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The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is hosting a Webinar Highlighting Resources and Practices to Support Back to School and Continuity of Learning During COVID-19 for Children with Disabilities on August 4, 2020. Register for the event here.   
About the Webinar
OSEP is hosting the third and final installment of its webinar series on Continuity of Learning during COVID-19 on August 4, 2020 from 2:00-3:30 PM ET.  This series has showcased ready-to-use resources, tools, and practices from OSEP partners to support the educational, developmental, behavioral, and social/emotional needs of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities through remote and distance learning.
This third webinar in the series will present strategies and considerations for conducting instruction in remote, on-site, and hybrid educational settings this fall.  Specifically, this webinar will highlight exemplar resources and practices for teachers, leaders, other providers, and families to support students with disabilities from Preschool—Grade 12.
Presentations will include demonstrations about incorporating data-driven instruction from the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), guidance about State support for LEAs and State Personnel Development Grants (SPDGs), and the use of high-leverage practices from the CEEDAR Center and others.  In addition, Glenna Gallo, Carolyn Hayer, and George Sugai will participate on a panel with OSEP Director Laurie VanderPloeg to discuss the challenges and considerations of Back to School in 2020.  To register for this event and hear about resources and strategies to help you get back to school, please click here.
Additional information will be posted on OSEP’s COVID-19 Resource Page.

If you have any questions, please contact the Webinar Series planning team at

The time to re-open schools is rapidly approaching and states are making plans to have a safe return to school in the fall, however many questions remain.  Join a NASDSE twitter chat for #Back2School on Friday July 24th from 7-8 pm EST to get re-opening resources, share your concerns and discuss what your state or community is doing in preparation to ensure the safety of school personnel and students.

Questions will be as follows:
  1. What do you see as the biggest barrier to safely reopening school buildings? #NASDSE #Back2School
  2. What problems have been exposed during the #COVID19 pandemic? #NASDSE #Back2School
  3. What was learned during distance learning that helps to facilitate the transition back to school? #NASDSE #Back2School
  4. Does your state/district have a process and supports in place to determine academic losses and remediation?  Is equity a part of the plan? #NASDSE #Back2School
  5. Does your state/district have health protocols and a plan for building reopening, or procedures to determine how to assist students who require hands-on assistance and close proximity without creating mutual risk? #NASDSE #Back2School
  6. As a parent, or part of the education community, what will you personally be doing differently when school reopens, regardless of the format? #NASDSE #Back2School
  7. Ultimately, do you believe the pandemic will change the structure of education permanently, or will the current considerations be reversed in the future? #NASDSE #Back2School

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) joined with other education leaders and the National Governors Association to urge Congressional leaders to act, not only to provide a robust and meaningful federal investment in education during the pandemic, but also to prohibit conditions on COVID-19 education relief funding that would seek to define or mandate specific models of K-12 or higher education reopening.  The full letter can be read here or


NASDSE is pleased to announce the release of a new issue brief entitled "A Successful Launch of the 2020-2021 School Year for Students with Disabilities".  The purpose of this brief is to assist state directors of special education and their state special education staff in planning for a successful return of students with disabilities into public school settings post COVID-19. This brief highlights the issues faced by the state and local education leaders on topics such as education continuity services, recovery services, IEP services/supports, and compensatory education. It also highlights some of the things state departments of education should do to ensure that local school systems can successfully provide support and services to students with disabilities upon return after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As state and local education leaders look ahead to the 2020-2021 school year, and all the unknowns it may bring, it is important that leaders stay focused on creating a nimble and adaptable process for assessing the needs of all students with disabilities and reviewing and revising the special education and related services and supports to ensure a successful start to the coming 2020-21 school year. State directors of special education play a critical role in leading their state agencies and local school systems through this planning and supporting IEP teams to meet the needs of students with disabilities.  NASDSE is committed to supporting its members with building cohesive structures that ensure all students with disabilities have their needs assessed and addressed and are ready to begin the 2020-2021 school year with a clear plan for how their learning needs will be effectively supported, regardless of additional waves of COVID-19

The document can be found at the following link:

