DCASE's Vision is to fulfill the promise of a quality education for all children.

DCASE is an alliance of nonpublic and charter schools that provide special education services to students from the District of Columbia. Members are dedicated to improving educational opportunities for all DC students with disabilities. Improving special education in every school – DC Public Schools, nonpublic and charter – will benefit all students. We are inspired by the motto: "a rising tide lifts all boats."

DC Special Education Reform Legislation Long Overdue

The special education legislation reported in today’s Washington Post, proposed by Councilmember Catania is long overdue, well-conceived and on-point with the most pressing challenges still plaguing the District’s special education system. All three reform bills deserve swift passage, and Council Members should hear from any parents and professionals that have struggled to obtain, maintain or fund appropriate services for their students with special needs. If you have a story, now is the time to tell it. Please call or write your Council Member in support of these much needed special education reforms.

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What happens to Options’s students when the school shuts down?

Students with special needs such as those described in the Washington Post editorial 1/28/14 do not have to be at the “option of last resort.” In fact, federal law requires that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.

The District has a vibrant non-public education community that DCPS and other Local Education Agencies have relied upon for many years to serve the needs of those students requiring the highest levels of support and intervention to achieve their potential. Non-public schools use enriched staffing, proven educational models and specialized services that address behavioral and social needs of students as well as authentic inclusion of families in the education of their children.

The DC Association for Special Education (DCASE) Consortium also supports DCPS and Public Charter Schools with training, consultation, and student services, providing 873 teachers, administrators and students with such resources in 2013. DCASE is working with DCPS and OSSE to improve the ways that students transition when ready, back into their neighborhood schools, including expanding opportunities for students to do partial-day mainstreaming, where they can learn to succeed alongside their non-disabled peers while maintaining the supports of their non-public program.

Students like those at Options do not need to become casualties of systemic dysfunction or problems brought on them by others. The community has an opportunity as well as an obligation to come together and do right by these young people and their families. Let’s see that this happens.

Read Washington Post Article here

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Jesús Aguirre to be D.C.’s New State Superintendent for Education

DCASE looks forward to welcoming and working with the new Superintendent.  We wish him success and hope to work closely together in meeting the needs of DC students and their families facing special education challenges.

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Message from OSSE’s Assistant Superintendent for Special Education

From Dr. Maisterra:

Greetings Nonpublic School Representatives,

As we launch the 2013-2014 school year, I am pleased to share the first quarterly OSSE Nonpublic Program Information Memorandum this year.  Our goal with these communications is to ensure that you have the necessary information and resources that will best position you for success as you support students from the District of Columbia in your programs.

OSSE’s Nonpublic Program Toolkit

We are pleased to share a final draft of our new Nonpublic Program Toolkit.  This toolkit is intended to support nonpublic programs, District LEAs, and families of students served in nonpublic settings.  To ensure that we are hitting the mark, we are vetting it with key stakeholders before finalizing it at the end of this month.  To that end, please review the Toolkit, which is located at:  http://osse.dc.gov/publication/nonpublic-toolkit, and provide any feedback you have to Ms.  Melanie Grant, Esq., Training and Technical Assistance Specialist, by Friday, August 30, 2013.  Ms. Grant can be contacted at Melanie.Grant@dc.gov.

OSSE Special Education Quality Review (SEQR) Tool Trainings

Many of you are aware that last year, OSSE’s DSE partnered with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to launch a project designed to address special education program quality in the District of Columbia. From that work, OSSE developed the Special Education Quality Review (SEQR) Tool.  SEQR offers  a web-based self-assessment tool to be used by schools, local education agencies (LEAs) and nonpublic schools serving District of Columbia students to assess school-level programs for Students with Disabilities (SWDs) on selected quality indicators and to identify school level improvements needed to achieve best practice standards. We have scheduled a webinar that will explain how to use the tool.

