November 2020: In This Issue of the OSEP Update

Inside OSEP: Laurie’s Letter
Message From Director Laurie VanderPloeg

Laurie VanderPloeg official portrait

Hello, Stakeholders.

I’ve said before that we are in a time like no other. COVID-19 is impacting every area of our lives. The stress that we may feel because of isolation from friends and family, and the general uncertainty that we live in is real. These feelings are real for our children too. We are seeing increased mental health challenges for children, youth, and families due to the pandemic. As such, schools, communities, families, and OSEP are prioritizing addressing the mental health needs of infants, toddlers, children and youth, including those with disabilities.

OSEP staff recently engaged in a facilitated conversation about meeting the needs of our nation’s youth while taking care of ourselves and others. The facilitators, Susan Barrett and Lucille Eber of OSEP’s PBIS Center, presented compelling information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of our children. Citing from a Washington State Department of Health state-wide high-level analysis of forecasted behavioral health impacts from COVID-19, Barret and Eber presented concerning information. As examples, the analysis indicated a likely phased surge in behavioral health symptoms and an increased prevalence of anxiety related issues occurring immediately through the next 2-3 months. The analysis also revealed that not all individuals with mental health concerns were receiving treatment before the pandemic. And I surmise that the number has only decreased since the pandemic.

So, what should we do? Barret and Eber used evidence from disaster recovery in New Orleans and Puerto Rico as examples of how we can meet this challenge. Using a public health approach, we must increase cross-agency collaboration. We must be innovative and maximize our use of virtual technology. We also must be “real” about first meeting the emotional needs of our children to ensure functional and academic recovery. I know that I’ve painted a bleak picture, but I leave you with a series of questions from the OSEP facilitated conversation to consider as we work together to turn the tide.

Moving into 2021, I ask you —

  • What actions can state/district/early intervention leadership teams (leadership teams) take to ensure schools and early intervention programs and providers are actively prioritizing and promoting the mental wellness of children?
  • What actions can leadership teams take to ensure that early intervention providers, educators, and related services providers feel competent and confident on how to a) respond to children who are reacting to trauma, and b) teach resiliency skills as a critical part of their instruction?

Finally, it is important to focus on staff, prioritize staff wellness, and reduce occupational stress. Staff engagement will increase the child’s engagement and improved outcomes. OSEP TA Centers have developed many resources to support your efforts in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on our children with disabilities. I encourage you to utilize these resources to support your efforts, including mental health efforts. Together we can create habits of care, habits of celebration, and a focus on hope.

IDEA Turns 45!

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To celebrate the 45th anniversary of IDEA, we invite you to visit the IDEA 45 anniversary page, the hub for all OSERS content related to the 45th anniversary of the IDEA. During the week of Nov. 30, 2020, the IDEA 45 anniversary page will feature stories and resources that reflects on the importance of the legislation on the lives of children with disabilities and their families.

Stay tuned!

Federal COVID-19 Resources

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IDEA Topics in the Current COVID-19 Environment

You can find the following COVID-19 documents and other related resources on the COVID-19 page.

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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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Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)

In an effort to further raise awareness on behalf of children with disabilities, OSEP has partnered with The National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA) to share resources from OSEP-funded technical assistance centers, provide information about current OSEP initiatives, and discuss States’ efforts to support the virtual, in-person or hybrid format of classroom instruction. OSEP will continue this partnership by presenting in several sessions during the NAESPA winter conference.

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CDC Guidance for Child Care, Schools, and Youth Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a COVID-19 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

Dose of Data

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Did You Know?

In 2018–19, 65% of children exiting early intervention services and 81% of children exiting preschool special education services made greater than expected growth in the area of social relationships; and 57% of children exiting early intervention services and 64% of children exiting preschool special education services were at or above age expectations in the area of taking action to meet needs.

Checkout other highlights from the FFY 2018 IDEA Child Outcomes data. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center and Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems. (2020). IDEA Child Outcomes Highlights for FFY2018 can be found here.