Dr. Zelphine Smith-Dixon lives in Conyers, Georgia, with her husband, Marki Dixon, and children (Myles, Megan, and Mason).  She has completed various educational studies to include: K-12 education in Orangeburg Consolidated School District #3; Bachelor Degree in Special Education from Columbia College (Columbia, SC); Master of Education Degree in Elementary Education from South Carolina State University (Orangeburg, SC); Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Luther Rice College and Seminary (Lithonia, Georgia).
She has a longstanding history of improving achievement for schools in SC and GA.  She received the following accolades: Tri-County Special Educator of the Year, Vance-Providence Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three Alternate District Teacher of the Year.  In April 2018, Columbia College presented her with the Wil Lou Gray Outstanding Educator Award. Later, she served as the Columbia College Commencement Speaker in May 2019.
Dr. Smith-Dixon is the State Director for the Division for Special Education at the Georgia Department of Education.  She serves in ministry at the dReam Center Church of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc,  and believes in its commitment to public service.
Dr. Smith Dixon says" I am excited to serve NASDSE in this leadership position and am keenly aware that many equity challenges impact our work.  Many students we serve are economically disadvantaged, and we need to ensure that they succeed because of us, not in spite of us.  Our students need to have opportunities and see diversity all around them.  We are committed to not only representing our students but their families, being guardians of equity, meeting each student’s needs, and improving outcomes."

Expanding the Classroom: Lessons Learned during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Who could know that many parents would respond better to text messaging and social media engagement (Facebook and Instagram) than traditional methods of contact such as letters home? Or that video lessons created by teachers for individual students have helped those pupils tremendously? Or that even in uncertain times, we are all more resilient and essential than we thought?
These were just a handful of the positive and surprising lessons learned during our Twitter Chat discussion June 5 with disability leaders and educators. The chat marked the culmination of our social media campaign #ExpandingtheClassroom.
It seemed to happen overnight—the coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of schools nationwide as a result. During this time, state and local education officials worked quickly to provide resources for distance learning. Educators were tasked with creating lessons—on paper and online—and parents were thrust into the role of teachers as they too, grappled with how to expand education beyond the classroom—especially for those with technological challenges.
During the conversation, leaders in disability education, teachers, parents, and other like-minded participants spent a little over an hour sharing what they’ve learned about distance learning—
and their hopes for the future as we move forward in our new reality.
In response to our question, “What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to expanding the classroom?” Glenna Gallo, an educator and leader supporting students with disabilities in Olympia, Washington tweeted:
“My greatest leadership challenge has been to provide guidance to families and districts on unchartered territory, and using the best interests of the students to guide our actions.  If I err, I want it to support student learning.”
For Dr. Zelphine Smith-Dixon, Georgia’s state director for special education, “perhaps the greatest challenge has been growing infrastructure at a distance to match the personalized needs of families and students in the midst of a pandemic,” she tweeted.
Neither are alone. Others like Georgia educator Morgan Shivers, tweeted that technological challenges have made it hard for some students to make the switch from in person to virtual learning—especially those in rural areas.
“I had people in shock when I told them some of my [teachers] had no working Internet in rural America … seriously,” tweeted Kelly Grillo, PhD, a special education advocate in Washington.
NASDSE has learned that we need greater attention to virtual education processes and students with disabilities, especially those students with more significant disabilities to ensure equitable access.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Shivers tweeted. “I teach in a small rural GA school and we are struggling to meet the digital needs of all of our students, but especially those with disabilities.”
Other challenges, Gallo said have “been trying to provide some behavioral and physical health services with health and safety requirements that don’t permit contact. Staff and families have been innovative, but we all want to be able to be in person again.”
Leadership educators also offered resources, too. For example, the VCU Autism Center, a university-based technical assistance, professional development, and educational research center for Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Commonwealth of Virginia has “offered lunch and learn opportunities for parents to learn valuable information and skills to assist their students learning from home, tweeted Samantha Hollins, assistant superintendent of the Department of Special Education and Student Services at the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond. She shared the link to the lunch and learns here. In fact, the next one— Lunch and Learn: Why on Earth Does my Child do That? Takes place on June 11.
“In Washington, tweeted Amy Campbell, Washington State Teacher of the Year in Vancouver, Wash., “we created new learning plans with the families to help clarify alternative service plans during the closure. It worked so well and centered on what would work for [students] and families and what we could do given the circumstances.”
NASDSE shared a link to Educating All Learners from a Distance. It offers tips for teachers about virtual special education. That resources allows teachers to share ideas online for serving students with disabilities during the pandemic.
Other tips include:
  • Interviewing teachers, parents, and students in [an] effort to inform, guide, and restructure virtual learning to help meet community specific needs during COVID-19.
  • Regular communication with teachers, therapists and other support personnel by phone, Zoom or other means has done a world of good.
  • Sending home instructions for parents in their preferred language, so parents are able to support student learning
  • Looking beyond what your districts are doing to foster better engagement
Going forward, tweeted Dr. Lynn Clayton-Prince, director of special education and VCASE president elect, “I think all states will need to keep the goal of equity first. Expanding the classroom has made each of us to take a deeper look at what our students need beyond the classroom.”
Others expressed those sentiments as well.
As Zelphine Smith-Dixon said during our discussion, “We are stronger together. Nothing has been destroyed that cannot be rebuilt.”
As we plan for schools re-opening, one thing some disability educators said during our discussion Friday evening was they plan to use workgroups to figure out what returning to classrooms look like.
“Georgia has committed to K-12 Workgroups to develop Restart Guidance that works for everyone,” said Smith-Dixon.
We think it’s an excellent idea to involve everyone in the process

