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Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

March 2019: 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!

In September 2018, Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett released the Office of Special Education and Related Services (OSERS) framework intended to guide OSERS’ and the Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP) efforts to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes and raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation. This month I would like to highlight a recent announcement and collaboration that supports OSEP’s priority to partner with parents and families, as well as diverse stakeholders, to raise expectations and improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities, as well as their families.


I was honored to be in attendance on Feb. 28 when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), unveiled Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS). This is the administration's key proposal to empower students and families to choose the best education setting for them — regardless of where they live, how much they make, and how they learn, and to empower states to expand families’ access to all educational opportunities. The proposal will offer a dollar-for-dollar federal income tax credit for contributions to 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that provide scholarships to students, including those with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a fact sheet addressing how EFS can expand special education options. The scholarships are 100 percent privately funded by donations and do not take one cent from local public school students or public school teachers. This proposal would drive a historic voluntary investment in America’s students and our future.


A great education shouldn’t be determined by address, by family income, or by how a student learns. Every student is unique, and every one learns differently. The freedom to do this is what’s missing in education today. As Secretary DeVos said, “All students should have the freedom to pursue an education that develops their talents, unleashes their unique potential, and prepares them for a successful life.” This includes students with disabilities.


I encourage you to take some time to learn more about the Education Freedom Scholarships at www.ed.gov/freedom.


Supporting states and local educational agencies and institutes of higher education’s efforts to attract, prepare, and retain high-quality early intervention service providers, special educators, and related service providers is something that is very important to me. On March 1–3, I participated in he first-ever American Educational Research Association Conference at the University of North Carolina Greensboro School of Education focused on identifying innovative solutions to the longstanding special education teacher and leader workforce needs. It was a collaborative effort to ensure all children and youth with disabilities achieve high standards, and are provided services from a qualified workforce composed of special education teachers, general education teachers, and administrators with the necessary knowledge and skills to teach and intervene effectively.


Our mission is to include all infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and their families, including parentally placed private school students (PPPSS). ED’s Office of Non- Public Education (ONPE) is OSEP’s partner in addressing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements related to PPPSS. I met with ONPE and representatives of the Council for American Private Education to discuss the importance of the annual consultation process, the determination of equitable services, and to ensure that parents are well informed of how IDEA applies to PPPSS.


I hope that you find this information useful and will use it to inform your practice over the next month.



OSEP Policy Letters

OSEP letter

February 21, 2019: Letter to Siegel addresses questions regarding a child with a disability who transfers to a new local educational agency during the summer.


February 22, 2019: Letter to Olex addresses whether parental consent is required prior to conducting “age appropriate transition assessments” referenced in the IDEA Part B transition services provisions.

On the Road: OSEP Continues Post-Hurricane Support to the U.S. Virgin Islands

McCray and Brown hold Learn the Signs Act Early developmental milestones banner

OSEP continues to provide post-hurricane support to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) as a part of the relief efforts announced by Secretary DeVos on Feb. 28, 2018. In early February 2019, OSEP conducted the second in its series of post-hurricane visits to provide technical assistance and support. OSEP's work with USVI and its departments of education and health includes programs funded under Part B and Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


The Virgin Islands Department of Education has made significant progress in restoring K-12 educational programs after the incredible destruction of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. As of OSEP's visit, all schools have returned to regular operating schedules. The United States Virgin Islands' Department of Health's Infant and Toddlers Program (ITP) continues to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families despite the fact that its office was destroyed in the hurricane.


Highlights of the most recent visit included: meeting with newly-elected Senator Stedmann Hodge of the Virgin Islands legislature to discuss the ITP and ways to recruit and retain early intervention service providers; and learning about the ITP's implementation of Learn the Signs. Act Early. Learn the Signs. Act Early. is an initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control that aims to improve early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need. Pictured above, Karen Harris Brown, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Act Early Ambassador to the Virgin Islands, and Nona McCray, acting Virgin Islands Part C coordinator, hold the Learn the Signs. Act Early. developmental milestone map. The map serves two purposes: 1) It provides a guide for parents to learn developmental milestones; and 2) It provides a mat on which the infant or toddler with a disability can work with his or her service provider.

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 Results Driven Accountability (RDA). You can read more about this innovative initiative to focus on 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

During the March 14 call, OSEP presented information on how the U.S. Department of Education supports English learner students with disabilities. The presentation included pertinent data, new resources recently released by the Department, and highlighted resources available to support states in building their capacity to strengthen local capacity to improve results for English learners with disabilities.


State Performance Plan / Annual Performance Report 

APRs arrived on February 1, and OSEP State Leads are busy finishing their reviews. As in previous years, OSEP will set aside a specific time in April for the APR clarification period. OSEP will notify states as soon as the clarification dates are finalized.


State Systemic Improvement Plans 

SSIPs are due by April 1.  State Leads reviewed draft SSIPs submitted by eleven states, and will provide feedback before the April 1 submission. States are encouraged to reach out to their State Lead with any questions about the SSIP submission process.


State Applications

IDEA Part C FY19 grant applications are due May 3. Applications should be publicly posted now in order to meet the public participation requirements. IDEA Part B FY19 grant applications are due May 17 and should be publicly posted no later than March 17 in order to meet the public participation requirements. States are encouraged to contact their state lead with questions about preparing the grant award packages.


Differentiated Monitoring and Support 

OSEP has selected eight states to participate in onsite visits as a part of its FY18 Differentiated Monitoring and Support process. Visits will focus on those areas identified for monitoring and technical assistance in order to improve results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and their families. 

Dose of Data: Proposed Priorities for Two IDEA Data Technical Assistance Centers

National Archives and Records Administration seal

Notices of Proposed Priorities

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services published notices of proposed priorities to fund two national Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) data technical assistance centers.


