NASET News Alert
Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
December 30, 2005
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced that President Bush signed into law the Hurricane Education Recovery Act. The legislation authorizes three new grant programs to assist school districts and schools in meeting the educational needs of students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and in helping schools that were closed as a result of the hurricanes to reopen as quickly and effectively as possible.
The new programs are as follows:
(1) Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students
Under this program, the Department will award emergency impact aid funding to State educational agencies (SEAs). SEAs will, in turn, provide assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) for the cost of educating students enrolled in public and non-public schools who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita during the school year 2005-2006.
Congress has appropriated $645 million for the Emergency Impact Aid program. The Department will make four quarterly payments to SEAs based on quarterly counts of displaced students enrolled in public and non-public schools. States will make payments to LEAs based on those counts.
To receive funding, eligible SEAs will need to provide, on an expedited basis as required by the statute, data and other application information that we will be requesting shortly. Based on this information, the Department will promptly make initial payments to SEAs.
(2) Assistance for Homeless Youth
This program will provide a separate source of funding to SEAs to address the needs of homeless students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. The Department will use data on displaced public school students collected under the Emergency Impact Aid program to make allocations under the Assistance for Homeless Youth program.
Congress has appropriated $5 million for this program. The Department will be making awards to SEAs in the near future. After receiving their allocations, SEAs will award subgrants to LEAs on the basis of demonstrated need. LEAs must use the funds awarded under this program to support activities that are allowable under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
(3) Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations
Under this program, the Department is authorized to award funds to the SEAs in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama. These SEAs, in turn, will provide assistance or services to LEAs and non-public schools to help defray expenses related to the restart of operations in, the reopening of, and the re-enrollment of students in, elementary and secondary schools that serve an area in which a major disaster has been declared related to Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.
Congress has appropriated $750 million for the Restart program. States, LEAs, and non-public schools in the affected areas have incurred and continue to incur considerable expenses as they seek to reopen schools and are in urgent need of financial assistance. In order to help meet those needs, the Department will immediately provide $100 million to Louisiana, $100 million to Mississippi, $50 million to Texas, and $3.75 million to Alabama under the Restart program. Consistent with the legislation, in determining the final, aggregate allocations, the Department will take into consideration the number of students who were enrolled, during the 2004-2005 school year, in elementary and secondary schools that were closed on September 12, 2005, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, or on October 7, 2005, as a result of Hurricane Rita, and other relevant factors.
December 16, 2005 Tucson, Ariz. — The U.S. Department of Education today announced the creation of the Center for Rural Education to address challenges facing rural schools and named former U.S. Commissioner of Education William L. Smith as its director. Housed within the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and working in tandem with the Secretary's Task Force for Rural Education, the center will serve as an information resource for policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. Beto Gonzalez, acting assistant secretary for the Education Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education, made the announcement in remarks to a national meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Tucson, Ariz. Gonzalez also chairs the department's Rural Education Task Force, which met this week in Washington to discuss efforts to promote excellence in rural education through the No Child Left Behind Act. In a statement from Washington, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings hailed the creation of the new center and said, "I believe that every child, including those who attend a rural school, deserves the benefit of a quality education promised under No Child Left Behind." "I am committed to addressing the needs of our students, educators, and parents in rural America," the secretary said. "This new center will take a leadership role in advancing the cause of rural education." The center's director, William Smith, was the last U.S. commissioner of education in the former Office of Education, located in the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare, before it became a separate department in 1980. Since that time, Smith has served in various management roles within the Education Department. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that nearly 42 percent of the nation's public schools are in rural communities or small towns. A primary goal of the center will be to update The Condition of Education in Rural Schools, a report last released by the U.S. Department of Education in 1994. The center will also host a series of focus groups and forums to highlight issues facing rural education. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education in which the center will be located has a long history of helping rural America. For years, the office has included liaison staff to the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America. The No Child Left Behind Act is the bipartisan landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility to states, giving parents more information and options and teaching students based on what works. Under the law's strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those with disabilities, achieve academically. More information about the Center for Rural Education is available at: www.ed.gov/nclb/freedom/local/rural/index.html.
