Understanding the July 2023 OSERS Guidelines

August 22, 2023

The July 2023 guidelines released by The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) explicitly raise the bar for state monitoring of school districts’ Special Education programs.

Let’s discuss the new guidelines, how they impact school districts, and what school and district leaders can do to ensure compliance.

OSERS emphasizes three main components:

  1. State monitoring expectations
  2. Remedying non-compliance
  3. Timeliness of reviews by the state

State Monitoring Expectations
OSERS provided more detailed guidance on how a state agency must monitor their LEAs. SPP/APR (Student Placement Program/Annual Performance Report) data is only part of the monitoring expectation. While SPP/APR data is incredibly important, states are expected to use ‘integrated monitoring activities’ to confirm a district is meeting IDEA expectations. In addition to data gathering, monitoring should include stakeholder interviews, including staff and parents.

Remedying Non-Compliance
Next, OSERS provides guidance for remedying the status for a non-compliant district. Prior to this, if a district was found to be non-compliant, a sampling of data could be reviewed to ensure the problem had been remedied. Once a district is found in non-compliance, every single case must be reviewed again to confirm the district is in compliance. The state agency also must always set a 100% threshold for compliance.

Timeliness of Reviews by the State
The third update centers around expectations for the state. If a credible concern about an LEA is brought to the state, they are expected to have conducted a review and released findings within three months from when the investigation begins.

These guidelines are designed to help each state diligently provide oversight and remedy non-compliance. This will ensure all students with IEPs receive a Free Appropriate Public Education.

Special Education is at an Inflection Point
These increased expectations for accountability are just the latest changes in the ever-shifting landscape of Special Education. Other examples of recent notable changes or events include:

  • Perez v Sturgis (March 2023) - Many worry this supreme court ruling significantly heightens the risk of litigation in Special Education.
  • Endrew F. (March 2017) - this ruling resulted in increased expectations for student IEPs. Beyond setting ambitious goals for students, schools must implement effective and timely progress monitoring, and make adjustments throughout the year if students are not making progress.

Moreover, the unprecedented teacher shortage in Special Education has resulted in new and alternatively credentialed teachers being expected to write meaningful IEPs, deliver effective instruction, and deliver valid and reliable weekly progress monitoring.

What Can District Leaders Do?
As they say, knowledge is power. It’s imperative that you understand the latest guidelines and requirements for ensuring all students receive a Free Appropriate Public Education. NCII and The Promise Center are great resources.

Work closely with your Special Education team to ensure they have the necessary tools to write effective IEPS, progress monitor using valid and reliable methods, and deliver meaningful special instruction for students with IEPs. This will improve student outcomes in your district, make a state audit a breeze, and help protect you from litigation.

About Classworks
If you are concerned about your district policies for writing IEPs, administering weekly progress monitoring and improving education outcomes for students with IEPs, Classworks can help! Classworks, endorsed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education, includes valid and reliable progress monitoring, evidence-based instruction, and professional development to support teachers throughout the year. Learn more.

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