It was here, then it was gone, now it is back again—and the Education Department wants to make it better.
Idea.ed.gov, the Education Department’s official repository of special education information, has not been thoroughly revamped since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was reauthorized in 2004. But even though the site was basic by current Internet standards, it was still used by many—when server issues took the special education site offline for several weeks earlier this year, the outage caused a stir among parents, advocates, and ultimately members of Congress.
When the site was brought back up, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she planned to work with stakeholders to build a new and improved portal. To that end, the Education Department is seeking comments on what people would want to see in a better special education website.
From the department:
The [office of special education and rehabilitative services] is seeking input from users of the IDEA.ed.gov website as part of our effort to provide updated, easy-to-navigate IDEA resources to children with disabilities and their families, teachers, administrators, advocates, and other stakeholders. To help us facilitate this effort, we ask that you address the following items in the comment section below: What are the resources you use most often at IDEA.ed.gov? What additional information and/or functionality would you like to see included in the new IDEA site? Your title or role/designation (such as student, parent, educator, advocate, counselor, etc.), to help us gain a better understanding of who uses IDEA.ed.gov.
The department has already received some comments, one of which is to use idea.ed.gov as a way to connect users to evidence-based best practices in special education.
That makes sense: the federal office of special education programs funds over 50 centers that offer support to parents, school districts, and states on everything from “accessible materials” to “technology and disability.” And each one of those centers is a rich repository of resources.
But unless you already know about the OSEP Ideas That Work website (or you happen to know you can get there by clicking the “TA&D Network” link on the IDEA website, for “technical assistance and dissemination,”) finding out about those centers can be a challenge.
The Education Department does not list a deadline for submitting comments, but based on the level of interest in this project, I’m sure that interested users will quickly be able to share some suggestions.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.