November 23, 2005: Violent crime rates in the nation's schools, unchanged between 2002 and 2003, remained at about half those recorded in 1992, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice. The report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2005, said the rate of violent crime victims in schools declined from 48 per thousand students in 1992 to 28 per thousand in 2003. In 2003, students ages 12 to 18 were victims of about 740,000 violent crimes and 1.2 million crimes of theft at school, according to the report. Seven percent of students in that age range reported that they had been bullied. Twenty-nine percent of high school students reported that drugs were made available to them on school property, and 9 percent of students were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. Indicators is the eighth in a series of annual reports produced by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, within the Institute of Education Sciences, and the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. Issued each fall, the reports present the most recent data available on school crime and student and staff safety. The report indicates that students are twice as likely to be victims of serious violence away from school. In 2003, there were 12 such crimes per 1,000 students away from school and six crimes per 1,000 students at school. In the 2002-03 school year, there were 15 student homicides and 8 student suicides in the nation's schools, figures that translate to less than one homicide or suicide per million students. Other highlights of the joint report: <typolist> The rate of in-school thefts declined from 95 per 1,000 students in 1992 to 45 per 1,000 in 2003. The rate of thefts away from school also declined, from 68 per 1,000 students in 1992 to 28 per 1,000 in 2003. The proportion of students ages 12 to 18 who reported they skipped school or extracurricular activities or avoided specific places in school because they were fearful decreased from 7 percent in 1999 to 5 percent in 2003. The proportion of students who reported that schools lock entrance or exit doors during the day out of concern for student safety increased from 38 percent to 53 percent between 1999 and 2003. In 2003, 5 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being victimized at school during the previous six months: 4 percent reported theft, while 1 percent said they were victims of a violent crime. In 2003, 21 percent of students between 12 and 18 reported that street gangs were present at their school during the previous six months. In 2003, 33 percent of high school students reported having been in a fight anywhere, and 13 percent said they had been in a fight on school property during the preceding 12 months. In 2003, students in urban schools were twice as likely as students in rural and suburban schools to fear being attacked at school or on the way to and from school. </typolist> The complete text of the report is available online at: nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp . Copies can be ordered by calling 1-877-4ED-Pubs (TTY/TDD 1-877-576-7734), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org , or online at www.edpubs.org/webstore/Content/search.asp.
Special Education: Ensuring Excellence for All Students
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Time: 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM ET
This November marks 30 years since Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142). Today, thanks to this law, which became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, the majority of children with disabilities are being educated in their neighborhood schools and in regular classrooms alongside their non-disabled peers; high school graduation rates and employment rates among youth with disabilities have increased dramatically; and post-secondary enrollments among individuals with disabilities continue to rise.
The November broadcast of Special Education: Ensuring Excellence for All Students, will showcase successful inclusion programs in schools, profile research-based, early identification and intervention initiatives to identify academic and behavioral problems in young children, and will include a panel of educators, policymakers, community leaders and parents exploring key issues such as:
- How is NCLB helping ensure the academic progress of children with disabilities? What are the key provisions of the reauthorized IDEA legislation and does it impact those involved with the special education process? What do parents need to know about early intervention for children suspected of having a disability and what challenges do these students and their families face? How have schools made it easier for parents to navigate the system as they create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for their student with a disability? How can students with disabilities be successfully integrated into general education classrooms? What is Positive Behavior Supports and what difference is it making in schools?
For more information on where you can view Special Education: Ensuring Excellence for All Students, visit: http://www.ed.gov/news/av/video/edtv/index.html
Hurricane Victims with Disabilities Receive Assistance Through Department of Education
Gulf States to Get $25.9 Million in Vocational Rehabilitation Services
President Bush recently signed into law the Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Act of 2005, granting the U.S. Education Department authority to permit hurricane-affected Gulf Coast states access to $25.9 million in federal funds for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services without the states having to provide matching funds.
These VR services may include education, training, assistive technology or various supports necessary for employment of individuals with disabilities affected by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita that contribute to the economic growth and development of communities.
"Children and adults with disabilities face challenges with the loss of their homes and supports for daily living," Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. "Through the department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, this funding will provide additional assistance to those with disabilities affected by the hurricanes."
