Project Forum was a funded project through the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The project was finalized November 2011. This website houses more than 100 documents on various critical policy issues in the field of special education that will remain relevant for years to come. It was a pleasure to serve you for more than 30 years!
Informing the IDEA and ESEA Reauthorization Process:
An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Project Forum Documents
Accessible Instructional Practice, Curriculum and Materials
This Brief Policy Analysis provides survey findings from 49 state NIMAS coordinators. These findings are an update from a similar analysis in 2007. Findings are clustered in the areas of dedicated staff, coordination and collaboration with national center activities, guidance, professional development, legal issues, data collection, file conversions and availability, challenges and next steps.
This policy forum proceedings document provides an introduction that includes federal education regulatory language for universal design for learning (UDL). It summarizes panel presentations from the higher education, state-level, local-level and national-level perspectives. Throughout the panel and during the subsequent group discussions, several suggestions and proposed strategies to improve policy to impact implementation of UDL were given by participants. These are summarized.
This in-depth policy analysis provides a background of the early childhood mental health (ECMH) focus of many organizations and legal elements of why it is essential that children with disabilities be included in a comprehensive mental health system. Findings from interviews with four state early childhood staff (i.e., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B section 619 and Part C staff) were conducted around select components of mental health: Connecticut – consultation; Michigan – preparation and professional development; Ohio – partnerships; and Illinois – finance. Findings include that a variety of staff at a mental health agency and staff for Part B, Section 619 and Part C share responsibilities related to ECMH. Data is also collected through a statewide ECMH partnership and some individual programs; however none of the states has developed a uniform or coordinated data system for ECMH. All states indicated a need for changes in Medicaid policy to accept coding from the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders.
This In-Brief Policy Analysis introduces the changes to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) that have implications for implementation across state agencies. The focus of the document is on the implications for state interagency collaboration and training. It includes a concise research overview and five state experiences in planning and implementing the provisions for screening and referring abused and neglected children to early intervention services. States describe successes and challenges and recommendations are given based on their experiences.
The purpose of this in-brief analysis is twofold. The first purpose is to summarize the recommendations included in the national transition initiative’s document that was created as a resource for improving state and local performance on State Performance Plans related to early childhood transition. The second purpose is to highlight some of the policies and practices adopted by six states undertaken to meet the early childhood transition requirement. Common themes and concluding remarks are given.
Eligibility Determination and RTI
This brief policy analysis describes how personnel preparation programs in six states currently incorporate RTI into their curricula. In the programs interviewed, school psychology and special education programs require familiarity with RTI on the part of their graduates. Several general education and other programs also require RTI-related coursework. Many special education and school psychology programs also require an RTI-related field placement experience. In addition to teaching courses that address RTI, many faculty members provide leadership to state- and local-level RTI initiatives and offer inservice trainings to LEA staff. Challenges to the implementation of successful RTI curricula include lack of buy-in on the part of general education faculty. Interviewees identified program strengths and recommendations for other personnel preparation programs planning to integrate RTI into their curricula.
This Policy Forum Proceedings documents the process participants followed to describe barriers to implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) as an Early Intervening Service (EIS), policy recommendations to address these barriers and implementation considerations. An introduction to the national perspective on RTI as it relates to EIS begins the document and closing remarks are included.
This brief policy analysis gives a concise background to RTI, a definition, and describes the U. S. Department of Education’s role in RTI. The data on states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) were gathered based on a document search protocol. The areas described include the state RTI frameworks; RTI administration including rules, guidance, and funding mechanisms; implementation; data and outcomes; and challenges.
This brief policy analysis begins with a background of the changes in federal requirements on specific learning disabilities (SLD) from 1975 to today. Findings from a survey to which 49 state directors of special education responded are described. Ten responding states are in various stages of revising their state regulations to respond to the federal changes with the other 39 having completed their regulation change process. All but three states’ regulations or possible regulations fall into one of the following options:
- Regulations require the use of response to scientific, research-based intervention and do not allow use of severe discrepancy in establishing eligibility for SLD. (8)
- Regulations allow the use of either response to scientific, research-based intervention or severe discrepancy in establishing eligibility for SLD. (28)
- Regulations allow response to scientific, research-based intervention, severe discrepancy or any other research-based alternative to be used in establishing eligibility for SLD. (10)
- Three states did not describe their possible regulations.
The document provides observations and conclusions as well as helpful references, an extract from IDEA regulations issued August 2006 and a copy of the survey used to collect data for the document.
This In-Brief Policy Analysis is a synthesis of a National Center on Educational Outcomes study on state graduation policies that also compared the results to three similar, prior NCEO studies. Results are described in the areas of graduation requirements for youth with and without disabilities, diploma options available, state use of exit exams and consequences of graduation requirements and diploma options. Trends and recommendations in light of the survey findings and trends are given.
