Responding to COVID-19: Back to School, OSEP Policy Letters

Improving Results for Youth and Children With Disabilities

August 2020: In This Issue of the OSEP Update

Inside OSEP: Laurie's Letter

Message From Director Laurie VanderPloeg

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Partners - 

Welcome Back!


We continue our journey in a time like no other. We are faced with the challenge of executing a successful opening of the 2020-21 school year while dealing with the personal realities of living safely during a pandemic. The majority of my conversations during the pandemic have been with parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel who were all working hard and collaborating to develop and implement plans for meeting the needs of our infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities across the nation. Our colleagues are breaking down barriers by employing creative and innovative options and opportunities for our children that prioritize learning and health and safety. These efforts are a testament to your true grit and determination. 


We are writing a new chapter in the history of education that will be told for generations to come.  Parts will be sad or uncomfortable and not without challenges, but the outcomes will be ones of pride, stronger relationships, and positive futures of all.  OSEP is here to help support families, school districts, and States through our leadership in providing all stakeholders with access to the resources necessary to succeed. 


As Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


Thank you for all that you do every day to support the education of all children in this changing world.  OSEP wishes you the best as you start this new school year. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong.



OSEP Policy Letters

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July 31, 2020: Letter to Anonymous addresses whether a parent may be required to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to participate in mediation under Part B of the IDEA. In this letter OSEP states that, while nothing in IDEA is intended to prevent States from allowing parties to sign a confidentiality pledge, public agencies may not condition their participation in mediation on such an agreement, because such a requirement is counter to the voluntary nature of the mediation process.

OSERS Guidance

A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities

OSERS is pleased to publish an updated A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities, August 2020, to advance our efforts in ensuring that all students and youth with disabilities are equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their post-school and career goals. In this updated transition guide, we added information about dual enrollment and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act . We hope this transition guide will help students and youth with disabilities and their families to better understand how the State education agencies, the local education agencies, and the vocational rehabilitation agencies work together to facilitate improved outcomes for students and youth with disabilities.

Federal COVID-19 Resources

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IDEA topics in the current COVID-19 environment

Catalog of Department Resources

Check the Department's COVID-19 Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel web page for additional information and resources.

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CDC Guidance for Child Care, Schools, and Youth Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a web page that provides information for child care, schools, and youth programs to plan, prepare, and respond to COVID-19. Topics include: 

  • If you're open
  • Deciding to open
  • Ongoing mitigation strategy
  • Prevention and support
  • Communication resources

Seeking Public Comment

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IDEA Part C Annual State Application

A 60-day Federal Register notice was published on July 10 soliciting comments on the proposed Part C application for funds. The proposed application includes minor revisions from the current application. Comments are due Sept. 8.

Dose of Data

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OSEP Fast Facts

OSEP is excited to release two new Fast Facts that take a closer look at our IDEA 618 data on race and ethnicity.  For the  American Indian or Alaska Native children with disabilities and Black or African American students with disabilities Fast Facts we present data from the data collections authorized under IDEA Section 618 including that collected through child count, educational environments, discipline and exiting data collections.


Highlights include:

  • In school year 2018-19, 17.89% of children with disabilities in the United States were Black or African American and 1.35% of children with disabilities were American Indian or Alaska Native.
  • In school year 2018-19, Black or African American students were more likely to be identified with intellectual disability and emotional disturbance and less likely to be identified with speech or language impairment or Autism than all students with disabilities.   American Indian or Alaska Native students with disabilities were more likely to be identified with specific learning disability.
  • In school year 2018-19, Black or African American students were more likely while American Indian or Alaska Native students with disabilities were less likely to receive a disciplinary removal than all students with disabilities.  
  • In SY 2017-18, Black or African American children with disabilities, ages 14-21, exiting school were more likely to drop out and less likely to graduate with a regular high school diploma than all students with disabilities.  American Indian or Alaska Native children with disabilities were more likely to drop out than all students with disabilities.
  • In school year 2018-19, Black or African American students were less likely to be served Inside regular class 80% or more of the day. 

OSEP Fast Facts is an ongoing effort to display data from the 12 data collections authorized under IDEA Section 618 into graphic, visual representations with the intent to present 618 data quickly and clearly. Visit the OSEP Fast Facts page for existing and future Fast Facts.

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 OSEP-funded TA Center Resources

Continuity of Learning and Returning to School During COVID-19

This three-part webinar series showcased ready-to-use resources, tools, and practices from OSEP partners to support the educational, developmental, behavioral, and social/emotional needs of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities through remote and distance learning.