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.

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Determining A Child’s Eligibility for Early Intervention Services Remotely

This resource includes guidance, considerations, and resources for state staff and local practitioners who are determining Part C eligibility remotely. As a result of COVID-19, many states are having to determine a child’s eligibility for Part C services remotely using a variety of approaches such as teleconference, videoconference, and sharing information and video synchronously and asynchronously. State policies, procedures, and practices are important to appropriately identify children eligible for Part C services.

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National Research Conference on Early Childhood

The Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) National Research Conference on Early Childhood 2020 (NRCEC 2020) will be held virtually, Monday, Nov. 30 to Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The conference will include numerous symposia covering the latest in early childhood research and interactive poster sessions. Visit the NRCEC 2020 website to view the agenda and click to add conference events to your calendar. There is no registration fee and we encourage all those interested to participate!

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National Center on Deaf-Blindness

The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) has published a new product called Providing Technical Assistance to Families: A Guide for State Deaf-Blind Projects. It provides information and resources to help state deaf-blind projects carry out essential activities related to supporting families.

Other OSEP-funded TA Center Resources

TIES Center Distance Learning Program

National Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies (TIES)

Paraprofessionals are key members of instructional teams and have important roles in the education of students with significant cognitive disabilities. Currently, many districts and teams are struggling with how paraprofessionals can best support inclusive practices when the students are receiving their instruction through distance learning, hybrid models, or pivoting in between. TIES Center has a new resource in its distance learning series titled, Pivoting Between Paraprofessional Support in Inclusive Schools and Distance Learning, that discusses how paraprofessionals can fulfill their roles in new and creative ways, particularly with the use of technology..

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Equitable Exploration eNote

Exploration stage activities provide organizations with a valuable opportunity to set the course for deeply understanding the experiences and hopes of the populations served. How we engage in the process, starting with exploration, can either reinforce systemic inequities and biases or support the work of the organization to be intentionally anti-discriminatory.


Research You Can Use

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New Brief: Professional Development of Public School Principals

A new Statistics in Brief report, Principal Professional Development in U.S. Public Schools in 2017–18examines professional development topics and activities reported by public school principals.

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Career and Technical Education Course Taking Among Public High School Graduates

new brief from the National Center for Education Statistics, Public High School Students’ Career and Technical Education Coursetaking:1992 to 2013, examines the CTE course taking of public high school graduates in 2013 and changes in CTE course taking between graduates in 1992 and those in 2013.

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REL Report: College Enrollment and Completion among High School Graduates with a Disability

A REL Southwest study, College Enrollment and Completion among Texas High School Graduates with a Disability, provides new evidence on college outcomes for students with a disability that can inform policies and research about how to serve this population at the postsecondary level. The report examines college enrollment and completion among four cohorts of Texas public high school graduates (2006/07 through 2009/10) by disability status in high school, student demographic characteristics, and primary disability type.

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REL Webinar: Supporting College Enrollment and Completion for Students with a Disability

Register here to join REL Southwest for a free webinar on the importance of providing targeted services for students with a disability to transition to and be successful in postsecondary education.

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Transition TA Center for State Education and Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies!

OSEP and RSA recently announced the funding of the National Technical Assistance (TA) Center on Transition for Students and Youth with Disabilities through September 2025. NTACT: the Collaborative (NTACT: C) is underway!

“The Collaborative” reflects the idea that NTACT: C is THE place for education, vocational rehabilitation, other professionals, and families to go for resources and guidance regarding the transition from school and youth programs for individuals with disabilities to successful adult living. NTACT: C’s purpose is to equally serve State Education Agencies and State VR Agencies build their capacity to:

  • Use data-driven decision making processes
  • Strengthen interagency partnerships
  • Provide quality professional development
  • Institute technical assistance systems to support LEA, VR, and other service providers in implementing effective pre-employment transition services and other secondary transition practices and predictors