Yesterday, I had the great opportunity in joining Melody Musgrove, director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement, in welcoming over 1,000 attendees to the Department of Education’s second annual OSEP Leadership Mega Conference in Arlington, Va. This year’s conference is entitled “Collaboration to Achieve Success from Cradle to Career,” and, runs from August 1-3, bringing together state directors of special education, lead agency early intervention coordinators, data managers, parents, state interagency representatives, Technical Assistance center staff and many others. The conference was designed to provide up-to-date information regarding Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) indicators, data analysis, student outcomes, early intervening services, Response to Intervention, Universal Design for Learning, service coordination and collaboration.
While my opening remarks were brief, I took the opportunity to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone present for all their hard work in meeting the needs of our infants, toddlers, children, youth with disabilities and their families. I also provided a brief update on the status of the IDEA Part C regulations, reminding the group of the common quote: “you usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.” I also shared information regarding the power of leadership and I was honored to share a story written by my son about the importance of “not quitting.” My son’s story spoke to the importance of commitment and goal setting and how both helped him to succeed as a high school football player.
The opening session also included a brief video on the 35 years of IDEA followed by an update from Melody Musgrove on the continuing work of OSEP and our continued progress towards collaboration with “general education,” including collaboration with the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), Title I and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Shelton described the new educational environment that focuses on individualization and personalization for all students and how general education is looking towards special education as a model, since individualized education is not only a requirement, but a priority in how we teach our students.
The rest of the conference is filled with information and insight ranging from innovation, transformation, collaboration and more. I want to extend tremendous gratitude to all of the participants for all that they do to support the success of our students.
If you would like more information, please see the OSEP Mega Conference website at http://mega-2011.tadnet.org/
Alexa Posny is the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education.