New OSEP Deputy Director and COVID-19 Resources

Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

April 2020: In This Issue of the OSEP Update

Inside OSEP: Laurie's Letter

Message From Director Laurie VanderPloeg

Laurie VanderPloeg official portrait

Partners - 

The impact of the COVID-19 national emergency continues front and center in our daily lives. I know these are not easy times. This is especially true for members of the disability community and those of us with a commitment to infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families. It has been reassuring to hear of examples of strong communication and engagement between parents of children with disabilities and early intervention providers and schools across the nation. Maintaining meaningful relationships between parents, providers, and school districts have ensured remote service delivery and learning opportunities for children with disabilities, as appropriate. As the Department has said from the beginning of the pandemic, school districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to these students.


The Department has received hundreds of questions regarding IDEA implementation during the COVID-19 national emergency. In response, OSEP is developing topical information briefs that we anticipate distributing soon. Continue to check the Department's COVID-19 web page for the most up-to-date information. Additionally, OSEP-funded technical assistance centers are there to support States, districts, and parents with relevant, useful, and timely information and technical assistance. The OSEP-Funded TA Center COVID-19 Resources section below provides links to TA centers and highlights resources. I encourage you to bookmark these pages and check often for updates.


Finally, I'd like to welcome David Cantrell as the new OSEP deputy director. David is introduced in the section below. I look forward to partnering with David to continue OSEP's excellent work.


On behalf of OSEP, thank you for what you are doing every day to provide early intervention and special education and related services to our 7 million children with disabilities. You are making a difference. Stay safe and stay healthy!



Introducing David Cantrell

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David Cantrell, Ph.D., assumes the role of OSEP deputy director beginning May 11. David’s background serving infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families as a special education teacher, administrator, and system-level executive along with his collaborative leadership style and management skills make him uniquely qualified to support the director in leading OSEP.


Prior to joining OSEP, David worked as a director in the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education where he administered grants to States and local education agencies for the Rural Education Achievement Program and the Consolidated Grant to the Insular Areas. Additionally, he spearheaded technical assistance activities for States by leading the Office of Program and Grantee Support Services which oversees the Equity Assistance Centers and Comprehensive Centers.


David is a creative, team-oriented leader with an extensive background serving children with disabilities and their families. He began his career as a special educator in Raleigh, North Carolina and then joined the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) where he taught students with various disabilities in grades preschool to high school. After teaching, he moved into administration serving as a district coordinator, school administrator, and, finally, as director of special education and student support services for DoDEA.


Throughout his 30-year career, David has passionately advocated on the behalf of students with disabilities. His areas of interest include home-school partnerships, early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, and dropout prevention programs for students with disabilities.


David was born in Dayton, Ohio, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Louisville, a Master of Education in special education from North Carolina State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in special education policy from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Federal COVID-19 Resources

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On April 8, the Department released Fact Sheet: Select Questions Related to Use of Department of Education Grant Funds During the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019. The fact sheet responds to frequently asked questions related to use of funds with respect to compensation, travel, and conference costs that are otherwise allowable costs under applicable program statutes and regulations.

Discretionary Grant Opportunities

State Personnel Development Grants 

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
proposes a funding priority and definitions under the State
Personnel Development Grants program (CFDA 84.323A), which assists States in reforming and improving their systems for personnel preparation and personnel development in order to improve results for children with disabilities. A notice of proposed priority and definitions was published in the Federal Register on April 24. Comments are due on or before May 26.

Parent Training and Information Centers 

The Department issued a notice inviting applications for new awards for fiscal year (FY) 2020 for Training and Information for Parents of Children with Disabilities—Parent Training and Information Centers (CFDA 84.328M) and the Parent Information and Training program (CFDA 84.235F). These centers will provide objective information, resources, and impartial training that support parents and youth in working in partnership with professionals to establish and meet high expectations for children and youth with disabilities. Applications are due by June 22.

Personnel Development

The deadline for transmittal of the the FY 2020 Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities—Leadership Development Programs: Increasing the Capacity of Leaders to Improve Systems Serving Children with Disabilities (CFDA 84.325L) competition has been extended to May 13. The new deadline for intergovernmental review is extended to July 12.

The CARES Act and IDEA

Funding Opportunities

On March 27, the President signed H.R. 748, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act into law.


The CARES Act establishes the $30 billion Education Stabilization Fund, which includes the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and two discretionary grant programs for States with the highest COVID-19 burden.


Click on the links for more information about each fund.

IDEA Waivers

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reaffirmed her long-held position that individualized education must take place for all students, including students with disabilities. As a result, the Secretary is not recommending Congress pass any additional waiver authority concerning the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), reiterating that learning must continue for all students during the COVID-19 national emergency.


While not advising any waivers to the core tenets of IDEA, the Department is requesting that Congress consider additional flexibilities on administrative requirements under the Perkins Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the IDEA.

OSEP-funded TA Center COVID-19 Resources

OSERS’ technical assistance centers are ready to address your questions regarding the IDEA and best practices and alternate models for providing special education and related services, including through distance instruction. The National Center for Systemic Improvement is the primary source for technical assistance resources during the COVID-19 national emergency for IDEA Part B programs. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center is the primary source for IDEA Part C programs. For questions pertaining to Part C of IDEA, States should contact their Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center State Contact.  For Part B of IDEA, States should contact the National Center for Systemic Improvement.

