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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Applications for New Awards; Technical Assistance and Dissemination To Improve Services and Results for Children With Disabilities--Model Demonstration Projects for English Learners With or at Risk of Having a Disability

AGENCY: Office of Special Education Programs, Department of Education.
ACTION: Notice.

Overview Information:Technical Assistance and Dissemination To Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities--Model Demonstration Projects for English Learners With or At Risk of Having a Disability; Notice inviting applications for new awards for fiscal year (FY) 2011.

DATES: Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: September 14, 2011.
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 Disabilities program 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 or otherwise authorized in the statute (see sections 663 and 681(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1463 and 1481(d)).

Absolute Priority:For FY 2011 and any subsequent year in which we make awards based on 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:

Model Demonstration Projects for English Learners With or At Risk of Having a Disability (84.326M).

Background:

By the year 2030, English Learners1 will comprise an estimated 40 percent of the K-12 student population in the United States (National Symposium on Learning Disabilities in English Language Learners, 2003). While total enrollment of students in schools has increased by 20 percent over 15 years, there has been a 160-percent growth of English Learners enrolled in schoolsduring the same time period (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition [NCELA], 2008). Some States experienced up to a 700-percent growth in the number of English Learners in their schools between 1994-1995 and 2004-2005 (Payan & Nettles, n.d.). Given this growth in the number of English Learners enrolled in schools, we expect the number of English Learners with disabilities to increase.

Identifying English Learners with disabilities poses unique challenges for educators. This is because of the difficulty in determining whether a student's lack of academic development in reading is due to a disability or due to English not being the student's first language. As a group, English Learners receive lower grades and have higher dropout rates compared to their non-English Learner peers (Ballantyne, Sanderman, & Levy, 2008; McCardle, MeleMcCarthy, Cutting, Leos, & D'Emilio, 2005; Nation's Report Card, 2007). Many English Learners also exhibit low vocabulary levels in English and, therefore, do not always benefit from reading comprehension and writing supports that have proven effective in improving reading achievement2 with their English-speaking counterparts (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006). While an English Learner's low vocabulary levels may be due to the fact that English is not the student's first language, educators need to evaluate whether low vocabulary levels, low reading achievement scores, or other performance measures are indicators that a child has, or is at risk of having, a disability. However, due to the difficulty in determining if an English Learner's lack of academic progress in reading is due to a disability or due to English not being the student's first language, practitioners may wait up to five years to allow an English Learner to develop language skills before assessing whether the student has a learning disability (Limbos & Geva, 2001). For English Learners with, or at risk of having, a learning disability, waiting to intervene can negatively affect their academic progress--that is, delaying the identification of a student as a student with a disability delays the delivery of special education and related services that can help the student make academic progress.

Therefore, local educational agencies (LEAs) face two immediate challenges: improving the reading achievement of English Learners and then appropriately identifying those English Learners with, or at risk of having, a disability. There is emerging evidence supporting the use of multi-tiered instructional frameworks that include an emphasis on progress monitoring and culturally responsive principles to assist LEAs in addressing both challenges (Zehr, 2010).

A multi-tiered instructional framework integrates assessment and intervention to maximize student achievement. With a multi-tiered instructional framework, schools screen students to identify those at risk for poor learning outcomes, monitor student progress, provide evidence-based interventions, and adjust the intensity and nature of those interventions depending on a student's responsiveness to instruction (Office of Special Education Programs, 2011). Multi-tiered instructional frameworks include a varying number of tiers (or levels) of intensity of instruction. Commonly used frameworks typically describe three tiers. The primary level includes high-quality core instruction. The secondary level includes evidence-based intervention(s) of moderate intensity. The tertiary level includes individualized intervention(s) of increased intensity for students who show minimal response to instruction at the secondary level. At all levels, attention should be on fidelity of implementation, with consideration for cultural and linguistic responsiveness and recognition of student strengths (National Center on Response to Intervention, 2011).

Progress monitoring.Progress monitoring is an important component of a multi-tiered instructional framework that includes formative assessments administered at regular intervals to inform instructional decisionmaking and to determine if the interventions are meeting the needs of students. Progress monitoring has demonstrated promise as a means for early identification of students with disabilities, particularly students with learning disabilities (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2006; Kamps & Greenwood, 2005; Shapiro, Zigmond, Wallace, & Marston, 2011; Vaughn, 2003). In addition, researchers highly recommend progress monitoring as a means for working with English Learners and for assisting struggling readers (Gersten, Compton, Connor, Dimino, Santoro, Linan-Thompson, Tilly, 2008; Gersten, Baker, Shanahan, Linan-Thompson, Collins, P., Scarcella, 2007).

Culturally-responsive principles.Culturally responsive principles promote "redesigning the learning environments" and can support the development and success of all students, including English Learners. Some examples of incorporating culturally responsive principles into learning environments include communicating high expectations to all students, incorporating students' cultural and home experiences into lessons by reshaping the curriculum to reflect students' experiences, and engaging students in activities where they can converse with one another on topics that tap into their background knowledge and experiences (Gay, 2000; King, Artiles, & Kozleski, 2010). Culturally responsive principles can be applied to progress monitoring.

In 2006, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funded model demonstration projects that identified, developed, and refined exemplars of progress monitoring. Under those previously funded model demonstration projects, OSEP required a multi-tiered instructional framework that included universal screening, progress monitoring, and instructional interventions at varying levels of intensity. In those model demonstration projects, progress monitoring within a multi-tiered framework showed evidence of effectiveness in increasing reading achievement of students with and without disabilities in classrooms where the models were implemented (Shapiro, Zigmond, Wallace, & Marston, 2011). Through this priority, we seek to support projects that will systematically implement and evaluate multi-tiered instructional frameworks, which include progress monitoring, incorporate culturally responsive principles into the learning environment, and provide reading instruction and reading interventions at varying levels of intensity to improve outcomes for English Learners with, or at risk of having, a disability.

Priority:

The purpose of this priority is to support the establishment and operation of three model demonstration projects that will adapt, refine, and evaluate multi-tiered instructional frameworks as well as their components--progress monitoring, culturally responsive principles, reading instruction, and reading interventions--to determine if and to what extent the multi-tiered instructional frameworks: (1) Help to improve reading achievement and language development for English Learners with, or at risk of having, adisability and (2) are useful in assisting educators to determine if English Learners who are experiencing reading difficulties have a disability.

To be considered for funding under this absolute priority, applicants must meet the application requirements contained in this priority. Each model demonstration project (Project) 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 to be conducted by the grantee;

Dated: August 9, 2011 . Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
ACTION: 2For the purpose of this priority, when we refer to a student's "academic progress," "reading achievement," or "language development," or to test score outcomes, we are referring to the student's academic progress, reading achievement, or language development, or test score outcomes in content or a focus of study that is delivered in the English language.