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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; Overview Information; Technical Assistance and Dissemination To Improve Services and Results for Children With Disabilities--Model Demonstration Projects on Tiered Approaches for Improving the Writing Proficiency of High School Students; Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.326M.

DATES:

Applications Available:July 13, 2009.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications:August 12, 2009.

Deadline for Intergovernmental Review:August 24, 2009.

Full Text of AnnouncementI. Funding Opportunity Description

Purpose of Program:The purpose of the Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilitiesprogram is to promote academic achievement and to improve results for children with disabilities by providing technical assistance (TA), supporting model demonstration projects, disseminating useful information, and implementing activities that are supported by scientifically based research.

Priority:In accordance with 34 CFR 75.105(b)(2)(v), this priority is from allowable activities specified in the statute (see sections 663 and 681(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400et seq.).

Absolute Priority:For FY 2009 and any subsequent year in which we make awards from the list of unfunded applicants from this competition, this priority is an absolute priority. Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3), we consider only applications that meet this priority.

This priority is:

Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children With Disabilities--Model Demonstration Projects on Tiered Approaches for Improving the Writing Proficiency of High School Students.

Background

Writing skills are critical to success in both college and the workplace. With the inclusion of a writing portion on college entrance exams, such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), and the writing requirements in high stakes1 high school graduation exams, there is an increased emphasis on writing for all students in high school. Furthermore, college faculty and employers recognize that writing is a skill that students need to succeed in many postschool settings (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007). Yet, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in 2007, despite overall gains in performance on the eighth- and twelfth-grade NAEP Writing assessment, only 33 percent of eighth-grade students and 24 percent of twelfth-grade students scored at or above the proficient level in writing (Salahu-Din, Persky Miller, 2008). Students with disabilities scored almost 40 points below the scores of all students who participated in the assessment. The NAEP data and recommendations from policymakers (National Association of State Boards of Education, 2006) indicate the need to identify strategies that can improve writing proficiency among high school students.

Students who have writing difficulties, including those at risk for and with learning disabilities, may benefit from a variety of instructional interventions, especially those that provide authentic writing opportunities, facilitate the development of self-learning strategies, and allow for extensive peer-to-peer interaction (MacArthur Graham, 1993). Examining methodologies and interventions that have been effective in other educational settings may assist with developing strategies that can improve writing proficiency among high school students.

In an educational context, schoolwide tiered approaches are sometimes used to improve student learning and behavior. Tiered approaches typically use the following evidence-based components: Universal screening, progress monitoring, high-quality core instruction, and instructional interventions at varying levels of intensity based on students' learning needs. Using a tiered approach, educators monitor student progress and make data-based decisions about curriculum, instructional interventions, and student supports (Johnson, Mellard, Fuchs McKnight, 2006). In tiered approaches, students' responses to instruction are monitored to identify those students in need of more targeted and customized instruction (Fuchs Fuchs, 2007).

Educators most commonly implement tiered approaches in elementary schools (Deshler Kovaleski, 2007; Duffy, n.d.; Johnson Smith, 2008) and typically incorporate evidence-based instructional interventions related to reading, math, or behavior. Tiered approaches in elementary schools show promise for increasing students' achievement in each of these three areas (Burns, 2008; Canter, Klotz, Cowan, 2008) and may be applied with writing instruction as well (Hessler Konrad, 2008). Further, there is evidence that tiered approaches may serve as an impetus for educators to examine the referral process for special education services and promote early identification of children at risk for, or with, learning disabilities, particularly, students with specific learning disabilities (Fuchs Fuchs, 2007; National Research Center on Learning Disabilities, 2004). Practices inherent in the application of tiered approaches, such as the alignment of expected outcomes, teaching strategies, and assessment, along with the improvement of instructional decisionmaking by educators in both regular and special education that is associated with tiered approaches may also offer secondary benefits for students (Cummings, Atkins, Allison, Cole, 2008). These benefits include reductions in the frequency of challenging behaviors exhibited by students and enhanced academic engagement (Iovannone Dunlap, 2006; March Peters, 2002). Additionally, tiered approaches are characterized by collaboration between regular and special educators and teaching is tailored to student needs because instructional approaches are linked to student achievement (Duffy, n.d.).