Early Childhood

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center is providing State Part C and Part B, Section 619 programs with the latest information on funding and guidance, as well as information on talking to children and families during the COVID-19 national emergency.


School Age

The National Center for Systemic Improvement's web page provides a resource hub for supporting students with disabilities during the COVID-19 national emergency, including educator resources to support remote learning.


Other Resources

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Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheets

The Center for Parent Information and Resources serves as the host a collection of tip sheets on planning for and participating in virtual meetings, including those related to a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program). The tip sheets, developed by six OSEP-funded technical assistance centers, include:

  • a sample agenda for a virtual IEP meeting, in English and Spanish,
  • technology tips for all participants,
  • suggestions for hosting a virtual meeting,
  • tips for those participating in a virtual meeting, and
  • an infographic about virtual IEP meetings, in English and in Spanish.
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Proficient Communicators Who Are Deaf-Blind

The National Center on Deaf-Blindness has compiled and organized Resources for Providing Technical Assistance During the COVID-19 Pandemic. It covers OSEP guidance, distance TA, resources for families and service providers, and online learning for proficient communicators who are deaf-blind. The page is being regularly updated with input from state deaf-blind projects and national partners.

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Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities

TIES Center has launched a distance-learning series that provides a framework for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to get through these new transitions, engage fully in academics online, and interact with their teachers and peers, a critical component of well-being. TIES Center is regularly adding resources to the distance learning series that offer the following recommendations to support the inclusion and engagement of students with significant cognitive disabilities. Current resources include:

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Accessible Materials and Technologies

The National AEM Center at CAST has developed resources to support students who need accessible materials and technologies while learning remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. The resources can be accessed here.

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Supporting Parents as Teachers

Parents: Supporting Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic offers practical tools and easy-to-implement tips to help children learn at home during the school shutdowns caused by COVID-19. Created specifically with parents in mind, this module covers strategies to help parents get children ready to learn; support reading and mathematics instruction; promote children's social and emotional wellbeing, and help struggling learners and students with disabilities. These topics and more can be found in this engaging multi-media module.



Bookshare provides accessible Ebooks for eligible individuals with barriers to reading. The resources linked here will help students with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers to continue learning during school closures. 

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Providing Distance Family Support

Are you providing early intervention or preschool services using distance technology? Do you have questions about how you can support families as they help their children with learning activities or conducting intervention within routines? On this April 17 webinar, Providing Distance Family Support: What do I say? How can I help?, faculty at the ED-funded National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations discuss challenges related to assisting families using distance learning. They also share ideas on checking in with families, how to respond to difficult questions, and resources that might be shared.


Tele-intervention and Distance Learning

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center has compiled a number of resources on tele-intervention and distance learning.  Check out the new video on using family guided routines based intervention for guiding home visits, whether in-person or delivered through video conferencing.  The video also provides general considerations when delivering home visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annual FERPA and PPRA Notification

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The Department is required to annually notify SEAs and LEAs, as recipients of funds under programs administered by the Department, of their obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98)


FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions and PPRA-covered LEAs may wish to review and, if appropriate, revise their policies and procedures, and their notifications under FERPA and PPRA to provide parents and students with information about any revisions necessitated by changes to their operations during this period of remote learning.


Please contact the Department's student privacy help desk at if you have additional questions.

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.

REMINDER! OSEP's GRADS360° Page Will Stay Live Into 2020

OSEP will continue to use its GRADS360° page for the foreseeable future. We anticipate the that site will remain active until the fourth quarter of 2020/


What this means for the public. All of the publicly-available information currently housed on the website will remain.  


What this means for state users: The SPP/APR online submission system currently hosted on GRADS360° is retired. Beginning with the FY18 SPP/APR,  due Feb. 3, 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.


Part B and Part C Formula Grant Applications

The completed Part B application, with supporting information, must be submitted on or before May 15, to ensure that the state’s FFY 2020 IDEA Part B grant funds are available for obligation on July 1, 2020. States must make available by March 15 the FFY 2020 IDEA Part B grant application for public participation in order to meet the May 15 submission deadline.


The completed Part C application, with supporting information, must be submitted on or before May 1, to ensure that the state’s FFY 2020 IDEA Part C grant funds are available for obligation on July 1. States must make available by March 1 the FFY 2020 IDEA Part C grant application for public participation in order to meet the May 1 submission deadline.

Differentiated Monitoring and Support

As part of the Rethink Special Education initiative, OSEP has been examining its differentiated monitoring and support (DMS) system.  This rethink was designed to build on the work OSEP has done under Results Driven Accountability and to continue to ensure that OSEP fulfills its core responsibilities to monitor its grantees in a manner that focuses on improved outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and their families. 


OSEP intended, as was communicated in other venues, to roll out its plans for DMS 2020 in a national technical assistance call in April.  But, given the urgency of responding to COVID-19, OSEP has decided that this is not the right time to roll out DMS 2020.  States must focus on the important work of ensuring that early intervention services for infants and toddlers, and special education services and related services for children and youth are being provided during this time of crisis, as well as ensuring that staff and families remain safe and healthy.  As a result, OSEP is postponing the roll out of our revised DMS process.


OSEP anticipates rolling out DMS 2020 in summer 2020.  

Engage With Us! Social Media and More

Connect With OSERS 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. 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!


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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.