OSEP's September 2023 Update: Director's Message | ED Updates | Announcements | Featured Resources

OSEP Update header

OSEP Update

    A Newsletter for OSEP Grantees and Interested Stakeholders

September 2023

Forwarded this email? Click here to subscribe.

In This Issue:

From the Director

Valerie C. Williams

Message From OSEP Director,
Ms. Valerie C. Williams

Dear Friends!

I like September. It’s a month that I associate with changes and positive energy. In the Washington, D.C., area, September is a month where we frequently (but not always) have deep blue skies, and we can turn off our air conditioners and open our windows at night. September is also the month we pivot away from summer and start thinking about fall traditions, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and everything flavored with pumpkin spice.

For those of us in northern latitudes, it always seemed that the Tuesday after Labor Day was the start of the school year, but that is an antiquated notion. The Pew Charitable Trust surveyed over 1,500 school districts and the majority of them have their students return by Aug. 18. I’m ambivalent about early start dates as I fondly recall the late August days, doing our back-to-school shopping at the mall, hanging out with friends, and getting one last trip to the beach. Labor Day weekend seemed like the natural transition to the start of the school year.

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) National Center for Education Statistics has compiled fascinating back-to-school facts. Examples include:

  • Over $700 billion was spent on education in the 2020–21 school year, with over $14,000 of expenditures per student.
  • Of the 49.4 million public school students, 22.4 million are White, 14.1 million are Hispanic, 7.4 million are Black, 2.7 million are Asian, 2.3 million are students of two or more races, 0.5 million are American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 0.2 million are Pacific Islander.
  • 7.3 million children receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • 69% of school districts reported that the number of students who have sought mental health services increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The vast majority of school districts have deployed a variety of strategies to address learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as additional diagnostic and formative assessments; remedial services, including extended school day and school year services; and additional mental health and trauma supports.

I’m heartened to see that so many school districts are actively working to support our nation’s children as we move on from COVID-19. With all of the strategies being implemented, I want to remind states, school districts, and parents that under no circumstance should a strategy, intervention, or other initiative result in a delay or denial of a child’s evaluation and eligibility determination for special education services. OSEP has stated this in numerous policy letters, along with a memo in 2011 and a follow up memo in 2016 specifically for preschool children.

While not explicitly stated in either memorandum, the fundamental requirement is that states and school districts must meet IDEA’s child-find obligations, where every child with a suspected disability is identified, located, and evaluated; and a free, appropriate public education is made available for every eligible child with a disability. While holding off on an evaluation for six months may not seem like a long time, those six months are equal to 10% of a kindergartner’s life.

Although we’re not at the height of the pandemic, I want to strongly convey that we must continue to act with urgency. Our children can’t miss those days and require specially designed instruction based on their individual needs.

By all means, please implement evidence-based interventions — typically they work for all students, including children with disabilities, but if you believe that a child may be eligible for special education, expeditiously seek consent from a parent for an evaluation and complete the evaluation process promptly, consistent with either IDEA (60 days of receiving parental consent) or your state rules.

IDEA expects that information obtained from research-based interventions will be included in the overall evaluation of a child to determine the child’s education needs.

Have a great start to the school year, or as I mentioned earlier, a great second month.

In solidarity,



Dose of Data: Did You Know?

Dose of Data image

The number of children with disabilities, ages 3 through 21, receiving services under Part B of IDEA has increased from 6,808,683 in 2016 to 7,352,816 in 2021 (approximately an 8% increase) in the U.S., outlying areas, and freely associated states.

he bar chart demonstrates the number of Number of Children with Disabilities, Ages 3 Through 21, Served Under IDEA: 2016-17 through 2021-22.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, EDFacts Data Warehouse (EDW): “IDEA Part B Child Count and Educational Environments Collection,” 2016-21.

To further explore this data visualization, please go to: OSEP Fast Facts: IDEA Part B Section 618 Data Collected During COVID-19 Pandemic.


Expect, Engage and Empower: Successful Transitions for All!

Expect Engage Empower Graphic

ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is planning the Expect, Engage and Empower: Successful Transitions for All! symposium for the fall of 2023. This OSERS initiative aims to improve postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. The event will focus on challenging the field in joining OSERS to raise expectations, engage families earlier, and empower all who support transition services to improve postsecondary outcomes measurably and significantly for children and youth with disabilities and their families.


