Closing Out 2018 with Valuable Resources for Improving Programs

Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

December 2018: In This Issue of the OSEP Update

Inside OSEP: Laurie's Letter

Message From Director Laurie VanderPloeg

Office of Special Education Director Laurie VanderPloeg

Hello Stakeholders!

I want to wish each of you a very happy holiday season with your family and friends. Thank you for your ongoing collaboration with OSEP and your commitment to raise expectations, and improve results and outcomes for our students with disabilities. It has been my privilege to spend my first month at OSEP getting to hear your voices and learn your priorities. Our partnership really does matter!


OSEP’s RETHINK RDA (Results Driven Accountability) is an example of how important your voice is as OSEP strives to improve its system of supports. OSEP listened to stakeholders in a series of 17 RETHINK RDA brainstorming sessions and through written submissions to the RETHINK RDA mailbox. A big shout-out goes to those who participated and provided us with valuable input and concrete recommendations.


I have also been fortunate to have initial meetings with many of our advocacy and membership organization partners. Through these meetings, I’ve gained a better understanding of each organization’s priorities, goals, and needs. Additionally, I’ve participated in project kick-off meetings for our new TA investments. In kick-offs, grantees and OSEP set the plan for how the project will be implemented to have the most impact on improved results for children with disabilities and their families. Finally, I had an opportunity to meet with several new state directors of special education. We are very excited to be able to work with the new directors, and support work within their states and local education agencies. I will meet with the IDEA Infant and Toddlers Coordinators Association board to hear about its work with infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families and discuss how OSEP will support their work.


OSEP is also partnering with other federal offices. The Combined Federal Programs meeting was a great success (read more below). Last week, I represented ED on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee convened by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The conveners provided an update on federal activities to advance treatment and recovery from serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance. These partnerships are a key to advancing our work.


My list of meetings and activities is long, but our work is strong! Thank you, partners, for your vision and ongoing commitment to our students and families. I am looking forward to what the new year will bring.



Results Driven Accountability: What's Due and What's New

OSEP's Monitoring and State Improvement Planning division conducts many state-focused activities under the umbrella of RDA. You can read more about this innovative initiative to target educational results for children and youth with disabilities and their families here. Additionally, OSEP is examining RDA as a part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services RETHINK framework.

Monthly National Technical Assistance Call

OSEP’s Dec. 13 national technical assistance call focused on the upcoming State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) submission (Phase III, Year 3). During the call, OSEP provided a brief overview of the requirements for the SSIP indicators (B-17 and C-11), a description of what OSEP looks for as part of its SSIP review process, and tips for submitting a concise but thorough SSIP report. In addition, OSEP highlighted technical assistance resources available to states. Contact your state lead to follow up on this call.


Differentiated Monitoring and Support 

State leads continue to work with states to plan technical assistance and support activities addressing the factors that led to intensive and targeted levels of engagement in the areas of compliance, results, SSIP, and fiscal.

Dose of Data: IDEA Fiscal Reporting and EDFacts Information Collection Open for Public Comment

Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting logo

The Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting has recently released two helpful resources:


IDEA Part B Subgrant Complexities and Compliance: Addressing Calculation Challenges. This recorded webinar, originally presented at IDEA Fiscal Forum 2018, focuses on statutory and regulatory provisions that make calculating local education agency subgrants challenging including (1) base payment adjustments; (2) the Charter School Expansion Act; and (3) population and poverty counts. 


Maintenance of State Financial Support (MFS) Calculation Checklist. This resource helps states calculate complete and accurate data for MFS reporting. The checklist identifies items that should and should not be included in the calculation and highlights considerations for improving data quality.


The proposed EDFacts information collection package for SY 2019--20, 2020--21, and 2021--22 is now available for review and public comment on


EDFacts collects data on behalf of U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant and program offices. The proposed package includes prekindergarten through grade 12 performance data about students, schools, staff, services, and educational outcomes at the state, district, and school levels. Approximately 160 data groups are included in the proposed package, and respondents include all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, outlying areas and freely associated states, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education.


All related documents are found at this link


Comments in response to this notice must be submitted electronically through the comment button on We encourage you to widely share this announcement with all stakeholders.


The public comment period closes on Jan. 7, 2019.

