to allow them to build creative, engaging, and dynamic learning experiences for their students.



During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced-price school meals. However, during the summer, only 3.8 million children participate in the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. This means that too many children are at risk of hunger because they are out of school. To help prevent summer hunger, the USDA partners with schools, local governments, and community organizations to offer free meals. Any child -- under the age of 18 -- can walk into designated summer meal sites and eat for free.

In a joint letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Duncan urge leadership to make sure that children do not go hungry this summer.

To help:

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