If you have any questions, email the planning team at OSEP-EEE@air.org.

small section divider

Successful Transitions for All Blog Series

OSERS released the first blog in a series of blog posts on secondary transition. The series will focus on providing students and families with the tools and resources necessary for successful secondary transition experiences.

Successful Transitions for All link to its blog series: Improving Systems to Better Prepare Students for Successful Secondary Transition Experiences


ED Updates

ED Expo Games Graphic

2023 ED Games Expo

Join ED at the 2023 ED Games Expo in Washington, D.C., at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Sept. 20–21.

A special education showcase session on Sept. 21 will feature presentations and technology product demonstrations about accessibility and inclusion.

Learn more about the showcase in the “Showcasing Special Education Technology for Learning” post from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES).

small section divider

Public Comment Period for IDEA Section 618 Part C Forms

Child Count

The IDEA Part C information collection package for child count, settings, and exiting (OMB 1820-0557) was published in the Federal Register on July 24. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before Sept. 22. Proposed changes include:

  • Three new reporting categories for the Part C exiting data collection: (1) Part B eligibility not determined - evaluation not completed; (2) B eligibility not determined — parents did not consent; and (3) B eligibility not determined - late referral.
  • Revisions to the definition of “community-based settings” for the Part C Setting data collection; and
  • A new metadata question to ask states to annually report the permitted values the state uses for reporting gender for the Part C child count data collection.

Dispute Resolution

The Part C information collection package for dispute resolution (OMB 1820-0678) was published in the Federal Register on July 21, and interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before Sept. 19. No changes are proposed.

IES Logo

Research Highlights from the National Center for Special Education Research

The IES’ National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) funds research to expand knowledge and understanding of learners with and at risk for disabilities, from infancy through postsecondary settings. The following resources highlight issues, findings, and events related to special education:

IES Welcomes Nathan Jones as the New NCSER Commissioner. Jones joins IES from the faculty of Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.

Leveraging the Voices of Persons with Disabilities in Education Research summarizes the key themes that emerged from a listening session on the experiences of education researchers with disabilities. The participants discussed how their disabilities shaped their experiences as researchers, including their ability to apply for and conduct IES research grants, and how IES can help build the research capacity of individuals and organizations from various disability communities.

What We Are Learning From Research Using NAEP Mathematics Response Process Data highlights recent findings from NCSER-funded research examining math test-taking behavior of eighth grade autistic students with and without accommodations and encourages new research using soon-to-be-released National Assessment of Educational Progress process data for fourth grade students.

Spotlight on Fiscal Year 2023 Early Career Grant Awardees: Word-Level Reading Disabilities presents an interview with new IES awardee Dr. Kelly Williams, who received an Early Career Development and Mentoring grant to develop and test an integrated word-reading and spelling intervention to improve literacy outcomes for middle school students with disabilities.

FY 2023 NCSER Awards have been announced, including 22 new grants under the Special Education Research Grants Program, three under the Research Training Programs in Special Education, and one under the Special Education Research and Development Centers.


News from States

Mississippi Department of Education Logo

“The Time is Right” — How Mississippi is Improving Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) Office of Special Education (OSE) held its first statewide special education conference in June. Over 600 attendees participated in sessions specifically designed for families, service providers, administrators, special education teachers, and general education teachers. The focus of the conference was to build capacity by implementing inclusive practices and closing the achievement gap between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers.

MDE has already started planning its second annual conference to be held in June 2024 and looks forward to continued growth in improving student outcomes!

MDE staff posing at different events


News From Our Centers

AEM Logo

The Accessible Learning Experience Podcast Kicks Off Season 3!

The first season 3 episode of the Accessible Learning Experience Podcast drops this month!

Rebecca Sheffield from OSEP and Ellery Robinson from the Office of Educational Technology (OET) share multiple ways that both offices have created meaningful collaborations and leave listeners with a list of valuable resources.

The Accessible Learning Experience Podcast logo
CITES logo

Get Started Resources

The start of the school year is an excellent time to launch or continue inclusive technology systems change journeys. Check out the Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems (CITES) new Get Started resources.

These resources include Get Started Practices to help a district team launch this work and Get Started resources by role, including assistive technology professionalsed tech professionals, IT professionals, educators, administrators, and families 

Please review and share these with fellow educators. Email the CITES team with questions at cites@cast.org.


