Funding Opportunities, Policy Letters, and More

Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

May 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!

Summer is fast approaching and before we transition to months that tend to be a little quieter for some of us in education, I’d like to share information from meetings I’ve attended. It is my hope that these monthly letters support your ongoing commitment to promising practices or pique your interest in topics that you might not be following as closely.


One highlight this month was participating in the 2019 Early Childhood Inclusion Institute hosted by the University of North Carolina Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. The institute is one of the premier educational opportunities for anyone involved in the care and education of young children with special needs in inclusive settings. I was privileged to participate on a federal panel discussing early childhood inclusion with representatives from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Early Childhood Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. It was interesting to learn about other federal agencies' early childhood agendas and discuss opportunities for continued and new collaborations. I also appreciated getting to hear about the successes and challenges of those in the field during a lively question and answer session.


Another key event was the second in OSEP’s 2019 Symposia Series on attracting, preparing, and retaining effective personnel who have the knowledge and skills needed to provide effective instruction, interventions, supports, and services to children with disabilities. The second in the series addressed retention. As I’ve often said, we have a bucket, and that bucket has holes. This session addresses how we plug those holes so that we don’t continue to lose effective special education personnel at the rate that those personnel are currently exiting the profession. This will only happen if we are able to implement strategies that we know support special education professionals and increase the likelihood that they will remain in the field and continue to provide services to our infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and their families.  


With that, I wish you rest and rejuvenation! We need to take care of ourselves so that we can continue in this critical work.



OSEP Funding Opportunities

OSEP recently posted three notices inviting application for its personnel preparation program. Institutes of higher education and private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply. Applications are due by July 8.

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OSEP Policy Letters

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May 2: Letter to Haller addresses whether a school district may invite an observer to an Individual Education Program (IEP) Team meeting.


May 2: Letter to Mills addresses a series of questions resulting from a functional vision assessment by an optometrist.


May 2: Letter to Zirkel addresses a parent’s right to an Independent Education Evaluation when the child has been evaluated and found not to be a child with a disability in need of special education and related services.


May 13: Letter Zirkel addresses the State Education Agency (SEA)’s authority to award tuition reimbursement when resolving an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state complaint; an SEA’s authority to resolve an IDEA state complaint related to a disciplinary change of placement and manifestation determination; an SEA’s obligation to enforce a hearing officer’s decision that includes only actions to ensure procedural violations do not recur; and remedies available to a hearing officer when resolving an expedited due process complaint.

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.


State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report 

OSEP is in the midst of the annual State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Plan (SPP/APR) review period. SPP/APRs were submitted on Feb. 1, and clarification was held during the first weeks in April. OSEP anticipates issuing FY17 determination letters prior to July 1.


State Systemic Improvement Plans 

State leads are reviewing and evaluating Part C and Part B State Systemic Improvement Plans (SSIP) that were submitted by each state on April 1. State leads will schedule calls with states during July and August to provide feedback on the state's SSIP.


State Applications

States submitted their IDEA Part C FY19 grant application and IDEA Part B FY19 grant application this month.  Over the next month and a half, OSEP state leads will be reviewing, evaluating and responding to grant applications.  During this period, state leads will be in contact with states if questions arise and additional information is needed.  Grant award letters are due to be released to states on July 1. 


Differentiated Monitoring and Support 

OSEP completed four onsite visits in April as a part of its FY18 Differentiated Monitoring and Support process. Visits focus on areas identified for monitoring and technical assistance in order to improve results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and their families.  Four more visits are planned for the remainder of the fiscal year.


OSEP’s Monthly Technical Assistance Call to States

During OSEP’s monthly technical assistance call May 9, OSEP staff along with staff from the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems , the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, and two Part C States, presented on the Child Find Self-Assessment (CFSA). The CFSA is voluntary and is intended to support states in their child find efforts. Feedback from states that have used the tool has been extremely positive.

Dose of Data

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Providing Opportunities for State Staff to Connect and Learn About IDEA Data


The IDEA Data Center (IDC) provides opportunities for state staff to engage with and learn from each other to build their capacity to address IDEA data quality issues more effectively. 


Data Manager Connection

Through IDC’s Data Manager Connection, Part B and Part C data managers get together to share what they know and what they need to know about IDEA data and their roles as data managers. As part of the Data Manager Connection, newer data managers meet during regularly scheduled, IDC-facilitated, small group sessions to explore self-directed topics.


Peer-to-Peer Exchanges

State staff also connect with and learn from each other through IDC’s virtual Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Exchanges. IDC recently held a Virtual Interactive Meeting (VIM) on the potential uses and limitations of different types of existing data and possibilities for combining data from multiple sources. At the end of the VIM, states self-selected one or more related topics to explore more deeply through P2P Exchanges.  Each P2P Exchange is self-sustaining and lasts if participants have an interest in the topic and want to continue to meet.


For more information about either opportunity, please contact your IDC state liaison.

Resources to Use


Summer Reading Program with Bookshare

An enriching summer reading program from the Bookshare ebook library is designed to lock in reading gains and to keep students reading over the summer. Bookshare has curated reading lists modeled after the Collaborative Summer Library Program that includes level-appropriate tales of fantasy, science fiction, #ownvoices, and other topics chosen to engage students in leisure reading.


Students with dyslexia, blindness, and other reading barriers can access Bookshare ebooks for free and read in audio, braille, and other easy-to-read formats on almost any device. In addition, Bookshare provides transition guides to help students keep access to books and reading tools as they move to new grades, schools, and life after school.

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Resources to Support Accessible Educational Materials

In observance of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) is sharing several TA resources a to help administrators, educators and families procure, create, and provide AEM for eligible students.  Resources include the following:

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State Indicators of High Quality Inclusion

The ED-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center and the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations are coleading the National Early Childhood Inclusion Indicators Initiative with partners from across early care and education. The indicators will support state and local program leaders to examine and implement strategies that strengthen their capacity to provide high quality inclusive options in their communities. The goal of the initiative is to improve and increase inclusive opportunities for young children with disabilities and their families, through system and practice refinements.


In collaboration with partners from across early care and education, the centers have developed State Indicators of High Quality Inclusion. The indicators address key infrastructure elements across state agencies in an early care and education system. They are designed to support leaders in evaluating and enhancing their system of supports to local programs in the service delivery system.

Research News

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Increased revenue and expenditures per pupil

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides information about revenues and expenditures in the nation’s public school districts for school year 2015-16. The report uses data from the provisional School District Finance Survey data file that state education agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia submit to NCES each year.

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 comprises

  • 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

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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 for future posts!


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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.