#EducationFreedomTour, Upcoming Changes to GRADS360, and OSEP Letters

Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

September 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!

We all know that it takes a team to ensure that infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their families improve outcomes. Teamwork, and the unique skills, knowledge, and abilities each team member brings to the work, is critical at the administrative level, as well. The U.S. Department of Education understands the importance of intra- and inter-agency collaboration around critical issues impacting children with disabilities and the schools that educate them.  The effort promotes collaboration and coordination among the federal offices and agencies. The secretary is committed to placing OSEP staff in key discussions to ensure that that the needs of children with disabilities are represented. 


Currently, OSEP participates in intra-agency workgroups on combating the opioid crisis and on combating human trafficking and exploitation of children. OSEP also participates in the inter-agency taskforce on trauma informed care.


In addition to the workgroup participation, OSEP supports its grantees as they navigate these difficult issues.  Some OSEP technical assistance centers develop and disseminate strategies, toolkits, and new resources to assist states in meeting needs of children with increasingly high intensity and complex needs.  OSEP also supports projects that develop infrastructure improvement strategies, leverage fiscal systems, design and implement professional development opportunities, and support states in their general supervisory responsibilities.  Each month, the OSEP Update highlights two of these centers in the "There’s a Resource for That" section below.  


OSEP will continue to invest time and resources to support the needs of its grantees.



Education Freedom Tour

Education Freedom scholarship logo

As part of the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ 2019 Back-to-School Tour, #EducationFreedomTour, U.S. Assistant Education Secretary Johnny W. Collett traveled to Kansas and Missouri the week of Sept. 16 to visit education programs designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. 


In Kansas, Assistant Secretary Collett visited the Levy Special Education Center in Wichita where he had the opportunity to visit various classrooms and the therapeutic pool,   He then toured classrooms and met with staff at St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park to learn about its high school programs, including their career and technical education programs. 


In Missouri, Assistant Secretary Collett visited Kentucky Trail Elementary School in Belton and had a chance to visit 2017– 2018 Belton School District Teacher of the Year, Ms. Elizabeth Hart’s special education classroom and her class’ year-round indoor garden.  That afternoon, he visited the Propel program at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where he had the privilege of announcing the  U.S. Department of Education’s new Q&A document on Increasing Postsecondary Opportunities & Success for Students and Youth with Disabilities.  Assistant Secretary Collett also visited Plaza Academy to tour the school.  He met with students and staff to discuss their experiences and the school’s approach to creating what they refer to as an ownership-based environment designed to empower their learners.  He also toured a music production studio where two students performed original pieces about their education.

OSEP Letters

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July 3: Letter to Zirkel addresses a series of questions regarding a state educational agency’s complaint procedures, in particular, resolution of state complaints and enforcement actions.


September 9: Letter to Anonymous addresses questions regarding: (1) the participation of children with disabilities in IEP team meetings and other meetings held to discuss the results of testing, the child’s evaluation or reevaluation, or the child’s identified disability category (particularly secondary transition-aged youth); and (2) provision of assessment reports to meeting participants, including the parents, prior to the meeting at which the assessment results will be discussed.


September 9: Letter to Rowland addresses a series of questions regarding the development of IEPs of children placed in certain preschool programs, including whether a public agency may restrict the provision of a specific related service based solely on the child’s placement in a particular program.


September 17: Increasing Postsecondary Opportunities and Success for Students and Youth with Disabilities describes how state educational agencies, local educational agencies, and state vocational rehabilitation agencies may coordinate to assist students and youth with disabilities, including students and youth with intellectual disabilities who are in high school and at postsecondary education institutions, through appropriate supports funded under the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

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 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' OSEP Updates

The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education

The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition

Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

National Center on Intensive Intervention at American Institutes of Research

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Focus Area: Systemic Improvement

The purpose of the State Implementation and Scaling up of Evidence Based Practices Center (SISEP) is to help to establish implementation and scaling capacity in state, regional, and district educational systems. SISEP provides content and technical assistance toward establishing large-scale, sustainable, high-fidelity implementation of effective education practices. 

NDC Postsecondary Outcomes

Focus Area: Postsecondary Outcomes

The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes provides evidence-based strategies to deaf individuals, family members, and professionals at the local, state, and national levels with the goal of closing education and employment gaps for deaf individuals.

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.

OSEP Will Transition From the Current OSEP GRADS360°


OSEP will discontinue use of its current OSEP GRADS360° website on Jan. 1, 2020.


What this means for the public. All of the publicly-available information currently housed on the website will be transitioned by that date to other webpages including the IDEA webpage and the IDEAs That Work webpage. In the meantime, the OSEP GRADS360° webpage will continue to provide the public with access to the State Performance Plan and Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR) and other resources.


What this means for state users: The SPP/APR online submission system currently hosted on GRADS360° has been 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. In the coming months, OSEP will host several informational calls for states on the new system. Contact your state lead if you have questions.


Dose of Data

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Did You Know?

In 2017, approximately 35 percent of 3-year-old children with disabilities received most of their services in the regular early childhood program. In that same year, approximately 52 percent of 5-year-old children with disabilities received the majority of services in the regular early childhood program. Source:  2017 Part B Child Count and Educational Environment Data File 

EDFacts logo

In September, the president's Office of Management and Budget approved the EDFacts Information Collection Package for School Years 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 that includes the IDEA Section 618 Part B data collections. This information collection package discusses changes to the reporting requirements related to the IDEA Part B Assessment Data (EDFacts files 175 and 178); IDEA Part B Child Count and Educational Environments Data (EDFacts files 002 and 089); and IDEA Part B Personnel Data (EDFacts files 070 and 112).

Collaboration Corner

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The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, in collaboration with OSEP and the State Support Network, are pleased to announce that a new Report Card Communications Community of Practice (CoP) will launch in October 2019.


The purpose of this initiative is to support state educational agencies in developing and using promising strategies to communicate the meaning, utility, and relevance of report-card data to various stakeholder audiences, especially parents and families. The CoP will address communication issues around financial transparency, Office for Civil Rights data, making report card data visible and actionable to various stakeholder groups, and other topics of interest to CoP members. This CoP will include five learning cycles, including one 90-minute virtual engagement per cycle.


Please email cmcclure@seiservices.com no later than Friday, October 4, if members of your state’s team are interested in joining the CoP, or if you have questions.

Resources and Research to Use

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Mathematics Instruction

Project STAIR (Supporting Teaching of Algebra: Individual Readiness) has created a series of videos that serve as tailored or targeted professional development for middle school algebra teachers. This project is part of a cohort of Model Demonstration Projects to Improve Algebraic Reasoning. Project STAIR is based out of the University of Missouri College of Education, the University of Texas at Austin College of Education, and Southern Methodist University's Simmons School of Education and Human Development. The videos are  accessed here. Follow Project STAIR on Twitter: @ProjectSTAIR.

Lead for Literacy URL


The Lead for Literacy Center is up and running! A partnership of the University of Oregon and the American Institutes for Research, the center aims to guide elementary school and district leaders in their efforts to improve literacy teaching and learning outcomes for all students.

Save the Date


October 15 at 2 p.m. EDT: The National Center for Pyramid Model Interventions and  the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center are hosting "Indicators of High-Quality Inclusion: A Comprehensive Set of Tools." This webinar will provide an overview of the National Early Childhood Inclusion Indicators Initiative. It includes the suite of materials developed under this initiative for states, local programs, and child environments, which are intended to increase the implementation of high-quality inclusive practices.  Specific attention will be paid to implementing the early childhood education environment inclusion indicators in a variety of early childhood programs. You can register for this webinar here.

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 Update 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.