This Policy Forum Proceedings briefly discusses the federal, state and local roles that affect graduation requirements for all students, including students with disabilities. The purpose of the policy forum was to express issues related to graduation requirements for students with disabilities and develop policy recommendations to address these issues at the local, state and federal levels. Background research and a summary of panel and participant discussion are provided. Issues raised and recommendations with actions steps are provided.
Highly Effective Teachers and Administrators
This brief policy analysis describes teacher evaluation and some specific evaluation challenges for special education teachers. Data was collected through a survey of states and results are provided regarding the number of states that have a system; that have a system that addresses special educators specifically; the states’ stages of development and implementation; the adoption of a definition for teacher of record; how the systems are funded; and plans for states that have not yet included special educators in their performance-based compensation system. Brief concluding remarks are included.
This policy forum proceedings document begins with a background section that draws a picture of the increasing demands principals face as they strive to provide learning environments that support all students; the challenge between being a manager and an instructional leader; and the important role of principals for students with disabilities. Findings from the policy forum are discussed as challenges and recommendations to address these challenges. The major points emphasized during the forum concern principal recruitment, preparation and retention, including the importance of addressing issues related to students with disabilities and other diverse learners as an essential component of initial training and ongoing skill development.
This in-depth policy analysis based on interview methodology is a follow-up to the survey document on the same topic. The interview addressed 10 recruitment and retention strategies that were chosen based on the Personnel Improvement Center at NASDSE work with states, analysis of existing literature regarding best practices in the field, and survey responses. State level infrastructures, recruitment to the field, recruitment to specific jobs, retention, barriers and recommendations are discussed. An appendix that delineates state-level approaches to recruitment and retention about which the eight states were interviewed is provided.
This brief policy analysis describes current special education teacher and related services provider performance evaluation systems in the states. The document begins with a brief background on methods of measuring teacher effectiveness. Data was collected through a survey of states and results are provided regarding states roles in performance evaluation frameworks, differentiation of these frameworks for special educators, how evaluation data is used for special educators and recommendations from the states that responded. Most states reported that they were too early in the development or implementation of their performance evaluation systems to provide detailed information regarding use of data or recommendations.
Large-scale Education Data
This brief policy analysis describes how four states, Kentucky, Missouri, New York and Virginia ensure a quality review process within their educational data system. Each state case study provides a brief description of their data system, how the data is used, how the state ensures quality data, and the benefits and challenges to development of their data system. Three state case studies also include information on their school interoperability framework. Findings show that each of the states believe their data systems are either operational or in progress for at least some of the criteria determined to ensure effective data. Each state interviewee also felt that while their state has specific strengths, there is still have room to grow.
This In-Depth Policy Analysis begins with a background on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) development and implementation of a single repository for K-12 education data. It also includes a summary of interviews held with seven state special education directors and/or their data managers along with each state’s EDFacts coordinator to obtain information on the states’ submission of special education data via EDFacts. Findings are reported in the following areas:
- State staffing;
- Interaction between general and special education divisions;
- Effect of EDFacts on SEA structure and operations;
- Changes in special education reporting;
- Technical assistance from the ED for the transition to EDFacts; and
- Benefits and challenges of EDFacts.
The document closes with a section on observations and conclusions.
Measuring Student Growth
This in-depth policy analysis begins with a background that briefly describes accountability requirements from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the assessments states use to meet this requirement. A comparison between the status model for determining performance levels and the growth models is given. Further, a description of three types of growth models that states in a federal pilot program use is given. A summary of the evaluation of this pilot program is provided as well. Fifteen states with approved growth models as part of their accountability system were interviewed. Findings are organized around the following topics:
- Special education staff involvement in the development of growth models;
- How students with disabilities are included in the growth models;
- Training provided on growth models;
- Reporting of growth model results; and
- Benefits and challenges of a growth model.
The document closes with a discussion of the complexity of adding a growth model to a state’s accountability and assessment system; obstacles to including students who participate in alternate assessments based on alternate academic standards in a growth model; and progress in instruction and assessment for this population of students that could ease these obstacles.
This brief policy analysis presents IDEA language requiring a description of how the child’s progress toward annual goals, if the IEP has no benchmarks or short term objectives, will be measured and a description of policies and practices that states have instituted to ensure that IEP teams provide for this. The analysis was based on data received from a survey of all states and a follow up interview with three states. Mechanisms to measure student progress on IEP goals across the nation and specific state strategies for tracking this progress are described.