Participation in Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center Knowledge Development Activities

Recruitment and retention. Leadership. Equity. These words weigh heavily in the world of early intervention and early childhood special education (EI/ECSE).

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center recently launched knowledge development technical workgroups (TWGs) to provide states and entities with tools and strategies to better address these issues. Opportunities for state and entity participation in focus groups, interviews, and draft reviews will begin in October.

  • The TWG on recruitment and retention will produce a resource of innovations (National Synthesis of Innovative Practices in Recruitment and Retention of EI/ECSE Personnel) to help recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
  • The TWG on leadership competencies will produce clearly defined competencies that system leaders can use to implement an equitable and inclusive system.
  • An equity audit, to be developed in partnership with the Children's Equity Project, will help state and entity leaders provide equitable systems-level supports for all children.
small section divider
IRIS Center Logo

IRIS Module on Universal Design for Learning

The IRIS Center, in collaboration with CAST, has posted a significant revision to one of the most popular IRIS modules, Universal Design for Learning: Designing Learning Experiences That Engage and Challenge All Students

This module examines the universal design for learning (UDL) framework and discusses how educators can apply UDL to design learning experiences that are flexible enough to challenge and engage all students and that promote learner agency. This self-paced, online module can be embedded in educator preparation courses and school or district professional development activities and learners can earn a free professional development certificate of completion.

IRIS Center Professional Development image
small section divider
NCDB icon

Factsheet on Deaf-Blindness Now Available in Spanish

The popular factsheet “An Overview of Deafblindness,” from the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), is now available in Spanish: “Panorama General de la Sordoceguera.” Like the English version, it covers what deafblindness is, how many children are affected, and how children who are deafblind learn and communicate. Please share this important resource with Spanish-speaking families and educators in your state.

A young boy who is deafblind plays on the floor with Legos. He has a tracheostomy tube.
small section divider
National Center on Educational Outcomes Logo

New Video for Families on Why Assessments are Important

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) recently published a video on why assessments are important, and why children with disabilities should participate in them. This resource is designed to help families understand why assessments are a good opportunity for their children to show what they know, and for schools to better understand their children’s needs. It also includes tips for families on how to better support their children when they take assessments. The videos are available in English and Spanish.

These videos are part of NCEO’s Empowering Parents Toolkit which includes additional videos, one-page flyers, and example social media posts on assessments and assessment-related state systemic improvement plans (SSIPs).

Empowering Parents Toolkit
small section divider

“An Improvement and Learning Journey: Empowering Local Special Education Entities to Address the Special Education Teacher Shortage in Illinois”

This resource is an impact story of how the National Center for Systemic Improvement built the capacity of the Illinois State Board of Education to design a state system of support to begin addressing the special education teacher shortage. The resource provides context for the intensive technical assistance focusing on improvement science, provides qualitative and quantitative examples of impact, and concludes with lessons learned from the partnership.

An Improvement and Learning Journey: Empowering Local Special Education Entities to Address the Special Education Teacher Shortage in Illinois
small section divider
National Center on Inclusion Toward Rightful Presence Logo

New Resource: What is Rightful Presence?

The National Center on Inclusion Toward Rightful Presence released a new resource featuring a discussion with Dr. Angela Calabrese Barton and Dr. Edna Tan. The pair discussed the concept of rightful presence and how educators can think about school and classroom practices in new ways that don’t just include marginalized students in a culture to which they have to adapt, but instead co-create a sense of true belonging and student agency in their educational experiences.

Watch the video or listen to the podcast to explore the idea of rightful presence and how you might incorporate the concept into your work with students with disabilities.

Photos of the two speakers: Edna Tan and Angela Calabrese Barton
small section divider
NIMAC logo

NIMAC Reaches 50,000 Downloads!

The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) is pleased to announce we've reached a major milestone: Over 50,000 files have now been downloaded from the repository by our users! 

