Early Learning Newsletter | November 2018 | Meet the New Director of the Office of Special Education Programs

The U.S. Department of Education's Early Learning Newsletter

Meet the New Director of the
Office of Special Education Programs

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November 2018

In This Issue:

From the Director

NEW Director, Laurie VanderPloeg, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP

OSEP Director Laurie VanderPloeg

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

As was mentioned last month, I have officially joined the U.S. Department of Education (ED) as the new director for the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). I am excited to be joining the team. Over the past 38 years, I have been working to ensure that children with disabilities have access to a high-quality education. I was inspired to go into the field of education by my mother. She was a teacher who helped develop one of the first instructional support models for a school district in Lansing, Michigan, and her work ethic and commitment to her profession inspired me to seek a similar career path.

I started my career working with high school students in Michigan as a special education teacher. After teaching for 15 years, I moved into special education administration and served most recently as director of special education for the Kent Intermediate School District in Grand Rapids. I also have a personal interest in improving special education services for children and families. As a mother of a son with disabilities, I have a unique understanding of the obstacles that families of children with disabilities may face in accessing high-quality services and supports.

As OSEP director, I want to focus on developing and supporting effective systems that will meet the unique and individual needs of children with disabilities. It is particularly critical to look at the structures we have in place in early childhood programs and services to ensure that all systems are working together so that each child is prepared for success when they enter school. I look forward to working with our colleagues in ED’s Office of Early Learning, those that work with early childhood programs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and with those of you in the field to support our youngest learners and their families!

Laurie VanderPloeg


Project Spotlight

Logo: University of Georgia’s College of Education

University of Georgia’s Preparation of Interdisciplinary Providers Project

There is a critical need to prepare qualified and effective personnel to work with infants, toddlers, and young children with complex needs, as well as with their families. To meet this need, preservice preparation for future personnel to collaborate across professional disciplines can help graduates deliver services to young children with disabilities who have high-intensity needs. OSEP recently funded the University of Georgia’s Preparation of Interdisciplinary Providers project (PIPs project) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) personnel preparation program. PIPs emphasizes such an approach to preservice preparation. Over the course of a five-year period, the PIPs project will prepare 24 graduate-level speech-language pathologists and early childhood special educators to serve young children with high-intensity needs and their families in interdisciplinary and collaborative contexts. Scholars will engage in coursework and applied experiences with project faculty who are experts in early intervention and early childhood special education, communication disorders, assistive technology and augmentative and alternative communication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and dual sensory impairments.


Early Learning Updates From ED

New Investments Supporting Family Engagement


New Parent Technical Assistance Centers

OSEP recently funded the Center for Parent Information & Resources and the regional Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) to support the Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). This funding will increase their capacity to provide information and training to families of children with disabilities.

The new centers are 

  • The Center for Parent Information & Resources
    The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) of New Jersey 
    — provides information and resources to all of the parent centers funded by OSEP;
  • PTAC Region A
    Navigating Excellence 
    — Parent Center Assistance and Collaboration Team (NE-PACT) — SPAN of New Jersey, serving the PTIs and CPRCs in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vermont;
  • PTAC Region B
    Parent to Parent of Georgia
    , serving the parent centers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia;
  • PTAC Region C
    Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support (WI FACETS)
    , serving the PTIs and CPRCs in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming; and
  • PTAC Region D
    PEAK Parent Center, Colorado
    , serving the PTIs and CPRCs in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, the outlying areas of the Pacific Basin (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), and the Freely Associated States (Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau).

New Statewide Family Engagement Centers

The Office of Innovation and Improvement at ED has also awarded 11 new grants under the Statewide Family Engagement Centers Program (SFEC). The goal of the SFEC program is to provide technical assistance and training to state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.

The grantees will establish SFECs that 

  • carry out parent education and family engagement in education programs; and
  • provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to SEAs, LEAs, schools identified by SEAs and LEAs, organizations that support family-school partnerships, and other such programs.

See more information about the program and the 11 new grants on the SFEC webpage linked above.