Private, Charter and Virtual Schools
This In-Brief Policy Analysis is based on a survey sent to all special education units of state education agencies. The survey requested information on states’ efforts to support local education agencies to address the provisions for parentally placed private school students with disabilities. Findings are synthesized for state policy and procedures, guidance and technical assistance, and special circumstances. Conclusions are drawn based on the survey results. Pertinent federal regulations, the survey instrument and state reference information are included in appendices.
This in-depth policy analysis begins with an introduction based on the most current research and includes the definition and prevalence of virtual K-12 education, outcomes, and federal and state guidance pertaining to these programs. Project Forum conducted a survey of all state departments of education. Findings are shared in the areas of number and type of state-level virtual public school programs. More information is given about how states are serving students with disabilities, including personnel, evaluation and identification, implementation of IEPs, provision of related services, assistive technology, accountability, and policy guidance. Benefits and challenges as described by the survey participants are outlined.
This Brief Policy Analysis is a synthesis of two reports developed for the website, Primers on Implementing Special Education in Charter Schools. A background on charter schools is given prior to the syntheses of the reports. The two reports each focus on a distinctive type of charter school: 1) schools designed for students with disabilities and 2) virtual charter schools. In the case of the charter schools for students with disabilities report, the author shares legal and policy contexts and typical issues. Regarding virtual charter schools, the report shares information on how special education is handled in this context. An observation section is provided following the report syntheses.
Special Education Finance, Paperwork and Administration
This in-depth policy analysis is an update to previous state funding formula documents from 2000-2009 by AIR and NASDSE. This document reports on the formulas used by states in 2008-2009. Within the document, the reader will find a table laying out the general types of funding formulas in 2009 for each state, followed by a few examples of unique complexities within formulas. Other sections of the document describe a number of changes in formulas over the years and on what states are allowed to spend their special education funds. Each state’s special education funding formula, as reported, is provided in the appendix.
This brief policy analysis presents findings from a survey of states on current observations in areas related to the perceived burden of paperwork (i.e., all aspects of recording and reporting, time involved to meet requirements at state and local levels regardless of medium used) on special education. The paperwork issues most frequently cited were the data collection required by the state performance plan (SPP) process and the perceived continuation of duplicative requests for information from different offices of the Department of Education. Suggestions for reducing the impact of these issues included:
- providing additional resources to support training for LEAs in all areas of reporting;
- establishing a clear, concise notification process for all state agencies about their responsibility for maintenance of effort; and
- ensuring better alignment of reporting between OSEP and OESE.
Some states identified advances in technology as having reduced the amount of paperwork, and some cited negative results of these advances such as subsequent reduction in staffing levels and increases in the number of requests for information.
This In-Brief Policy Analysis defines school voucher as an allocation of public funds to parents to pay for the education of their children at a private school of their choice. Issues raised regarding these programs are discussed with a focus on programs that are specifically designed for students with disabilities. Data was collected through interviews with four states that currently offer voucher programs specifically for students with disabilities. Program history, administration, and specific components such as eligibility, participation, voucher amount, transportation, accountability and others are discussed. Concluding remarks are included.
This policy forum proceedings document begins with an executive summary. The document provides a synopsis of the participants’ input on the positives and concerns about the SPP/APR system and their suggestions for changes. No attempt was made to develop consensus recommendations and all input was accepted and documented.
This brief policy analysis was designed to update the May 2006 Project Forum document based on staff interviews in 18 states about their use of standards-based individualized education programs (IEPs). In March 2010, Project Forum surveyed all states to examine their current practices in this area. A definition for standards-based IEPs and a discussion of this approach to IEPs is given. Also, a discussion of the influence of assessments on IEPs is provided. Survey findings include that 33 out of the 42 responding states are using or planning to use standards-based IEPs. A description of these states’ adoption rationales is given. Observations conclude the document.
This In-Depth Policy Analysis builds on previous Project Forum work, defines “standards-based IEPs and describes implementation in 18 states. The data collected confirmed the existence of significant policy changes in states and extensive investments in professional development. This document is an analysis of the most recent developments in some states that are implementing standards-based IEPs. It is written to further the recognition of this evolving movement and to stimulate additional sharing and conversation among states.
This document presents a seven-step process to be used in developing a standards-based IEP. Each step is followed by guiding questions for the IEP team to consider in making data-based decisions. Two student examples are provided to illustrate application of the components of a standards-based IEP. One student example leads to the decision that the student should take an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards (MAAS), while the other leads to a decision that the student should take the general assessment with accommodations. Readers might use this tool to think about how the contextual characteristics of a school setting might influence the creation and implementation of a student’s IEP. The companion document, “A Seven-Step Process to Creating Standards-based IEPs
” provides the steps and guiding questions in a brief two-page document.
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