TASH Weighs In
TASH members have an opportunity to influence state monitoring by the Office of Special Education Programs of services to students with low incidence disabilities within the next few months. OSEP has suspended state monitoring visits while it retools its approach to place more emphasis on district and state effectiveness in preparing students for positive adult outcomes, such as integrated employment and post-secondary education.
Two important exchanges have already occurred.
1) TASH, the National Down Syndrome Society, and Collaboration for Self Determination convened a small roundtable of leading researchers to develop recommendations to the Department of Education and to Congress on improvements to state accountability systems – including growth models – and on the Department’s monitoring functions. TASH participants included Erik Carter, Carol Quirk, Heather Allcock, Debbie Taub, and executive Director Barb Trader, who co-chairs CPSD with Madeleine Will.
Melody Musgrove, Director of OSEP, discussed the Department’s vision for shifting emphasis from compliance to student outcomes. Key messages of the two-day discussion included a need to measure school performance in ensuring all students have access to communication supports at a very early age and through their school careers, achieving communication competency as early as possible; the need to dramatically increase meaningful inclusion in general education classrooms for students with severe impact of disability; and the need to ensure that all students have experience in paid, integrated employment prior to leaving high school.
The group discussed what is meant by “career and college ready” for students with low-incidence disability, and developed recommendations for the Department and Congress to consider regarding accountability, growth models and state monitoring that is all focused on results of post-secondary education and/or integrated employment for these students. A full report will be developed and released soon.
2) On May 6-7, OSEP convened a national Focus Group on Transition to College and Careers, attended by TASH members Mary Morningstar, Rich Leuking, Ellen Condon, and Barb Trader. The group identified and developed strategies for addressing 13 challenges to successful transition, which included:
a. funding, incentives and priorities are not compatible across agencies and systems
b. desired or defined outcomes are not aligned across federal programs
c. the current monitoring process focuses on compliance rather than outcomes (which OSEP is in the process of changing)
d. limited success in informing and engaging families at all levels and stages of the process
e. lack of time, resources and leadership to develop a systemic and unified approach to services in schools
f. current practice of preparing personnel in separate systems and curricula
g. limited and/or lack of access to general curriculum, work experience; lack of curriculum that readies students for college and career
h. evidence-based practices are not broadly implemented
i. low expectations for students
j. lack of common vision within and across agencies
k. limited use of data to improve
l. teachers lack knowledge in UDL, PBIS, transition, RTI, etc.
This input will be used by OSEP to implement changes to state monitoring and to work with states to improve transition practices for all students.
This is an ideal time for OSEP to be engaged in a meaningful discussion on student outcomes. Strong leadership on improving integrated employment outcomes for transitioning youth with significant disabilities has already been demonstrated by the Office on Disability Employment Policy and by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities through Employment First initiatives.
Stay tuned for more announcements as news is shared by OSEP.