Your Turn to Rethink Results Driven Accountability

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services  is rethinking Results Driven Accountability to ensure we are in the best position to improve early childhood and educational outcomes, and raise expectations for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities, as well as their families, their communities, and the nation. Specifically, we are interested in your thoughts about what is working well and what may not be working well with the State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report, the State Systemic Improvement Plan, annual determinations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and OSEP's system of differentiated monitoring and support.

Please submit your comments to RethinkRDA@ed.gov by Friday, Dec. 21. We will review and consider all input.


Resources for You

Logo: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau

Supporting Families Impacted by Opioid Use and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau recently released a new resource for their home visiting programs: Supporting Families Impacted by Opioid Use and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. This resource provides useful information on how the opioid crisis is impacting young children and the comprehensive approach that will be needed to meet their needs and those of their mothers.

 State Capacity Building Center

Hot Topic Webinars and New Communities of Practice

HHS’s Office of Child Care and the Child Care State Capacity Building Center Infant/Toddler Specialist Network are pleased to announce a new series of Infant/Toddler Hot Topic Webinars and three new Infant/Toddler Communities of Practice for professionals working with infants and toddlers. Details about each opportunity and registration links can be found on the Office of Child Care’s website. These efforts are designed to raise awareness about important topics; provide relevant resources; and inspire continued conversation, topic exploration, and further action toward increasing the supply and quality of infant/toddler care.


Research Corner

HHS’s Office for Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE)

Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness Review: Executive Summary and Brief

HHS Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) released its latest updates to the Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness review of home visiting program models that serve pregnant women and families with children from birth to age 5. OPRE is an office in HHS of the Administration for Children and Families. The updated document provides information on the review process, the review’s results, and a list of the 20 program models determined to meet HHS criteria for an evidence-based early childhood home visiting service delivery model.

CEELO Leadership Professional Learning Community—Final Report

The ED-funded Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently published its CEELO Leadership Professional Learning Community—Final Report, an online summary of activities and findings from a professional learning community (PLC) supporting leadership development among newly appointed, high-level leaders of early SEAs. The goal of the PLC, conducted from 2017 to 2018, was for participants to increase awareness, gain critical knowledge, and develop leadership skills needed to guide highly effective offices of early learning within SEAs.


Featured Webinars

ECTA Center logo

State Strategies for Seamless Service Delivery and Transition: Implementing the Extended Part C Option

Save the Date! On Dec.19 at 3:00 p.m. EST, the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center is hosting a webinar entitledState Strategies for Seamless Service Delivery and Transition: Implementing the Extended Part C Option” for states interested in pursuing this option under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The extended Part C option gives parents of children who have been receiving IDEA Part C early interventions services (and who are eligible to receive services under IDEA Part B) the choice to have their children receive early intervention services through their preschool years in early intervention through their preschool years, rather than transitioning them to preschool special education provided under the IDEA Part B, Section 619. The District of Columbia and Maryland will share their rationale for deciding to use the option and their implementation approaches.


Voices From the Field

Erik Ruzek, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Virginia

Erik Ruzek

This month we are sharing an interview with Erik Ruzek, a researcher at the University of Virginia. Ruzek is part of ED’s Institute of Education Sciences-funded Early Learning Network. This network is composed of researchers from multiple institutions across the country who are examining why many children—especially those from low-income households or other disadvantaged backgrounds—experience academic and social difficulties as they transition from preschool to elementary school. In this interview Ruzek shares his perspective on the Early Learning Network’s research program, Fairfax Pre-K to Third Grade, which examines educational practices and policies in one of the country’s fastest-growing and most diverse regions. Ruzek is particularly focused on increasing our understanding of how children’s perceptions and motivations affect their learning and ongoing academic success.



OSERS Framework

OSERS Framework

OSERS Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett released a framework that highlights the way OSERS will focus its work to make progress toward achieving its mission to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes, and raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation.


Connect With Us Online!

Check out ED's Early Learning website for updates on all of ED's early learning activities, and to view the Early Learning newsletter archive. 

Twitter Logo Blue

OSERS is on Twitter with the latest tweets from special education and early intervention advocates, educators, families, and students. Be sure to follow @Ed_Sped_Rehab and tell your friends. OSERS Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett has joined the conversation, too! Follow him today @JCollettOSERS. We'll see you in the Twittersphere!