Our first SEQR training for nonpublic programs took place this morning, from 9 am- 11 am.  Moving forward, DSE will host additional trainings that will be open to all, but designed to support nonpublic programs in their use of the tool.  These trainings, which repeat content, will occur from 9 am – 11 am on the second Wednesday of each month, via webinar.  The schedule is as follows:

September 11, 2013- Nonpublic Program Representatives  - https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/684314826

November 13, 2013- Nonpublic Program Representatives - https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/378101154

January 8, 2014- Nonpublic Program Representatives - https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/119923506

March 12, 2014- Nonpublic Program Representatives https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/377692506

May 14, 2014- Nonpublic Program Representatives https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/171160434

Please contact Ms. Yuliana Del Arroyo, Director of Placement Oversight,  atYuliana.delarroyo@dc.gov with any questions you may have.

OSSE Nonpublic Program Profiles

In an effort to increase transparency, provide information to stakeholders,  and meet its local reporting obligations, OSSE is in the process of finalizing nonpublic program profiles for each school with a Certificate of Approval (COA).  OSSE has finalized the program template for the programs, after receiving valuable feedback from the District of Columbia Association for Special Education (DCASE).   In the next two weeks, you will receive the final draft profile for your school, with a request to 1) provide us with program information unique to your school, and 2) review the data included, which has been retrieved from self-reported data provided by your program via either your  COA application or the recent data collection.  Instructions, deadlines and points of contact will be included in the communication.

Please contact Dr. Edgar Stewart, Supervisory Monitoring Specialist, at Edgar.stewart@dc.gov with any questions.

2013-2014 SEDS User Support Model

OSSE has previously assumed full responsibility for providing technical assistance (TA) to LEAs and nonpublic schools around the implementation of data collection and use of data systems, particularly with the use of the Special Education Data System (SEDS). The current model needs revision in order to become more sustainable and accurately reflect the responsibility of both OSSE and LEAs in ensuring data quality. There will be several key changes to the model for technical assistance for the 2013-2014 school year.

 

Key features of new technical assistance model:

·         Focus on responsibility at LEA level through increased role of Special Education LEA Data Administrator:

  • Provide troubleshooting support to users within their LEA

o   Provide training on SEDS to users within their LEA

o   Manage usage of SEDS by users within their LEA

o   Serve as point-of-contact with the OSSE for state-level questions/issues regarding SEDS

·         OSSE personnel with specific expertise serve as agency point of contact to diagnose and direct questions to  appropriate personnel.

·         Cross functional inquiry teams within the agency will provide data driven support and proactively intervene in areas of need

Anticipated outcomes:

·         Timely and accurate support from OSSE experts

·         Organized process that results in more efficient and consistent responses at the OSSE and LEA levels

·         Increased LEA autonomy that leads to more relevant connections between procedural compliance and data quality

Implications for nonpublic schools:

·         As indicated in DCMR 3019, LEAs are responsible for monitoring the provision of special education services to students placed in nonpublic schools.  As a reflection of that expectation, all requests for support with data systems that are student specific should be directed to the LEA responsible for the student.  Other requests that are more general in nature may be directed to OSSE via a single point of contact at the nonpublic school.  For more information about where to direct requests for support, please see the Nonpublic Toolkit (link above).

Expectations of nonpublic schools:

·         Identify a Nonpublic School Point of Contact (POC)   who will be responsible for directing requests for support to the responsible LEA or OSSE, depending on the issue

·         Instead of directing requests for support to the OSSE Applications Call Center or the SEDS Team, submit student specific  requests to the responsible LEA or OSSE effective August 16, 2013

·         If seeking support from OSSE, please do so via the OSSE Support Tool.  Review the Nonpublic Toolkit for more detailed information about where to direct specific requests for support

OSSE Certificate of Approval Regulations

This fall, OSSE anticipates posting proposed updates to our regulations for nonpublic programs serving District students.  We will ensure that nonpublic schools are apprised when the posting occurs.  As always, the proposed rules will include a 60 day posting period and two public hearing dates to allow for public comments.

