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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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..
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.
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.
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.
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
So that all students and youth with disabilities experience increased:
Enrollment in postsecondary education
Competitive integrated employment
For now, States may contact NTACT: C through the NTACT website and the email addresses of our staff at UNC Charlotte, East Tennessee State University, George Washington University, Portland State University, and the Universities of Kansas, Maryland, and Oregon. As NTACT and WINTAC sunset, we will communicate through OSEP and RSA listservs on how to engage with the new center and where to find us online.
Secondary Transition Professional Development Resources
NTACT has recently released two Presenter Guides focused on IEP Team Considerations and Collaborative Service Delivery in a climate of virtual, remote, and in-person learning and service delivery. Each Presenter Guide includes a recorded presentation, a PowerPoint with scripted notes, and additional handouts, which facilitate the professional development delivery. View these and other presenter guides here.
There are also recordings of recently delivered webinars:
A webinar series, developed with the Workforce Innovation National Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) hosts 5-separate webinars on each of the 5-required Pre-Employment Transition Services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA, 2014). To view the individual webinars, click the links below:
Finally, NTACT has organized its resources, as well as those from some of our partners in secondary transition, into Transition Resources for Addressing Individualized Needs (TRAIN). The linkable resource, along with a pre-corded video explaining its use and an interactive discussion with its developers is available through the link provided to the Transition Coalition's DIY resources. TRAIN organizes resources by type and aligns each to specific elements of quality professional development
The 2020 OSEP Summit served as an opportunity to bring together various stakeholders to explore potential innovative approaches and methods to address strategies to attract, prepare, and retain effective personnel who have the knowledge and skills needed to provide effective instruction, interventions, supports, and services to children with disabilities. We look forward to continued collaboration through OSEP’s Attract, Prepare, Retain Initiative.
The Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2019 and 2020-2025 SPP/APR Packages are available on the IDEA website. Please check back frequently for additional resources related to SPP/APR reporting. Additional information on the SPP/APR information collection packages were presented on the October 15, 2020 OSEP Monthly TA Call (please access the website for the recording and presentation materials).
OSEP will present more information on the SPP/APR on the next regularly scheduled monthly technical assistance call on December 10, 2020 at 4:00pm (EDT). Please check the OSEP Monthly TA Call page for additional information on registration links and the schedule.
In collaboration with OSEP-funded TA Centers, OSEP annually publishes an analysis consisting of an explanation of the reported Federal fiscal year indicator measures, data sources for reporting, any variations in State approaches to the reported Federal fiscal year’s data collection or measurement, review of six-year trends (reported federal fiscal year and 5 years prior data) in means and ranges, patterns and trends from prior year’s data in comparison to the reported federal fiscal year’s data (including progress and slippage), other relevant indicator data comparisons, and a brief conclusions/summary of the indicator report. The Indicator Analysis chapters are available via the following links:
MSIP has updated content on the IDEA website and the IDEAs That Work websites. OSEP presented on the content that is on each website during the August 13, 2020 OSEP Monthly Technical Assistance (TA) Call. Registration links for future TA calls and recordings and presentation materials from previous TA calls will be posted on the same page.
The next DMS TA Call is scheduled for December 17, 2020 at 4:00pm (EDT).
OSEP plans to conduct DMS TA Calls on the fourth Thursday of each month at 4:00pm (EDT). The DMS TA Call may get rescheduled when there are conflicting holidays or other events. Please check the OSEP Monthly TA Call page for additional information on registration links and the schedule.
The final 30-day comment period, for the IDEA Part C Grant Application package, concluded on November 4, 2020. OSEP is awaiting OMB approval of the package. OSEP anticipates disseminating grant application packages to states in December.
COVID-19 is turning life as we know it upside down. The realities of this can be seen throughout the nation as we face many challenges while serving infants, toddlers, and students with disabilities and their families during the pandemic. Therefore, OSEP is eager to hear from you!
Whether you are a State or district employee, a school administrator, a teacher, or parent, OSERS wants to hear directly from you about your successes or those that you have witnessed during this challenging time. Let us take a moment to reflect on all the good that is happening right now.
If you have a story or note that you would like to share across the country, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to send photos that we may include in the publication. Please do not forget to describe what the photo(s) represent.
These success stories will be published in future monthly publication so please do not delay if you have something to share. While we will not be able to respond to every message, we promise to carefully read and consider each one.
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.