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NEW National Center on Deaf-Blindness Website

The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) launched a new website in March. It contains extensive information about deaf-blindness and educational practices for children and youth who are deaf-blind; information about and for state deaf-blind projects; and resources for families. Please visit to learn about deaf-blindness and NCDB.


Activities at Home During the Pandemic

NCDB has created a web page for families called Ideas for Activities at Home During COVID-19 Pandemic. It provides resources to help children who are deaf-blind continue to learn and have fun while schools are closed.


Establishing Routines at Home

NCDB hosted a webinar on establishing routines at home. Although intended primarily for families and educators of children with deaf-blindness, the content is highly relevant for children with any type of disability who benefit from learning through routines. Access the recording and associated resources at NCDB Professional Development Webinar: Establishing Routines at Home.

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Remote Literacy Learning Toolkit

NCIL developed a toolkit to help schools and families join efforts to support children’s literacy growth in remote or blended learning environments. 

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Online Course Design for College and University Faculty

As college and universities everywhere prepare for the new academic year, faculty are facing the challenge of preparing and delivering instruction in new and innovative ways. Whether this means fully online, face-to-face, or hybrid instruction, a new resource from the IRIS Center—Online Course Design for College and University Faculty—is designed to offer assistance. Developed in collaboration with Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching, the resource overviews the use of backward design to help faculty refine course goals and learning objectives appropriate for synchronous or asynchronous instruction, then select or develop assessments, content, and learning activities that align with those goals and objectives. Finally, this IRIS Module provides users with step-by-step instructions, complete with examples and templates, to help them develop units or modules for their own courses. Online Course Design for College and University Faculty is available now on the IRIS Center’s barrier-free website along with resources addressing many of the evidence-based practices addressed in personnel preparation and professional development programs for special and general education teachers, early intervention service providers, education administrators, and related services providers.


Supporting Learning During the Pandemic

Created specifically for parents and now updated for the new school year, IRIS Center also offers the new, user-friendly module Parents: Supporting Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic with practical tools and easy-to-implement strategies to help children learn at home during COVID-19. This multi-media learning module covers practical tips to get children ready to learn, strategies for reading and mathematics instruction, support for children's social and emotional well-being, and considerations for the parents of struggling learners and students with disabilities, among other topics. Please share it with parents, families, and the staff supporting them as we begin a new school year.  


Returning to School During and After Crisis

Returning to School During and After Crisis: A Guide to Supporting States, Districts, Schools, Educators, and Students through a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Framework during the 2020-2021 School Year describes the use of a multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) framework to support students, families, and educators during the transitions back to school during and following the global pandemic in a manner that prioritizes their health and safety, social and emotional needs, and behavioral and academic growth.  The compressive guide provides information to support implementation at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. To learn more about how to use this resource, please view the video Guide to the Guide.  For more streamlined guidance, please view the state, district, and school guides. 

Making Systematic Adaptations

SISEP’s recent eNote describes how to adapt an evidence-based practice for specific contexts and the children being served.

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Research You Can Use

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First-time Postsecondary Students Six Years Later

Based on data collected through the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/17), a nationally representative study which followed first-time college students, including students with disabilities, for 6 years, these Web Tables provide information on students’ characteristics and their 6-year retention, persistence, attainment, withdrawal, stopout, and transfer rates.

The Care and Education of Children Before Kindergarten

A new First Look report presents findings about young children’s care and education, including participation rates in weekly nonparental care arrangements, how well these arrangements cover work hours, costs of care, months spent in care, location of care, factors used to select a care arrangement, and factors making it difficult to find care.

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


2020 SPP/APRs and Determinations

FFY 2018 SPP/APRs, submitted in February 2020, and OSEP's corresponding 2020 Determination Letters are available on the Department's IDEA website. SPP/APR documents on the IDEA website include State-submitted attachments that are compliant with accessibility requirements in section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (508 compliant), are posted on the IDEA website. State-submitted attachments that were not 508 compliant may be obtained through the State. FFY 2013 - FFY 2017 SPP/APRs remain available on OSEP's GRADS360° webpage


Formula Grant Awards

Information Collection

The Part C application for funds information collection is available for a 60-day public comment period. A link to the proposal, which includes the comment portal, is in the Seeking Public Comment section of this newsletter.

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 conducted a special national technical assistance call on Aug. 26 to present an overview of the rethink of DMS, or DMS 2.0. A recording of the call is posted on the IDEAs That Work website.

Period of Availability for FFY 2018 IDEA Part B Funds Waivers

Many States have submitted waiver requests in response to the assistant secretary's June 8 memo. OSEP is reviewing and approving waiver requests as they arrive.

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!


IDEA splash image with pictures of children with disabilities

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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.