As we grapple with lessons learned while educating students with disabilities remotely during the pandemic, we are also pivoting to intensive planning for re-opening school buildings in the fall--and the feasibility of such as endeavor, given the very real possibility of future closures.
In addition to the robust discussion underway regarding personal protective equipment, and considerations for social distancing, meals, etc., the education community must also give serious thought to how we will prepare staff to deal with the trauma and mental and behavioral health of our returning students. 
The school year suddenly, without closure, and it is expected that some students will have lost family members to #COVID19, and generally speaking, anxiety will be heightened. 
The National Association of School Psychologists partnered with the American School Counselor Association to release School Reentry Considerations – Supporting Student Social and Emotional Learning and Mental and Behavioral Health Amidst COVID-19. Click here to read the report. 
#ExpandingtheClassroom #NASDSE @nasponline @ASCAtweets


Please take a look at this incredible resource developed by Glenna Gallo, Past-President of NASDSE, and current Assistant Superintendent of Special Education in the Washington State Department of Education

"Providing equitable access and instruction during these times will require creative and flexible thinking to support continuous learning, where students and educators are in different locations. Educators and families should explore creative ways to respond to diverse languages, cultures, socio-economic status, abilities, and needs. This resource offers suggestions for sustaining inclusionary practices for students with disabilities through continuous learning opportunities."



The Office of Special Education within the Nebraska Department of Education has continued their work without missing a beat.  Some activities include continued professional development to many areas of need, development of materials to support the work of schools during COVID-19, guidance documents in areas of Unfinished Learning, staff reading books to be included on our Face Book page, meetings conducted in a wide range of areas to support the learning of parents and school staff, and continued work on guidance documents on eligibility, monitoring, and disproportionality.  All staff have continued their participation in any committee work across the NDE as well with other outside stakeholders.  All conducted virtually.  Here is a link to all the professional development we are doing “virtually” to get in the hands of all educators!
We created a virtual Reading Symposium (The Summer MTSS Reading Symposium) that is free to all educators that will take place over 3 weeks in July.  
In addition, within two short weeks our annual ASD Network State conference went from face-to-face to virtual learning with the support of our ASD Network and partners at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and NDE with approximately 500 participants.  In addition, all PD and support to school teams have continued throughout April and May.
Programs for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing  had to shift many activities to virtual learning.   For this group, the team working with the Nebraska Regional Programs for Deaf or Hard of Hearing developed Social Opportunities virtually for children who usually meet in person for a wider range of social enhancement opportunities.  These social events occurred in different parts of the state and gave students full access to interpreters and closed captioning in order to participate.  In addition, a virtual Transition Summit  occurred for this group that provided lots of role models and support for effective transition planning.  Also coming up in July the Nebraska Regional Programs will conduct a virtual camp specific to student who are deaf or hard of hearing  with specific clubs for active engagement.  Programs for children who are blind/visually impaired also shifted to providing support virtually or sending packets of information home in the large print or Braille formats needed for each student.  Specific PD was provided to all staff who usually provide some overnight residential care, but was given learning opportunities to understand more about the vision disabilities of each of their students.  The annual Deaf-Blind Summer Institute shifted from onsite to virtually format and will be conducted in July with approximately 132 participants registered to attend from Nebraska but other surrounding states.  