Federal funds for VR services will be made available to affected states in the following amounts:
- Louisiana, $16.4 million
- Mississippi, $6.1 million
- Alabama, $1.7 million
- Texas, $1.7 million.
Beyond the support to people with disabilities provided by this new law, a fact sheet lists additional efforts by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to help hurricane victims. This fact sheet can be found at:
House Approves Castle Bill to Improve Head Start Early Childhood Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. September 22, 2005 – The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a bill to introduce greater competition into the federal Head Start early childhood program and use it to strengthen school readiness, increase the role of states and local communities in Head Start, and protect children and taxpayers against the abuse and mismanagement of federal Head Start funds. The bill, the School Readiness Act (H.R. 2123), also restores hiring protections that had been stripped from faith-based organizations choosing to participate in the early childhood program.
“Today the House voted to strengthen and improve the Head Start program on behalf of the nearly one million children enrolled in Head Start each year,” said Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH). “The bill will increase competition for Head Start grants, increase the role of states and local communities, and help ensure Head Start funds are used for their intended purpose: preparing disadvantaged children for kindergarten.”
"We all can agree on the need for Head Start and its successes. We must also recognize that Head Start can produce even greater results for children,” said Education Reform Subcommittee Chairman Mike Castle (R-DE), author of the School Readiness Act. “Students who attend Head Start programs do start school more prepared than those with similar backgrounds that do not attend Head Start. However, Head Start students continue to enter kindergarten well below national norms in school readiness. By moving to close this school readiness gap, this bill will improve results for almost a million Head Start students across the nation."
The School Readiness Act will strengthen the academic components of Head Start and remove barriers that hinder coordination between Head Start and successful state-run early childhood initiatives – major priorities for President George W. Bush. The bill will also emphasize competition, as recommended this year by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO), to improve program quality and combat financial mismanagement.
Some highlights of the School Readiness Act include:
More competition. Local Head Start operators identified as having one deficiency or more during the five-year lives of their federal grants will be required to compete against other potential grantees when their grants come up for renewal. Under current laws and regulations, such recompetition is too limited, the independent GAO has found. The U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, who oversees the Head Start program, will retain the right to terminate a Head Start grant at any time during the five-year grant cycle. Grantees that meet all requirements will be designated as “priority” grantees.
Improved disclosure and transparency of Head Start. The bill will require all Head Start grantees to make available to the public an annual report detailing how money was spent, the sources from which funds were received, and how the agency has performed in terms of meeting the requirements of the law. An independent financial audit will also be required annually.
Greater role for states. In order to qualify to receive a federal Head Start grant, organizations will be required to have objectives in place for improving school readiness that are aligned with state-developed K-12 academic content standards. In order to be considered “priority” grantees, organizations entrusted with federal Head Start funds will be required to utilize curricula that are aligned with state-developed K-12 academic content standards and based in proven scientific research. Grantees that fail to meet this standard will be required to compete with other potential grantees and will face the possibility of losing their federal grants.
Greater role for local school districts. In order to be considered “priority” grantees, organizations entrusted with federal Head Start funds will be required to demonstrate active partnerships with local educational agencies (local school districts) serving the same communities to facilitate smooth transitions to kindergarten for their students. Grantees that fail to meet this standard will be required to compete with other potential grantees and will face the possibility of losing their federal grants.
Better safeguards against financial abuse. Head Start operators will be required to meet a range of financial disclosure requirements as a condition of receiving and keeping their federal Head Start grants. Grantees will have to be overseen by a local governance board that provides direction and actively oversees all program activities, and will be required to document that they have strong fiscal controls in place, including the employment of a well-qualified chief financial officer with a history of successful management of a public or private organization. Grantees will also have to maintain administrative costs that do not exceed 15 percent of total program costs.
Improved teacher quality. In order to be considered “priority” grantees, organizations entrusted with federal Head Start funds will be required to have a teaching staff of at least 50 percent with AA degrees. Grantees that fail to meet this standard will be required to compete with other potential grantees and will face the possibility of losing their federal grants. The percentage of Head Start staff nationwide required to have BA degrees will be increased to 50 percent.
No new testing. Like its 2003 counterpart, the School Readiness Act contains no new testing provisions. The legislation will strengthen the academic components of Head Start without adding additional tests or assessments.