Less is known about the potential of these approaches for improving outcomes for high school students. Due to the differences between elementary and secondary school settings (i.e., increased student mobility across classes, variation in student schedules, and increased emphasis on academic content), there is a need for additional work on assessing the effectiveness of tiered approaches for specific content areas in high schools. Further, the field is learning that many of the same strategies used at the elementary level, are also effective, or may be effective, at the secondary level (Heartland Area Education Agency 11, 2004). However, there continues to be a need to identify adaptations that need to be made based upon the high school context. Therefore, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is establishing a priority for Model Demonstration Projects on Tiered Approaches for Improving the Writing Proficiency of High School Students.

Priority

The purpose of this priority is to fund cooperative agreements to support the establishment and operation of three Model Demonstration Projects on Tiered Approaches for Improving the Writing Proficiency of High School Students (Projects) who have writing difficulties, including those at risk for and with learning disabilities. Each project must design, implement, and evaluate a tiered approach in high schools that incorporates evidenced-based components including screening, progress monitoring, core instruction, and instructional interventions at varying levels of intensity based on students' learning needs. The models must have writing as the core instructional component.

To be considered for funding under this absolute priority, applicants must meet the application requirements contained in this priority. All projects funded under this absolute priority also must meet the programmatic and administrative requirements specified in the priority.

Application Requirements. An applicant must include in its application--

(a) A logic model that depicts, at a minimum, the goals, activities, outputs, and outcomes of the proposed project. A logic model communicates how a project will achieve its outcomes and provides a framework for both the formative and summative evaluations of the project;Note:The following Web site provides more information on logic models and lists multiple online resources:http://www.cdc.gov/eval/resources.htm.

(b) A plan to implement the activities described in theProject Activitiessection of this priority;

(c) A plan, linked to the proposed project's logic model, for a formative evaluation of the proposed project's activities. The plan must describe how the formative evaluation will use clear performance objectives to ensure continuous improvement in the operation of the proposed project, including objective measures of progress in implementing the project and ensuring the quality of products and services;

(d) A description of the proposed model (tiered approach), supporting evidence for the model as a whole, and empirical support of the critical evidence-based components, including the writing instruction and interventions that comprise the model;

(e) The methods to be used for recruiting and selecting high schools if the applicant has not identified schools that are willing to participate in the model demonstrations. Applicants must put into place strategies for recruiting low-performing high schools. If the applicant has identified high schools willing to participate in the model demonstrations, also include a description of the demographics of the student population typically served by the schools, including information about the cultural and linguistic diversity of students. The final site selections must be determined in consultation with the OSEP Project Officer following the kick-off meeting;

(f) A budget for attendance at the following:

(1) A one and one half day kick-off meeting to be held in Washington, DC, within four weeks after receipt of the award and a one day annual planning meeting held in Washington, DC, with the OSEP Project Officer during each subsequent year of the project period.

(2) A three-day Project Directors' Conference in Washington, DC, during each year of the project period; and

(3) Two two-day trips annually to attend Department briefings, Department-sponsored conferences, and other meetings, as requested by OSEP.

Project Activities. To meet the requirements of this priority, each Project, at a minimum, must--

(a) In year one of the project, collaborate with the other Projects funded under this competition to conduct a systematic review of the research on:

(1) Tiered approaches, including tiered writing approaches in high school, and their evidence-based components; and

(2) Writing instruction and interventions for high school students. To the extent possible, build on existing research reviews, such as those on tiered approaches conducted by the OSEP-funded National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (http://www.nrcld.org) and use the standards established by the What Works Clearinghouse for identifying evidence-based interventions and practices in the research review (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/). If it is not possible to use these standards, other rigorous standards must be used. This work must be completed during the first year of the project and result in a comprehensive description of any evidence on the application of tiered approaches in high schools and writing instruction for high school students;

(b) Implement a model at the high school ninth grade level that:

(1) Includes evidence-based components such as universal screening, progress monitoring, and writing instruction and interventions at varying intensity levels; and

(2) May be adapted to address unique characteristics of the school that may affect writing proficiency, such as the cultural and linguistic diversity of the students.

(c) Adopt a staggered implementation design with longitudinal data collection in at least two high schools (high school A and high school B) using the following approach:

(1) Implement the model in one department in high school A in the fall of year two.

(2) Implement the model in high schools A and B in the fall of year three.

(3) Implement the model in high schools A and B in the fall of year four.

(4) Collect data on the writing proficiency of all students who participated in the model as they move through high school even though the projects will only implement the writing intervention in the ninth grade.