The first notice, Proposed Priority and Requirements—Technical Assistance on State Data Collection—National Technical Assistance Center To Improve State Capacity To Collect, Report, Analyze, and Use Accurate IDEA Part B Data, focuses attention on an identified national need to provide technical assistance (TA) to improve the capacity of States to meet the data collection requirements under Part B of the IDEA. All comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov.


The second notice, Proposed Priority and Requirements—Technical Assistance on State Data Collection—National Technical Assistance Center To Improve State Capacity To Collect, Report, Analyze, and Use Accurate Early Childhood IDEA Data, focuses attention on an
identified national need to provide technical assistance (TA) to improve the capacity of States to meet the data collection requirements under Part C and Part B of the IDEA. All comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov.


Comments on both proposed priorities must be received by May 20.

Collaboration Corner: English Language Proficiency Assessments Peer Review

The Department will conduct the first peer review of English Language Proficiency (ELP) assessments in April. OSEP staff continue to participate alongside staff from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in the Assessment Peer Review Process, and will support next month’s review. You may recall that in August 2018 the Department conducted a seminar on the Department’s updated assessment peer review guide, including the peer review of ELP assessments. Panel discussions at the seminar involved assessment experts (including many assessment peer reviewers) on a variety of salient topics. A complete summary of the seminar materials, including handouts, summary notes, participant list and video of all sessions are available here. We are looking forward to learning more about the work underway, and offering support to States in this important work.

Resources to Use

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First Brief from English Learner Model Demonstration Grants

The English Learner (EL) Model Demonstration Grants recently released their first in a series of six briefs on Meeting the Needs of English Learners with and without Disabilities. The first brief is titled Meeting the Needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

The brief highlights:

  • An Overview of the Three Model Demonstration Projects and Implementation Sites
  • An Overview of Multi-Tiered Approaches in Multi-lingual Settings
  • Core Instruction for English Learners (ELs)
  • Special Considerations for Students Acquiring English as a Second Language
  • Supplemental and Intensive Instruction
  • Linguistically Aligned Assessments and Data Informed Planning
  • Identification of ELs with Learning Disabilities within MTSS

New Coaching Modules

The State Implementation and Scaling up of Evidence-based Practices TA Center has released its second and third coaching modules: Coaching Behavior and Coaching Continuum of Supports. The modules allow the user to take part in interactive sessions that highlight a research driven approach to coaching.

national center on deaf blindness

Transition Resources for Students Who Are Deaf-Blind

The National Center on Deaf-Blindness recently published two resources to help families, educators, state deaf-blind project personnel, and adult service providers support students with deaf-blindness to successfully transition to postsecondary education or employment, and community life.

NTACT logo

New From the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition 

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition has developed secondary transition resources for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The resources, including information on transition programming and predictors of postsecondary outcome(s) for students with ASD, were developed with guidance from a technical workgroup of national experts in autism. 

Early Childhood IDEA Centers: 2019 New State Technical Assistance Opportunities 

The OSEP-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance (TA) Centers recently released information on a variety of new opportunities to increase individual and state capacity around the implementation of IDEA Part C early intervention and Part B preschool special education. States can use this information to consider which TA opportunities best fit their individual needs and priorities in the foreseeable future. Please check out the websites (listed in the document) for each center to learn more!

Child Welfare Information Gateway

New Report on Addressing Needs of Young Children in Child Welfare

The Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Information Gateway has issued a bulletin entitled Addressing the Needs of Young Children in Child Welfare: Part C Early Intervention Services. This bulletin was developed for professionals working in the child welfare system and describes the intersection of child welfare and IDEA Part C early intervention, provides an overview of the Part C process, and outlines strategies to develop partnerships between child welfare and Part C systems to expand supports for young children and their caregivers in order to improve well-being and outcomes.

Research News

IES logo

Addressing Mathematics Learning Disabilities Using Enhanced Anchored Instruction

Difficulties in math performance can be attributed to a combination of weak problem-solving and computational skills, such as basic operations involving fractions. Improving the skills of students with mathematics learning disabilities can be difficult. A research team led by Brian Bottge at the University of Kentucky developed and tested the efficacy of  Enhanced Anchored Instruction (EAI), an approach that allows middle school students with math disabilities the opportunity to practice their skills as they solve new but similar math problems in applied and challenging contexts. The published findings from this research show that this approach improved middle school students’ fraction understanding, computation skills, and problem solving. To learn more about this project and hear the perspectives of participating students and the lead researchers, watch this video. Visit the project website for additional information about the project and to access sample teacher lesson plans and student activities. 

Planning Ahead: Projections of Education Statistics to 2027

Projections of Education Statistics to 2027 is the 46th in a series of publications initiated in 1964. This report provides national-level data on enrollment, teachers, high school graduates, and expenditures at the elementary and secondary level, and enrollment and degrees at the postsecondary level for the past 15 years and projections to the year 2027. For each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the tables, figures, and text contain data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2027. The methodology section describes models and assumptions used to develop the national- and state-level projections.

2019 OSEP Leadership Conference Registration

The Office of Special Education Programs will hold its 2019 Leadership Conference

July 22-24, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. 


The intended audience is

  • State agency staff - Part B state directors, Part C coordinators, 619 coordinators, and other federal programs staff;
  • Parent Center directors and staff;
  • Part B and Part C data managers;
  • Part D technical assistance providers; and
  • State Advisory Panels and State Interagency Coordinating Councils

Questions? Email osep-meeting@air.org

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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 sites.ed.gov/osers 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 rebecca.walawender@ed.gov.

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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.