Created by IDEA 2004, the NIMAC receives digital source files from educational publishers, which are then used by states and districts in the production of accessible formats (e.g., braille, large print, EPUB, and digital audio) for eligible students. This central repository helps prevent delays, making it more likely that students will receive their materials on time. The same NIMAS file download is often used to create several different accessible formats, which can be subsequently reproduced on behalf of other eligible students, as many times as needed. For this reason, the number of students who benefit from NIMAS is considerably higher than the number of source files downloaded. All 50 states—as well as the eligible territories—have chosen to work with the NIMAC. States and districts that coordinate with the NIMAC are required by IDEA 2004 to include NIMAS language in their procurement contracts directing educational publishers to send files to the NIMAC for the student instructional materials being purchased. The NIMAC is keenly interested in helping states and districts include this requirement in their procurement practices.

For more information, please reach out to us at nimac@aph.org

5 NIMAC staff members stand near the APH Hall of Fame; one person holds a layer cake with "50K" spelled on top
small section divider

STEMIEFest Call Series

Join the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center for a series of calls tailored for early interventionists, center-based practitioners, and institutions of higher education to learn more about inclusive STEM learning for young children from birth to age 5.

Learn more and register here.


Personnel Development Resources

small section divider

Ultimate Behavior Toolkit: What Works

Virginia’s personnel retention grant (325P) is grounded in the theory that special education teachers are more likely to stay in the profession if they are provided with the necessary training and support to meet the needs of their students.

In partnership with the Center for Implementation and Evaluation of Education Systems (CIEES) at Old Dominion University and the Virginia Tiered System of Supports Research and Implementation Center (VTSS-RIC) at Virginia Commonwealth University, the project created Ultimate Behavior Toolkit: What Works.

These modules are designed to support both pre-service and in-service teachers working with special education students, including general education teachers. The modules are framed for elementary school teachers and secondary teachers.

Take a Seat at the Table: The Role of Educator Preparation Programs in Teacher Apprenticeship Programs

Educator preparation programs (EPPs) have an opportunity to strengthen existing district partnerships and lead the way in co-designing teacher Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs), including the launch, operation, and continuous improvement of programs. EPPs should be at the table as states, districts, and other partners establish these mutually beneficial partnerships and subsequent teacher RAPs by offering options and informing how the classroom training, related instruction, and hands-on experience are fulfilled.

This webinar will expand upon the report Take a Seat at the Table: The Role of Educator Preparation Programs in Teacher Apprenticeship Programs. In the webinar, we will provide concrete strategies and examples of the role that EPPs can play in teacher RAPs, drawing on National Guideline Standards that were developed by the Pathways Alliance and recently published by the U.S. Department of Labor. Leaders from Ball State University and Missouri State University will share their experiences with designing, implementing, and funding teacher RAPs. 

To join this webinar, please complete the registration form. Participation in the webinar is free, and additional colleagues are welcome!

Take a Seat at the Table: The Role of Educator Preparation Programs in Teacher Apprenticeship Programs


Showcasing Implementation in Action

Ed Tech for All: Webinar Series Ed Tech for All: Webinar Series

Free evidence-based accessible EdTech tools are available to support children, students, and youth with disabilities. In partnership with OET, OSEP has captured stories from students, families, and educators using some of these tools:

  • WEGO-RIITE is an online tool aimed to improve essay writing for writers with and without disabilities and to support teachers in data-driven decision-making during writing instruction.
  • CORGI is a cloud-based graphic organizer to support higher-order reasoning and student collaboration while improving STEM content knowledge for sixth–12th graders.
  • Bookshare has a repository for accessible education materials for students with print disabilities.
  • STEMIE has resources to help families and other caregivers learn more about STEM in early childhood, and they have a FREE downloadable app too!

To learn more about these stories, watch one of the webinars posted on OET's YouTube and OET’s website.

EdTech for All Webinars on free or low-cost, evidence-based educational tools


In Case You Missed It

OSEP Director Releases Final Discipline Discussions Series Blog, Introduces 200+ Resources

OSEP director Valerie Williams provided five actions people can take to reduce exclusionary discipline in her final Discipline Discussions blog series, released July 31.

Additionally, Williams announced the launch of a database with more than 200 resources about reducing exclusionary discipline.