Improved school readiness. The bill will emphasize “what works” in preparing disadvantaged children for school. It will strengthen Head Start’s academic standards by emphasizing cognitive development and the results of scientifically-based research in topics critical to children’s school readiness (including language, pre-reading, pre-mathematics, and English language acquisition). The changes would be similar to those adopted with strong bipartisan support for President Bush’s Reading First and Early Reading First initiatives, established in the No Child Left Behind Act for K-12 education.
During consideration of the School Readiness Act, the House adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) to protect the civil liberties of faith-based providers by clarifying that these institutions are not required to relinquish their Civil Rights Act hiring protections when they participate in the federal Head Start program. The historic civil rights law explicitly protects the rights of religious organizations to take religion into account in their hiring practices, and former Democratic President Bill Clinton signed four laws explicitly allowing faith-based groups to staff on a religious basis when they receive federal funds.
“Now, more than ever before, we are seeing first hand the good work these groups are doing in my region of the country. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, faith-based organizations were among the first to reach out a hand in service to those impacted by the disaster,” said Boustany. “It is critical that faith-based organizations that are willing to serve their communities by participating in federal programs are not forced to give up who they are to participate.”
“Our nation’s Head Start students deserve to be served by the very best organizations willing to lend a helping hand,” said Boehner. “By restoring hiring protections for faith-based providers, the School Readiness Act ensures quality programs aren’t forced to choose between relinquishing their identities or being shut out of the program all together.”
CONTACT: Alexa Marrero or Kevin Smith
Telephone: (202) 225-4527
IDEA Regulations and Music Therapy as a Related Service
August 25, 2005, After several years of advocacy, the US Dept. of Education is considering changing the wording of the IDEA laws to include music therapy as a related service. Music therapists, special education and general education teachers, parents, and colleagues have an opportunity to influence this legislation by providing comments on the proposed IDEA regulations. Once these regulations are completed, they will be utilized by schools to assist them in implementing the special education law. U.S. Department of Education staff has indicated a need to hear comments from parents, as well as clinicians.
All comments on the proposed regulations are to be filed with the Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Comments and recommendations can be submitted most efficiently VIA EMAIL TO: IDEACOMMENTS@ED.GOV
You must include in the SUBJECT line: COMMENTS ON IDEA-PART B.
Although not recommended due to the extensive security screening process, comments can also be mailed to the following address:
Dr. Troy R. Justesen
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Potomac Center Plaza, Room 5126
Washington, DC, 20202-2641
On the website for the American Music Therapy Association, it includes sample letters that make it very easy for anyone to email a personalized request. The deadline is Sept. 6, 2005. For more information, visit:
Students With Disabilities Making Great Strides,
New Study Finds
Data reflect successful experiences and achievements of special education students moving into early adulthood
FOR RELEASE: July 28, 2005
Students with disabilities have made significant progress in their transition to adulthood during the past 25 years with lower dropout rates, an increase in postsecondary enrollment and a higher rate of gainful employment after leaving high school, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Education. The report is available at http://www.nlts2.org.
The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) documents the experiences of a national sample of students over several years as they moved from secondary school into adult roles. The NLTS2 report shows that the incidence of students with disabilities completing high school rather than dropping out increased by 17 percentage points between 1987 and 2003.
During the same period, their postsecondary education participation more than doubled to 32 percent. In 2003, 70 percent of students with disabilities who had been out of school for up to two years had paying jobs, compared to only 55 percent in 1987.
"These accomplishments show the benefits of accountability and high academic standards among all students, including those with disabilities," said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. "As we focus increasingly on high school students, these findings square nicely with the goals of No Child Left Behind, such as closing the achievement gap and insisting that all students be given the quality education they so deserve."
NLTS2 began in 2001, and is a follow-up to the first National Longitudinal Transition Study conducted from 1985 through 1993, in which the experiences of the first "cohort" of students were analyzed. NLTS2 reports on a second cohort of young people, 12,000 students nationwide who were ages 13-16 at the start of the study. Information will be collected over 10 years from parents, students and schools, and will provide a national picture of the experiences and achievements of young people as they transition into early adulthood.