(d) Provide initial and ongoing professional development at the model demonstration sites to regular educators, special educators, related services providers, and administrators who are charged with implementing the model. Ensure that there is a process for providing feedback to these personnel on their implementation of the critical components of the model;

(e) Implement an evaluation plan that includes a detailed description of the model and the critical components of the model, a description of the school and district variables required to implement and sustain the model, and the processes for collecting and analyzing specific project and cross-project data related to the:

(1) Effectiveness of the model to improve student writing proficiency.

(2) Fidelity of the implementation of the model and acceptable variations based on the unique characteristics of schools that may affect writing proficiency, such as the cultural and linguistic diversity of students.

(3) Effectiveness of the professional development provided to personnel implementing the model. Common cross-site data to be collected must be determined in consultation with the OSEP Project Officer following the first cross-project meeting.

(4) Effectiveness of the model to inform the special education referral process.

(f) Identify methods for effectively supporting ongoing communication and collaboration among families, students, school staff, and project staff to support the implementation and evaluation of the model;

(g) Document the effects of the model on additional variables identified by the Project such as changes in student engagement, challenging behaviors, and instructional decisionmaking;

(h) Coordinate with the other Projects funded under this competition and the Model Demonstration Coordination Center (MDCC) to determine a cross-project plan for evaluating the impact of the models. The MDCC is a separate center funded by OSEP that is responsible for coordinating implementation and analyzing data to determine the effectiveness of the models. MDCC will develop a data coordination plan, cross-site data collection instruments, and common evaluation questions. MDCC will also synthesize and analyze data, monitor implementation fidelity, ensure data reliability, and foster information dissemination. As part of cross-site coordination, Projects must collect data across common measures as determined by MDCC that may or may not be the same as those proposed by the applicant. Common measures may include observations or data describing the context of schools, classrooms, orstudents participating in the project, as well as schools, classrooms, or students who did not participate in the project. The purpose of the data is to provide information on the contexts in which models are implemented and the effectiveness of the models;Note:The following Web site provides more information on the project resource commitments necessary for MDCC collaboration, see section entitled, "Project Resource Commitments" at:http://mdcc.sri.com/projectResourceCommitments.aspx;

(i) Communicate and collaborate on an ongoing basis with OSEP-funded projects, including the National Center on Response to Intervention (http://www.rti4success.org/) and the Center on Instruction (http://www.centeroninstruction.org) to share information on successful strategies and implementation challenges regarding tiered approaches in high schools;

(j) Develop a high-quality dissemination plan that reaches broad audiences including regular educators, special educators, related services providers, administrators, families, policymakers, and researchers.

The plan must specify how the grantee will collaborate with MDCC and with OSEP's Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network;

(k) Submit to the OSEP Project Officer and the Proposed Product Advisory Board at OSEP's Technical Assistance Coordinating Center (TACC), for approval, a proposal describing the content and purpose of any new product prior to development; and

(l) Maintain ongoing communication with the OSEP Project Officer and the MDCC through monthly phone conversations and e-mail communication.

References

Waiver of Proposed Rulemaking:Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (5 U.S.C. 553), the Department generally offers interested parties the opportunity to comment on proposed priorities and requirements. Section 681(d) of IDEA, however, makes the public comment requirements of the APA inapplicable to the priority in this notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Corinne Weidenthal, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 4120, Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2550. Telephone: (202) 245-6529.

If you use a TDD, call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

VIII. Other Information

Accessible Format:Individuals with disabilities can obtain this document and a copy of the application package in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette) by contacting the Grants and Contracts Services Team, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 5075, PCP, Washington, DC 20202-2550. Telephone: (202) 245-7363. If you use a TDD, call the FRS, toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

Electronic Access to This Document:You can view this document, as well as all other documents of this Department published in theFederal Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site:http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister.

To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in the Washington, DC area at (202) 512-1530.

Note:

The official version of this document is the document published in theFederal Register. Free Internet access to the official edition of theFederal Registerand the Code of Federal Regulations is available on GPO Access at:http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.html.

Delegation of Authority:The Secretary of Education has delegated authority to Andrew J. Pepin, Executive Administrator for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to perform the functions of the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Dated: July 8, 2009. Andrew J. Pepin, Executive Administrator for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
ACTION: 1"High stakes testing" is "the term used for assessments that determine if a student is retained in a grade or allowed to receive a diploma and graduate" (Lynch, 2000, p. 216).