Discipline and Behavior. 5 Actions to Reduce Exclusionary Discipline. Final Post in Series.
small section divider

OSEP Releases Updated General Supervision Guidance

On July 24, OSEP released a Dear Colleague Letter and Guidance on State General Supervision Responsibilities under Parts B and C of the IDEA. This guidance is a component of OSEP’s results-driven accountability system, which emphasizes improved outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. OSEP is committed to supporting states in improving educational results and functional outcomes for all children with disabilities and enhancing the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities.

small section divider
Department of Labor Logo

Funding Opportunities From the U.S. Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor announced more than $69 million in funding opportunities to support the development of innovative strategies to help youth and young adults with disabilities transition to the workforce successfully.

Applications are due by Oct. 31.

small section divider
National Center on Educational Outcomes Logo

NCEO Parent Fact Sheet

The National Center on Educational Outcomes’ (NCEO) Parent Fact Sheet series provides information and tips for parents and caregivers on improving two-way communications with schools.

Getting Help for Your Child When Taking State Tests (Fact Sheet #1) summarizes the purpose of state tests, and describes test resources that students may need.

Participating in What your Child is Being Taught and is Learning in School (Fact Sheet #2) provides strategies parents or caregivers can use to be involved in the teaching and learning of their child.

State Testing of Your Child with a Disability (Fact Sheet #3) describes resources and accommodations that are available specifically to students who have a disability, an Individualized Education Program (IEP), or a 504 plan when they take state tests.

small section divider
National Institute of Mental Health

Help Save Lives During Suicide Prevention Month and Beyond!

Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide!

During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, help the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) raise awareness by sharing resources that help others recognize the warning signs for suicide and learn how to get help. 

Plus, on Sept. 19, join NIMH for a Facebook Live event on youth suicide prevention. During the event, NIMH experts Dr. Lisa M. Horowitz and Dr. Stephen O’Connor will lead a discussion on talking to youth about suicide risk, how to identify the warning signs of suicide, risk factors for suicide, and NIMH-supported research on interventions for youth suicide prevention. 

small section divider
IRIS Center Logo

New IRIS Modules for Secondary Classrooms

The IRIS Center now has secondary versions for two of its most popular modules.

  • Addressing Challenging Behaviors (Part 1, Secondary): Understanding the Acting-Out Cycle discusses challenging behavior in terms of the seven phases of the acting-out cycle and offers strategies and tips for responding to students in each phase. The module contains 24 classroom videos, play-by-play analyses by behavioral experts, and interactive practice opportunities.
  • Addressing Challenging Behaviors (Part 2, Secondary): Behavioral Strategies describes six low-intensity strategies that can increase initial compliance to teacher requests and prevent or decrease challenging behaviors. The strategies include behavior-specific praise, pre-correction, active supervision, high-probability requests, and opportunities to respond. The module also explores differential reinforcement of alternative behavior for situations when low-intensity strategies are not sufficient to prevent or de-escalate a student’s challenging behavior. Each strategy page includes classroom video examples and non-examples, fundamental skill sheets, and implementation checklists.

Both modules include free PD certificates of completion, Kahoot games, and more.


Get to Know Us Better

Connect with OSEP Online

Want to connect with OSEP? We have many opportunities for you!

  • Newsletters: Subscribe to the “OSEP Update,” OSERS newsletters, “Early Learning” newsletter, and other ED newsletters, journals, and updates.
  • Social Media: Find information on OSERS’ social media accounts, including Twitter, the OSERS Blog, and YouTube.
small section divider

Learn More about OSEP

OSEP is leading the nation's efforts to improve outcomes for children with disabilities from birth through age 21, and their families, ensuring access to fair, equitable, and high-quality education and services. Our vision is for a world in which individuals with disabilities have unlimited opportunities to learn and lead purposeful and fulfilling lives.

Visit these sites to learn more about OSEP, state educational agencies (SEAs), and OSEP-funded TA Centers.

  • OSEP Home Page: Find the OSEP landing page on the ED website.
  • Federal and State Contacts: Find general overview information about federal and state contacts, including links to state special education departments and state early intervention and early childhood special education programs.
  • IDEA by state: Find your state educational agency’s contact information on file with ED and OSEP’s contacts for your state.
  • Resource Centers: Learn about the types of centers funded by ED and OSEP that are relevant to the IDEA.
  • OSEP IDEAs that Work: Find federal resources for stakeholders and grantees.

If you have questions or comments, please send them to Dr. Josiah Willey at josiah.willey@ed.gov.

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 Department Education, nor should their inclusion be considered an endorsement of any private organization.

OSEP footer -- https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/index.html