Special Education Spotlight in Kentucky



Owen County’s Student Technology and Leadership Program (STLP) students are making use of technology in order to apply what they know, solve problems, and empower others.  This is also evident particularly with students with disabilities struggling at home during non-traditional instruction.  Owen County staff and students have been determined to meet the definition of empowered learners.  For example, STLP students Jacob Lilly, Janelle Aguazul and Alli Gill took on the project of creating YouTube videos of the grade level NTI packets to accommodate students with disabilities.  These students read the directions, lengthy passages, provided examples and explanations, offered learning strategies and voiced encouragement to those students who may have needed it the most during this difficult time of social distancing. The purpose was not to take the place of what teachers were doing but rather to enhance it. An example of this work is located in the links below.   
The mission of Owen County Schools is to provide opportunities and resources where ALL students will develop perseverance and a passion for life-long learning in a safe, supportive, educational environment. The vision for Owen County students is that they will Respect others, Experience learning, Build relationships, Expect excellence, Lead, and Seek opportunities.  Director of Special Education, Donna Combs, shared that, “These model students exhibited every characteristic of the vision statement with this project.  Alli, Janelle, and Jacob are demonstrating a servant’s heart and that is why we are honored to recognize their REBEL spirit.  Even when school is not in session in the traditional sense, personalized learning for our students with disabilities should never stop.  Isn’t it ideal that their peers are providing an additional layer of support in order to connect outside of the classroom walls?”
Example NTI Support from Owen County STLP students:
Jacob Lilly, student  
Alli Gil, student 
Janelle Aguazul, student

Grace in a Time of Chaos
Juggling Work, School and Parenting May be Daunting but Not Insurmountable

By Valerie C. Williams
When schools first closed their doors, we were all faced with challenges and needed to adapt quickly. State and local education leaders needed to provide policies, procedures, and resources for distance learning. School personnel had to create paper or online lessons, and parents became responsible for ensuring the education of their school-age children continued-- particularly the youngest ones.
I understand your feelings. I occupy both the space of a professional in the field and the parent of a 3rd grader who happens to have Down syndrome, and receives general and special education at our local public school.
Initially, the road was rocky. For some, it still is. After all, who dreamt of teleworking, while attempting to be an educator, occupational therapist and speech-language pathologist simultaneously? 
I’m thankful to have a job I can do from home, but this was not in the plan.  Additionally, a lot of well-meaning organizations have and continue to push out resources.  It quickly became too much. Too much to read, absorb, and implement, literally overnight. Over time our household picked up a few nuggets that are working, mostly through trial and error.  Nothing new or ground-breaking, but worth sharing. Here’s what brought more order to our attempts to balance work and school:
  • Ease into the day – A cup of coffee, tea, or a few minutes of solitude in the morning makes a difference.  Take a moment for yourself before the day begins.
  • Set a schedule – Even if you aren’t able to stick to it 100% of the time, it is helpful to you and your child to know what time they can expect to do reading, math, art, etc.  My son’s classes are all online and thankfully asynchronous, so we’re not tied to the computer at specific times.
  • Rely on the experts – If you’re having problems with schoolwork or carrying out any of the instructions from educators/therapists, by all means, ask for help. School personnel are trained in their craft and are eager to provide assistance.
  • Extend grace – to yourself, your child, and the school system. You aren’t a trained educator or therapist, your child didn’t expect to finish the school year at home without their teachers and classmates, and the schools had no time to plan. 
Despite everyone’s best efforts, things will not be perfect; but they will improve, and we can do this together.
Valerie C. Williams is the Senior Director of Government Relations & External Affairs for the
National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)


Welcome to NASDSE’s first Twitter Chat discussion!
On June 5th at 7 p.m. (EDT) the National Association of State Directors of Special Education @nasdse will host a discussion on #ExpandingTheClassroom on Twitter.
Recent events have forced the education community, students, and parents to become creative about learning. Throughout this entire week, we’ve encouraged you to blanket Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter with messages on the importance of special education distance learning—especially now due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The theme was #ExpandingTheClassroom.
On June 5th, we’re hoping to turn that conversation live on Twitter with our first discussion.
Here’s how it works:
Every 10 minutes or so between 7 and 8 p.m., we’ll share a question such as:
Q1. What has been your greatest challenge when it comes to #ExpandingTheClassroom?
You’ll supply your answer like so:
A.1. My biggest challenge has been …
That’s it! Keep it short and to the point. We’re hoping to learn from each other. Be sure to tag us @nasdse and use our special hashtag #ExpandingTheClassroom
We’re hoping the education and advocacy communities, instructional support personnel, and parents will participate in our discussion. Later, we’ll offer a blog post filled with lessons learned – from you the participants. Don’t forget to tag others, get your photos ready, and prepare to share as we learn and educate one another about how we’re all coping with helping children learn. We’ll also highlight the amazing work the education community and parents are doing to make sure all students continue to receive their education—despite the pandemic.
Hosted by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education @nasdse
Discussion Questions:

