USDE Awards Grants for Programs Focused on Equity and Accessibility for Students (October 9, 2022)

On October 5, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced four new grant awards for the 2022 Equity Assistance Center (EAC) program totaling more than $6.5 million. The EAC awards fund four new regional EACs that each provide technical assistance to public schools and other agencies focused on addressing equity in their community for students and the educators who support them related to race, sex, national origin, gender identity, disability, and religion. This funding also supports regional EACs that provide technical assistance and training at the request of school boards and other governmental agencies in the preparation, adoption, and implementation of plans for the desegregation of public schools. Each center provides training and technical assistance, upon request, in the areas of civil rights, equity, and school reform to school systems within a region comprised of 12-15 states. This assistance helps schools and communities ensure that equitable education opportunities are available and accessible for all children.

Additional information about the EAC and MSAP programs and grantees are available here.

Joint Letter from USDE & HHS  Emphasizes Adherence to  Sp. Ed.  Requirements for Pre-K Children (October 6, 2022)

On October 5, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a joint Dear Colleague letter warning school district special education directors, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) coordinators, and Head Start grant recipients s that delayed evaluations and placement concerns could violate the IDEA.

The letter states that initial special education evaluations are being delayed, and special education services included in individual education plans are not being implemented fully or in a timely manner for children with disabilities in Head Start, especially since the pandemic began.

In addition, the letter states that data collected shows educational placement decisions are not always being made in accordance with the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirement under the IDEA. The letter also emphasizes that young children with disabilities and their families have been disproportionately affected by service disruptions, as well as socioeconomic challenges and that no part of IDEA has been waived. Thus, school districts and their partners must provide special education and related services to eligible preschool-aged children with disabilities.

Further, separate but related guidance released alongside the Dear Colleague letter states that, “Additionally, families and providers continue to express concern and frustration with delays and inconsistencies in identification and evaluation processes, service delivery in inclusive programs, and transition into different services, as well as the expectations programs have for their child.” The guidance document thus urges state and local leaders to prioritize creating memorandums of understanding to spell out how they will collaborate on a “seamless and coordinated inclusive system.” 

Click to access the joint Dear Colleague letter.

Click to access the guidance document.

For more from K-12 Dive, click here

OSEP Warns Against Allowing Special Educators Instructing  Under Emergency Licensure (October 5, 2022)

On October 4, 2022, the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) sent a letter to state directors of special education. The letter declared that federal special education law requires K-12 special education teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree and be fully certified to teach special education. The letter further stated that special education teachers and Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) may not have their certification or license requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. In addition, teachers participating in alternate routes to obtain special education certification must follow certain requirements to be in compliance with federal rules.

Currently, schools must address severe staff shortages in special education. In response, some states are passing legislation and enacting policies to remove some teacher requirements to fill staff vacancies in the area of special education, but the OSEP letter warns that, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states must make sure that special educators are adequately prepared and trained. 

For more information from K-12 Dive, click here.

AAP: Head Lice No Reason to Send Students Home (October 2, 2022)

According to guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released Sept. 26th, schools should not send students home or keep them away from school due to a case of head lice — the annoying but not dangerous tiny, wingless insects that feed off the blood in the human scalp. In fact, “no-nit” policies that forbid an infected student from returning to school could violate students’ civil liberties and create psychological stress.

When cases of head lice are identified in schools, AAP advises confidentiality due to the stigma that having head lice can bring to a student and family. The infected child’s caregivers should be notified by phone or through a note sent home with the student at the end of the school day with recommendations for prompt and proper treatment. 

Head lice screening programs in schools have not been proven to reduce the incidence of head lice in schools, are not cost-effective, and may stigmatize children suspected of having head lice, the AAP guidance says. Instead, schools should increase understanding and management in the community, including communicating that head lice is not a public health hazard, an indication of poor health, or responsible for spreading any disease.
The AAP guidance, an update from 2015, aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). Previous AAP guidance also discouraged the exclusion of infected children from school, but the new recommendations share newer, safer topical treatments and describe the drawbacks of certain school head lice policies.

To access the AAP guidance document, click here.

Links to head lice guidance from AAP, CDC, and NASN can be accessed on the PAPSA website under the “Resources” drop-down and clicking on “Downloads” or by clicking here.

For more information from K-12 Dive, click here.

Source: K-12 Dive

Office of Special Education Programs Seeking Input: Prioritizing Equity (September 14, 2022)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is examining how it can advance equity in the programs it administers.

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) monitors states’ compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure that states provide early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and the free appropriate public education (FAPE) of children with disabilities.

To accomplish this task, OSEP has developed the Results Driven Accountability (RDA) system. Using this framework, OSEP examines both the educational results and outcomes for children with disabilities in each State as well as how a State is meeting the compliance requirements of IDEA.

Each year, OSEP reviews the State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR), information obtained through monitoring visits, and any other publicly available information to determine how well each State meets the requirements of the IDEA. States are assigned one of the following categories:

  • Meets requirements and purposes of the IDEA;
  • Needs assistance in implementing the requirements of Part B or Part C of the IDEA;
  • Needs intervention in implementing the requirements of Part B or Part C of the IDEA; or
  • Needs substantial intervention in implementing the requirements of Part B or Part C of the IDEA.

As noted in this year’s determination letters, and consistent with the Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, ED is examining how the 2023 determinations process can promote equity. Specifically, we are considering whether and how to use data from the current SPP/APR that can be seen in the Part B and Part C measurement tables, data from the current IDEA 618 data collections, and other publicly available data. For example, OSEP is thinking about how to consider and weight data when making determinations in a manner that accurately represents the implementation of IDEA and results for historically marginalized populations.

USDE recognizes that the determinations process is complex, and we welcome suggestions for improvements and innovative solutions.

Anyone wishing to share feedback should email SPPAPR@ed.gov and include “Determinations Feedback” in the subject line. Feedback should be submitted by Sept. 30, 2022. USDE will not respond to individual comments but will consider any feedback submitted by Sept. 30, 2022.