OSSE Nonpublic Rate Setting Update

Pursuant to OSSE’s Certificate of Approval Regulations (DCMR 5A Chapter 28), OSSE has completed its annual rate setting and review process.  All nonpublic schools and programs should have received a communication regarding this initiative by August 1, 2013.  OSSE currently accepts rates approved by other states and jurisdictions.  When this is not the case, OSSE rates apply.  As such, OSSE has adopted the Universal Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) as its rate for per diem tuition. Equally, OSSE has also adopted the related services rates established by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, which are identified as the fair market rate for this area. All other rates not included in a state or OSSE approval must be submitted to, reviewed, and confirmed by OSSE prior to invoice submission.  Nonpublic programs have thirty (30) calendar days from the date of the 2013-14 SY OSSE Rate Confirmation rate setting communication to appeal the rate established by OSSE. This rate setting methodology will remain in effect until otherwise advised by OSSE and documented in the appropriate Regulations.

Please contact Ms. Yvonne S. Smith, Director, Nonpublic Payment Unit, at yvonneS.smith@dc.govwith any questions.

Monitoring and Compliance Update

The Nonpublic Monitoring Team is finalizing the 2013-2014 calendar for on-site monitoring of nonpublic schools. We anticipate sending the final calendar to nonpublic schools and their associated LEAs by August 30, 2013.  Review and approval of nonpublic school- and student-level correction of noncompliance will be finalized within the next week. We anticipate final report release through the DC Corrective Action Tracking System (DC CATS) no later than August 30, 2013.

Please contact Dr. Edgar Stewart, Supervisory Monitoring Specialist, at Edgar.stewart@dc.gov with any questions.

We look forward to collaborating with you to ensure a successful and productive 2013-2014 school year for our students and families.

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The Chelsea School Starts its Year in a New Home

The Chelsea School is excited to announce that it will be relocating its campus to Hyattsville, Maryland this September. The school, which serves students in grades 5-12 with language-based learning disabilities, has been located in Silver Spring for over thirty years. The new campus location is adjacent to the Prince George’s Plaza metro station in Hyattsville and will be opening for the first day of school on September 3.

A major factor in the school’s relocation to Hyattsville is its location and metro accessibility. Many of the school’s students reside in Prince George’s County which makes the opportunity to be a part of their community an extremely positive outcome. Also, the modern facility that the school is moving to allows it to make necessary upgrades to the instructional spaces and technology options available to its students.

Chelsea School’s mission to educate promising students with language-based learning differences in a rigorous and individualized college-preparatory environment to become lifelong independent learners will be enhanced by the new facilities. The campus is located near Prince George’s County Community College and the University of Maryland, two institutions that the school hopes to partner with in educator training, educational research, outreach, and enrichment activities for its students.
Chelsea school is looking forward to becoming a part of the Prince George’s County and Hyattsville communities. The new address for the school is 2970 Belcrest Center Drive, Hyattsville, MD 20782. The point of contact is Kate Fedalen, Head of School. (301) 585-1430 kfedalen@chelseaschool.edu

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Highlight on High Road School

Did you know that eight years after high school, only 50% of young adults with behavioral disabilities are employed?  (National Longitudinal Transition Study-2) .  DCASE member High Road School is partnering with local businesses to give its students a better chance at beating those odds as they transition to adulthood. Enjoy the attached July EdWeek article, featuring High Road School’s successful job skills development program.  EdWeek_July10.2013

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DC schools try to shrink number of special ed students

This is a complex issue with an important bottom line; that federal law requires school systems to provide for students’ needs on an individualized basis. This means that every student should receive educational services appropriate for that student’s particular needs. Creating number or percentage targets for reducing special ed services is misguided and, as the US Department of Education spokesperson says in the Washington Examiner article, is NOT what is being asked of the District.

Through our Special Education Training & Service Consortium, the DC Association for Special Education (DCASE) is working with DCPS and Public Charter Schools to build capacity so as to better serve their students with special needs. But there are students that will continue to need more intensive and specialized programming than that which is possible in those settings.

Tight budgets are a challenge to be sure, but they should not be used to justify shrinking the service continuum that is necessary and federally mandated to serve students will special educational needs.

Read Washington Examiner article – May 15, 2013

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