Q1: What lessons have you learned that will stay with you after this experience? #ExpandingTheClassroom
Q2: What alternative and creative methods have you seen used to boost student and parent engagement? #ExpandingTheClassroom
Q3: Name one or two positive things you’ve learned about virtual learning.  #ExpandingTheClassroom
Q4: What tip do you think other state and local education leaders will find useful about #ExpandingTheClassroom?
Q5: As we plan for schools re-opening, name one thing your state/district has developed or is considering regarding post COVID-19 education? #ExpandingTheClassroom


Over the last few months, our country has been facing many very challenging events. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on national, state, and local systems including education. On a daily basis, we hear many negative stories in the press about one bad situation after the next. At NASDSE we have been hearing some amazing stories of resilience, creativity, and teamwork from students, families, and educators. During this week we will attempt to share and highlight those good stories. Please join us in sharing your stories of success at #ExpandingtheClassroom. We are using our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts to spread these messages of positivity. Join us for a Twitter chat discussion Friday, June 5th at 7 p.m. EST


NASDSE’s Social Media Campaign will kick off the Week of June 1st

During NASDSE’s weeklong Social Media Campaign, the education community will blanket Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter with messages on the importance of special education distance learning—especially now due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The theme is #ExpandingTheClassroom.
We’re hoping the education and advocacy communities, instructional support personnel, and parents will participate in this campaign.
In keeping with our goal of cultivating a sense of community and support, #NASDSE has launched #ExpandingtheClassroom, a #socialmedia campaign highlighting the amazing work the education community and parents are doing to make sure all students continue to receive their education—despite the pandemic.
You can help us bring awareness to this awesome campaign by sharing our content as well as your own and encouraging your fans and followers to share your stories across the social stratosphere. The campaign will culminate with a Twitter chat discussion Friday, June 5th at 7 p.m. EST, with participants using the #ExpandingTheClassroom hashtag to share the good news, creative strategies, and tips for helping students excel during this unprecedented time. They’ll also be asked to share lessons learned and the marvelous things they’ve discovered in our new normal.
Each day, we’ll share a new blog post highlighting what is taking place across the country by those who educate students and advocate for their well-being. Blog posts will include:
  • Best practices and creative strategies when #ExpandingTheClassroom
  • Using technology when #ExpandingTheClassroom
  • Helping your students excel while #ExpandingTheClassroom
  • Inspirational or encouraging messages used while #ExpandingTheClassroom
  • Final blog posts on lessons learned (drawn from the Twitter chat discussion)
In addition to images stamped with the #ExpandingTheClassroom hashtag; feel free to share facts and figures on distance learning, and an appeal for the education community, instructional support personnel, and parents to participate in our Twitter chat discussion by offering first-hand accounts of how they’re helping students continue to learn.

Social Media Took Kit:


The Early Beginnings of NASDSE: 1938 – 1947

National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the lineal descendants of the Conference of State Directors and Supervisors of Special Education, had its origin on September 26, 1938, when fifteen top special education workers from thirteen State Education Departments convened in the Office of Education in Washington at the call of Commissioner John W. Studebaker.

This was the first conference of its kind in United States history. Dr. Studebaker opened the meeting with the statement that he had been vitally interested in the education of atypical children since he was superintendent of schools in Des Moines, Iowa, and expressed the opinion that the time was ripe for summoning the top state supervisors of special education to an informal conference which would afford ample opportunity for a free exchange of views and a frank discussion of the problems and issues encountered in the planning of state programs. After this brief introductory statement, he appointed Dr. Elise H. Martins of the U.S. Office of Education, then known as Senior Specialist in the Education of Exceptional Children, to serve as chairman of the meeting.

The term “Exceptional Children” was interpreted to include: mentally handicapped, crippled and other kinds of physically handicapped, mentally superior children, and other types of children in need of special considerations, including the neurotic and the emotionally maladjusted.


NASDSE is pleased to announce that we have been successful in partnering with two brand new Federal OSEP Grants. The following is the list of new grants:

1. National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI):

2. National Technical Assistance Center to Improve State Capacity to Collect, Report, Analyze, and Use Accurate Early Childhood IDEA Data:

I am pleased to announce the launch of our new website. Please find a link that highlights many of the new features