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OSEP's August 2021 Update: Director's Message| ED Updates | Dose of Data | Announcements | Featured Resources
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OSEP Update

A Newsletter for OSEP Grantees and Interested Stakeholders

August 2021

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In This Issue:

From the Director

David Cantrell (960px)

Message from Acting OSEP Director, Dr. David Cantrell

Dear Stakeholders,

Welcome back from summer and to the start of the 2021-2022 school year! We are excited about the prospect of all students’ returning to in-person learning. Last month, the Department’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) completed our first ever joint Leadership and Project Director’s conference with attendance of over 3,000 educational leaders and presentations by Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, and Acting Assistant Secretary Katy Neas. I think that you’ll agree, each of our leaders is committed to supporting the unique and individual needs of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities, and their families. As Secretary Cardona said, the Department is here to support you and work to Build Back Better. Our OSEP team has been engaging with all States’ and Part C programs over the past months to provide the necessary targeted supports in preparation for this coming year.

I am excited about several upcoming Department events that I want to highlight in this month’s newsletter. First, OSEP will be issuing additional guidance for both Part B and Part C programs. The purpose of the Return to School Roadmap IDEA guidance documents, which focus on school reopening efforts, is to support the full implementation of IDEA requirements. We are also working closely with OESE to support their “Back to School” week events that will be held between Monday, August 9th- Friday, August 13, 2021. Next, our OSEP team is collaborating with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) and the National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI) to rollout a year-long new State Director training. In response to recent requests, we are going to continue to provide guidance on the use of ESSER/ARP/CARES Act funds as you move forward with your plans and priorities and ensure that services for children with disabilities and their families are at the forefront of the conversations. And finally, we are anxiously awaiting the results of the President’s proposed budget which bring us closer to fully funding IDEA.

As you prepare for the fall, I want to remind you of Wednesday’s Plenary Session with Dr. Phil Strain and Dr. George Sugai during the OSEP joint Leadership and Project Director’s Conference last month. The message shared by these educational experts was very appropriate and will serve us well in the coming year. They suggested that educators should; pick a few things to focus on and do them well; remember the importance of social/emotional health not just for your students, but for all of us; and that, as educators, you will continue breaking down barriers and utilizing thoughtful and innovative options to create opportunities for our children that prioritize learning and health and safety.

Thank you again for your efforts to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities!

David Cantrell, Ph.D.
Acting Director
Office of Special Education Programs


ED Updates

Return to School Roadmap

U.S. Department of Education Releases “Return to School Roadmap” to Support Students, Schools, Educators, and Communities in Preparing for the 2021-2022 School Year 

WEBSITE:  Return to School Roadmap  - contains priorities, outreach tools and more!

On Monday, August 2, 2021, the Department released the following as part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap: 

fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three “Landmark” priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways.

guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance.

checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated.

As part of the launch of the Roadmap, the White House also released a fact sheet highlighting the Administration’s efforts to safely reopen schools and support our nation’s students, including how the historic investment in the American Rescue Plan is advancing this work.

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All Data on Deck! Using Data to Improve Education Through the Pandemic

On Monday, August 16th through Friday, August 20th each day from 11:00am to 3:00pm ET the U.S. Department of Education’s 2021 National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) will hold a STATS-DC Data Conference. To learn more about this conference and register for the event click here.

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Optimizing Educational Equity: Where Best and Evidence-Based Instructional Practices Intersect with Indigenous Pedagogy

The Western Educational Equity Assistance Center (EAC Region IV) conducted a webinar today on topics including equity in relationships, relevance, holistic methodologies, circular reflection, embracing strengths-based education, and experiential learning. Click on the link above to learn more about their work including recent additions to the WEEAC Interactive Media Library, information about upcoming trainings and events, and highlights from the services the WEEAC continues to provide.

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Dose of Data

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Virtual 2021 NCES STATS-DC Data Conference

The 2021 NCES STATS-DC Data Conference, hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), will be held virtually from August 16-20, 2021. The theme of this year’s conference is, “All Data on Deck! Using Data to Improve Education Through the Pandemic.” The conference is free and open to the public. The 2021 NCES STATS-DC Data Conference will be 100% virtual. The Conference will include informative sessions on the Common Core of Data (CCD), data collection, data linking beyond K-12, data management, data privacy, data quality, data standards, data use (analytical and instructional), fiscal data, Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS), and changes in how the U.S. Department of Education collects and uses data. For more information, including information about the agenda, visit the registration page.



State Performance Plans / Annual Performance Reports (APRs)

The Annual Performance Report (APR) Fact Sheet and each State’s Determination letter (along with the respective How The Department Made Determinations document) are posted on the IDEA Website. OSEP will post the full APR documents before the next OSEP Monthly Technical Assistance call on Thursday, August 12, 2021, from 4:00-5:15pm. State documents are currently available in EMAPS for your review.

