Resources for Moving Forward, Improving Outcomes

Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

July 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!

Sometimes it takes several drafts before I decide on what I will share with you in my letter. Not this month. Like many of you, I am taking full advantage of conference and convening season. It's been a beneficial time of listening, learning, and connecting with our partners on this journey.


In June, I shared an overview of OSEP’s efforts to raise the bar for state special education programs to improve the educational outcomes for America’s 6.5 million infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, including individuals with Down syndrome, at the National Down Syndrome Congress educator conference. I also had the opportunity to participate in a town hall where I responded to questions from attendees. I am always so inspired by these interactions, and I use the feedback and input to frame my work.


Also in June, I provided the keynote address at the annual Lehigh University Special Education Law Symposium and Section 504 Coordinators Institute. The symposium provides school personnel with the most up-to-date information on the laws and court decisions impacting the delivery of special education and related services. These local leaders apply what they have learned to impact students with disabilities in their districts.


That brings me to July and the 2019 OSEP Leadership Conference. The conference was exceptional from beginning to end, and I encourage you to access the presentation materials on the conference app or mobile website. I'd like to highlight two sessions that perfectly bookended the gathering. The opening keynote featured Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and a panel of individuals representing those state offices responsible for administering the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and their parent partners in Pennsylvania. The panel demonstrated that effective collaboration and communication must happen at every level if we are to implement systems that focus on the children we serve. The panel discussion set the stage for an impressive 2 1/2 days that culminated in an impact panel highlighting teacher and student voices. The teachers highlighted what is possible, and what we should expect from our infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Alex Lee, an 11 year old self-advocate with Down syndrome, followed by his sister, inspired the crowd with their stories of determination and success. Alex, an honor roll student in general education classes, reinforced the importance of providing all students with disabilities what they need, when they need it, and where they need it.


Many of you will have already started the new school year the next time I write. I wish you rest and rejuvenation in these final few weeks before students return.



OSEP Funding Opportunity

ed seal

OSEP recently posted a notice inviting applications for OSERS/OSEP: Planning Grants for Increasing Instructional Time and Decreasing Administrative Burden. Applications are due Aug. 14.

OSEP Has a Resource for That. Spread the News!

OSEP, directly and through its partners and grantees, develops a wide range of research-based products, publications, and resources to assist states, local district personnel, and families to improve results for students with disabilities. In this new OSEP Update section, OSEP will highlight the work of its funded projects by focus area with the hope that you will disseminate the resources within your circles, and they within theirs. OSEP supports great work. Help us ensure that everyone knows! 

Start Here.

Looking for a place to start? The OSEP IDEAs that Work website is designed to provide easy access to information from research to practice initiatives funded by OSEP that address the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act. This website includes resources, links, and other important information relevant to OSEP’s research to practice efforts. 


Previous Months' Highlights

The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education

Focus Area: Early Childhood

The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) provides technical assistance and resources to state agencies to assist with the development or enhancement of data systems for Part C early intervention and Part B preschool special education programs supported through IDEA. The DaSy Center collaborates with other projects to leverage what is known. It also generates new ideas and products to help state agencies create and expand early childhood cross-agency and longitudinal data systems that include the Part C and Part B preschool data needed to collect, analyze, and report high-quality data required under IDEA.

NTACT logo

Focus Area: Secondary Transition

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition assists state education agencies, local education agencies, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices ensuring students with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.

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 issued Part B and Part C 2019 determinations at the end of June. The Department determined that 21 states met the requirements of IDEA Part B and 28 states met the requirements of IDEA Part C. You can read about how the Department made determinations under IDEA section 616(d) in 2019 and research individual state's state performance plan/annual performance reports on OSEP's GRADS360° page.


The state performance plan/annual performance report (SPP/APR) online submission system currently hosted on GRADS360° is being retired. Beginning with the FY18 SPP/APR, due Feb. 1, 2020, states will submit using the Department's universal APR tool currently under development on the EDFacts Metadata Process System, or EMAPS. OSEP will host several informational calls on the new system for states in the coming months. Contact your state lead if you have questions.