- Core Academics Improved—Cohort2 high school students with disabilities were much more likely than their cohort1 counterparts to take core academic courses, including mathematics, science, social studies and a foreign language.
- Grades Were Higher—Regarding academic performance, more than half of cohort2 students with disabilities received above-average grades, representing a shift from students receiving mostly Cs to more students receiving mostly As or Bs, as reported by teachers.
- Age and Grade-Level Match Improved—The proportion of students who were at the typical age for their grade level increased from one-third to more than one-half between 1987 and 2001. As being older than the typical age for a grade level has been shown to be a powerful predictor of disabled students dropping out of school, this indicator signals positive outcomes for youths with disabilities in their efforts to finish high school.
- More Support—By 2001, half of 15- to 17-year-old students with disabilities were receiving related or support services from or through their schools, compared with less than one-third of students in 1987.
The study was funded by the Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and focuses on a wide range of important topics for students with disabilities, such as high school coursework, extracurricular activities, academic performance, postsecondary education and training, employment, independent living and community participation.
The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities
The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities, published by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), is designed for youth and adults working with them to learn about disability disclosure. This workbook is free of charge and helps young people make informed decisions about whether or not to disclose their disability and understand how that decision may impact their education, employment, and social lives. Based on the premise that disclosure is a very personal decision, the Workbook helps young people think about and practice disclosing their disability.
To download the entire 411 on Disability Disclosure Guidebook in PDF* (99 pages/397KB) visit:
or to read the guide in MS Word (85 pages) visit
*Please note: This is a large document, download time will be longer for users with slower connections.
Again, this workbook is free.
The workbook does not tell a young people what to do. Rather, it helps them make informed decisions about disclosing their disability, decisions that will affect their educational, employment, and social lives.
MS Word versions of the 411 on Disability Disclosure Workbook are designed specifically for those visitors using screen readers and/or braille translators. Phrases such as "pullout" and "sidebar" will be used throughout the Word documents to give readers with low vision and/or blindness a better understanding of how the text is laid out in the PDF version (with complete graphics). In addition, tables and charts within the documents will be reformatted for clarity.
Units and Activities
Unit 1: Self-Determination…the BIG Picture
Activities: "Just what do you know about yourself and your disability?," "Self-Determined Short-Term Goals"
Unit 2: Disclosure… what is it and why is it so important?
Activity: Describe your disability-related needs, and your abilities and skills
Unit 3: Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Disclosure
Activities: "Discuss Scenarios," "Famous People Matching"
Unit 4: Rights and Responsibilities Under the Law
Activities: "Defining Your Disability," "Recognizing Discrimination," "Small Group Poster Activity," "Identifying Adult Service Providers & Eligibility Criteria"
Appendices: "Basic Facts about the Americans with Disabilities Act," "Summary of Legislation"
Unit 5: Accommodations
Activities: "The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)," "Situations and Solutions at School and at Work"
Unit 6: Postsecondary Disclosure…Why, When, What, to Whom, and How?
Activities: "Course for Disclosure Examples," "Exploring Disability Support Services," "My Practice Script"
Unit 7: Disclosure on the Job…Why, When, What, to Whom, and How?
Activities: "Course for Disclosure Examples," "My Practice Script," "Visit your local One-Stop Career Center,"
Unit 8: Disclosure in Social and Community Setting…Why, When, What, to Whom, and How?
Activities: "Course for Disclosure Examples," "My Practice Script"
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) assists state and local workforce development systems to better serve youth with disabilities. The NCWD/Youth, created in late 2001, is composed of partners with expertise in disability, education, employment, and workforce development issues. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the NCWD/Youth is housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership.
Draft IDEA Regulations are Available
This just in from from the National Dissemination Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities:
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Secretary Spellings have signed the proposed regulations to implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). This follows a concerted effort by many in OSERS to review the old and new law, receive public comments, and draft the proposed regulations.
So that members of the public will have as much time as possible to review the proposed regulations, the Department has posted an unofficial copy on its Web site at www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/idea2004.html
Using that link, members of the public can also view the dates and locations for a series of public meetings where comments on the proposed regulations will be received by OSERS. Information on submitting written comments on the proposed regulations can also be found using that link.
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