As of June 30th, the GRADS 360o web-link transitioned to The previous URL will no longer automatically redirect to the new web-link so please establish your new bookmarks.


IDEA Part B/C Grants

The IDEA Part B and C grant awards were disseminated on July 1st and the grant award letters will be posted on our website in August. A fact sheet regarding the IDEA American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds was posted on the IDEA ARP page along with other resources.

If you have any questions regarding the use of IDEA funds, please contact your OSEP State Lead.


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Differentiated Monitoring and Support

OSEP’s next technical assistance call on DMS is scheduled for August 26, 2021, as a part of the DMS 2.0 Pivot activities. OSEP’s last Monthly Technical Assistance call in June highlighted the DMS 2.0 protocols for: 1) Integrated Monitoring and 2) Sustaining Compliance and Improvement.

OSEP has also been conducting monthly COVID-19 calls with States. The intent of these calls is to ensure States have the support they need during these uncertain times, to answer any questions they may have related to the pandemic, and to help us better understand the issues that are occurring as a result of COVID-19 at the State and local level. These discussions will inform the pandemic-related TA and guidance we provide moving forward and share best practices.

OSEP plans to continue conducting DMS Technical Assistance (TA) Calls on the fourth Thursday of each month at 4:00 p.m. ET. Please check the OSEP Monthly TA Call page for additional information to register and access the schedule.

To access resources related to monitoring activities (e.g., DMS 2.0, DMS Reports, and older monitoring reports, etc.), please refer to the DMS section on our IDEA website.


This Month's Recommended Resource

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Don’t miss SISEP’s new Implementation Science Podcast Series!

Listen to the new podcast from SISEP (the State Implementation and Scaling up of Evidence-based Practices TA Center): Implementation Science for Educators

Featured Resources

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Choosing and Creating Accessible Grade-Level Texts for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms

The TIES Center has published two new TIPs to assist general and special educators in choosing and creating accessible grade-level texts for use in inclusive classrooms. The two TIPs include:

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Preparing the Learning Environment: NCDB Practice Guide

As children return to school, it's important to know how to optimize learning environments for students with sensory disabilities. The National Center on Deaf-Blindness has a new practice guide, Preparing the Learning Environment, that can help. It outlines essential components of environments that are accessible, motivating, and build on a child's strengths and interests. This and previous guides can be found on NCDB’s Practice Guides page.      


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Upcoming PROGRESS Center Webinar: Six Key Instructional Practices for Accelerating Learning and Promoting Progress for Students with Disabilities

How can educators accelerate learning and promote progress for students with disabilities as they return to school this fall? Join the PROGRESS Center for a webinar on August 24, 2021, at 3:00 pm ET. During this webinar, presenters will highlight six high-leverage, evidence-based practices shown to support implementation of high-quality instructional programming for students with and at risk for disabilities regardless of their identified disability category or grade span. These practices were identified through an extensive, systematic meta-analysis. Learn more and register for the webinar!

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A Collaborative Effort to Support School Leaders

In this video, staff from the Lead for Literacy Center are joined by staff from three other OSEP-funded Centers—the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL), National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), and National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI)—to discuss the Lead for Literacy five element framework and its application to their work during the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 2021 Virtual Conference.


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Classroom Behavior Management (Part 1): Key Concepts and Foundational Practices

This newly revised IRIS Module, Classroom Behavior Management (Part 1): Key Concepts and Foundational Practices, provides the groundwork for setting up a classroom behavior management plan. This updated module covers:

  • Effects of disruptive behavior
  • Classroom and school-wide behavior management
  • Cultural influences on behavior
  • Key principles of classroom behavior management
  • Creating a positive climate
  • Creating a structured classroom
  • Using surface management strategies
  • Developing a comprehensive behavior management plan

New feature: “Returning to School” boxes address unique issues related to the post-pandemic return to in-person learning (e.g., ways that grief, trauma, and anxiety can affect student behavior). Over the next few months, a series of tip sheets will be added to help teachers recognize potential issues and provide appropriate supports.

COVID-19 Resources

Department of Education

Check the Department's 

About the Author

David J. Cantrell, Ph.D., a member of the U.S. Government Senior Executive Service, serves as the acting director in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, at the U.S. Department of Education (Department). In this role, he is responsible for overseeing administration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which authorizes formula grants to States under IDEA Part B and to lead agencies for the infants and families program under IDEA Part C. IDEA also authorizes discretionary grants under IDEA Part D to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support grants for state personnel development, technical assistance and dissemination, technology, and parent training and information centers.