State Systemic Improvement Plans 

State leads have completed reviews of their states’ Part C and Part B State Systemic Improvement Plans (SSIPs) submitted on April 1.  Throughout June and July, state leads will evaluate states’ progress towards achieving the state identified measurable result.  State leads plan to conduct SSIP feedback calls with states in August.


Differentiated Monitoring and Support

OSEP is in the initial stages of implementing its differentiated monitoring and support, or DMS, process for FY 2019. This includes conducting an organizational assessment of factors to identify states’ progress in meeting performance standards and complying with the requirements of Part C and Part B of the IDEA and its implementing regulations, the Education Department General Administrative Regulations and the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.  Please stay tuned for further details.


OSEP’s Monthly Technical Assistance Call to States

During OSEP’s monthly technical assistance call on June 11, OSEP, along with the Model Demonstration Projects to Improve Algebraic Reasoning for Students with Disabilities in Middle School (math model demos) presented on how they have been using evidence-based practices and interventions in schools to improve mathematics instruction and outcomes for students with disabilities. The math model demo grant recipients are Mathematics Learning Collaborative at the National Center for Systemic Improvement at WestEd, American Institutes for Research's Math Model, Project STAIR at Southern Methodist University, and the Instructional Research Group's Math Model.


Dose of Data

CIID logo

Sustaining Data Integration

Is your state interested in sustaining the data integration work that you have been engaged in? The Center for the Integration of IDEA Data has a data integration project sustainability tip sheet for you to identify key components, strategic timing, and planning considerations for sustaining data integration work. This tip sheet describes sustainability planning by the following themes: documentation, communication and scheduling, leadership engagement, and fiscal. 

Resources and Research to Use

CCSSO logo

Equitable Opportunities

The primary mechanism for ensuring that students with disabilities receive the right educational content and rigor at the right moment in their education is the individualized education program (IEP). This new  resource from the Council of Chief State School Officers, Ensuring an Equitable Opportunity: Providing a High-Quality Education for Students with Disabilities, details policy and practice considerations around IEPs that chiefs and state education leaders can reflect upon and implement in ensuring all students, especially those with disabilities, have access to a high-quality education.

DaSy and ECTA combined logo

Evidenced-Based Practices

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and The Center for Early Childhood Data Systems collaborated to develop a series of short tip sheets to provide concise guidance for collecting and analyzing high-quality data on the implementation of evidence-based practices. The tip sheets address four key topics: What to Measure, Characteristics of a High-Quality Measurement Tool, Establishing a Fidelity Threshold, and Summarizing Data for Decision-making.

ECTA and ITCA logos

Prenatal Substance Exposure 

IES logo

The Costs of Childcare

The National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences at ED recently released The Costs of Childcare: Results From the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey. This publication uses data from the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program to provide data about the importance of a variety of factors, including cost to parents when choosing childcare, the types of assistance received for child care, and the mean out-of-pocket costs for relative, nonrelative, and center-based childcare arrangements.  The full report can be found here.

Annenberg at Brown University logo

Special Education and Students with Learning Disabilities

The Annenberg Institute at Brown University recently published a working paper that explores the impact of special education on students with learning disabilities. Using a data set from the New York City public schools, the researchers found that math and English language arts academic outcomes improve for students with learning disabilities who were identified as a student with a disability in the elementary grades. The researchers also report findings on the impact of receiving special education services by race, gender and provide an analysis of outcomes by academic setting. 

Engage With Us! Social Media and More


Connect With OSERS and Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett on Twitter

Twitter Logo Blue

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 Update 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

 If you know someone who would like to subscribe to the OSEP Update and breaking news, encourage them to sign up HERE! This link will also allow subscribers to manage their subscriber settings and unsubscribe. 

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.