New Federal Special Education Grants Support Literacy, Testing, and Transition

By Christina A. Samuels — October 12, 2016 2 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education has rolled out several grants to support students with disabilities to improve literacy outcomes and to transition into college or work after leaving high school. The Education Department is also providing funding that will help states and districts include more students with disabilities on state assessments.

Moving From High School to College and Competitive Employment

Five states—California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont—received a total of $39 million to help students with disabilities prepare for postsecondary education and “competitive, integrated employment.”

Competitive, integrated employment refers to employment at market wages in workplaces that include people with and without disabilities. The administration is trying to discourage schools from steering youths with intellectual disabilities to employment to sheltered workshops if more integrated work settings are a possibility.

“Students with disabilities need to have strong transition plans and goals to leave high school ready for college and careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement. “These awards will help states implement evidenced-based, work-based learning models to help break down barriers to employment.”

The grants will pay for demonstration projects that showcase effective, work-based learning experiences. Partners in the work will include state vocational rehabilitation programs, state education departments, school districts, and community partners.

The grants amounts range from $5 million, for Vermont, to $9 million, for Maine.

Literacy and Education Outcomes for Students With Disabilities

The University of Oregon was given $1.5 million to create a national center on improving the literacy skills of students with disabilities, including dyslexia. The department says the center “will assist states, local education agencies, schools, and instructional personnel in identifying students and using evidence-based interventions and assessments to improve students’ literacy skills.”

Back in June, the federal government posted a request for proposals on the literacy center and spelled out some of the issues it wanted the center to tackle, including developing evidence-based assessments and instruction, professional development for teachers, and parent outreach.

The American Institutes for Research received a $2.1 million grant as part of a renewal grant for the National Center on Intensive Intervention. The center was first created in 2012, and helps schools and teachers work with students who have persistent learning and behavior difficulties.

The University of Oregon, AIR, and the University of Texas at Austin also received grants totaling about $811,000 to develop model demonstration projects aimed at improving literacy outcomes for English-learners with disabilities in grades 3-5.

Creating Inclusive Assessments

The University of Minnesota’s National Center on Educational Outcomes received $2 million to support states and districts in increasing test participation and improving results for students with disabilities.

The center will also help states meet data collection and reporting requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Under the grant, NCEO will also work with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, among other partners.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.