Resources to Use: Spotlight on Early Childhood Tools and Transition Planning for Deaf Students


Check out the Early Childhood Recommended Practices Modules now available on the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center website. The modules, based on the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children's recommended practices, were created to use when training early care and education, early intervention, and early childhood special education faculty and professional development providers. 


These free and interactive multimedia modules are easily accessed by faculty and professional development providers and can be embedded in coursework and professional development sessions. Each module contains several lessons and includes accompanying instructor supports and learning guides to assist professional development providers and faculty. 

Center for Disease Control logo

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pleased to announce that its free app, the Milestone Tracker, is now available in Spanish!  This mobile app is part of a suite of free, family-friendly materials available through the  program Learn the Signs. Act Early. 


The Milestone Tracker allows parents to track their child's development in a fun and easy way and gives them 1) tips to help their child learn and grow; 2) a way to track milestones and recognize delays; and (3) the ability to share this information with their child's health care provider. Specifically, the app offers the following:

  • Interactive milestone checklists for children ages 2 months through 5 years, illustrated with photos and videos
  • Tips and activities to help children learn and grow
  • Information on when to act early and talk with a doctor about developmental delays
  • A personalized milestone summary that can be easily shared with doctors and other care providers
  • Reminders for appointments and developmental screenings
National Deaf Center on Secondary Transition

The OSEP-funded National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) recently released a variety of tools to support transition planning for deaf students. 

  • Transition Planning Guide and Infographic. This  user-friendly poster highlights key aspects of transition planning and how it applies to deaf students, in particular. NDC has a parallel set of resources for self-advocacy
  • Deafverse!  is an interactive game that focuses on decision making and self-advocacy for teens and young adults. NDC is working on additional worlds within the game that focus on entry into the world of work. Deafverse! curriculum development is also underway to give educators ways to integrate the game in the classroom. 
  • Postsecondary accommodations checklist and interview questions provides sample questions that  postsecondary disability service office professionals can use when welcoming new deaf students to campus. The checklist and questions are also useful for transition planning teams to use when providing guidance to graduating deaf students.  

Collaboration Corner: Highlights From the Combined Federal Programs Meeting

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of State Support (OSS) and OSEP, hosted the 2018 Combined Federal Programs meeting on Dec. 6-7 in Washington D.C.. The theme for the meeting was “Improving Student Achievement through Analysis, Evaluation, and Accountability.” It was an excellent opportunity for state teams to learn more about implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and engage with colleagues from around the country. We were pleased to have 49 state teams in attendance with representation across federal programs (Title I, Title II, Title III, School Improvement Grants, foster care, and IDEA) to promote discussion and alignment of ESSA implementation across programs.


Materials from all sessions are available on the conference website. In the coming weeks, session materials will be migrated to the OSS technical assistance webpage under the “OSS Meeting and Conference Presentations” header.



State Strategies for Seamless Birth to 5 Services: Strategies for Summer Birthdays and Local Infrastructure Support - Jan. 14, 2019

The movement of children and their families from Part C early intervention to Section 619 early childhood special education services should occur as smoothly as possible. In an encore presentation from the 2018 Improving Data, Improving Outcomes conference, two states will present on this topic. Missouri will share policies and processes for addressing summer birthdays. New Mexico will describe its state and local infrastructure for coordination and strategies such as local agreements, transition teams and transition coaches. The webinar will be held from 3-4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Updates about this webinar are available at this link.


OSEP Leadership Conference Is Set for July 2019

The 2019 OSEP Leadership Conference is scheduled for July 22–24, 2019, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia. More information, such as who this conference is intended for and what was discussed in previous years, can be found on our website.

Engage With Us! Social Media and More


Connect With OSERS and Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett on Twitter

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OSERS is on Twitter with the latest tweets from special education advocates, educators, families, and students. Follow us @Ed_Sped_Rehab and tell your friends. Follow Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett @JCollettOSERS. We'll see you in the Twittersphere!

Visit the OSERS Blog and OSEP Newsletter Archive

Visit our blog for powerful stories and useful information from parents, families, educators, and practitioners in the field. Be sure to bookmark for future posts!


IDEA splash image with pictures of children with disabilities

You can also check out the IDEA website newsletter archive for past editions of the OSEP Update. Readers are invited to send their feedback on the newsletter to

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This newsletter may reference and contain links to external sources. The opinions expressed in these sources do not reflect the views, positions, or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, nor should their inclusion be considered an endorsement of any private organization.