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Notice

Special Education: State Program Improvement Grants Program; Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Years (FYs) 2000 and 2001

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Note to Applicants:

This notice is a complete application package. Together with the statute authorizing the program and the applicable regulations governing this program, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), this notice contains all of the information, application forms, and instructions needed to apply for a grant under this program.

Purpose of Program: The purpose of this program, authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997, is to assist State educational agencies and their partners referred to in Section 652(b) of IDEA with reforming and improving their systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transitional services, including their systems for professional development, technical assistance, and dissemination of knowledge about best practices, to improve results for children with disabilities.

Eligible Applicants: A State educational agency of one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or an outlying area (United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

General Requirements: (a) Projects funded under this notice must make positive efforts to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities in project activities (see Section 606 of IDEA);

(b) Applicants and grant recipients funded under this notice must involve individuals with disabilities or parents of individuals with disabilities in planning, implementing, and evaluating the projects (see Section 661(f)(1)(A) of IDEA); and

(c) Projects funded under these priorities must budget for a two-day Project Directors' meeting in Washington, D.C. during each year of the project.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: February 13, 2001.

Deadline for Intergovernmental Review: April 16, 2001.

Available Funds: $3.5 million of FY 2000 funds and an estimated $10.6 million of FY 2001 funds.

Estimated Range of Awards: Awards will be not less than $500,000, nor more than $2,000,000, in the case of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; and not less than $80,000, in the case of an outlying area. Consistent with EDGAR 34 CFR 75.104(b), we will reject any application that proposes a project funding level for any year that exceeds the stated maximum award amount for that year.

We will set the amount of each grant after considering:

(1) The amount of funds available for making the grants;

(2) The relative population of the State or outlying area; and

(3) The types of activities proposed by the State or outlying area.

Reasonable Accommodations: We will consider, and may fund, requests for additional funding as an addendum to an application to reflect the costs of reasonable accommodations necessary to allow individuals with disabilities to be employed on the project as personnel on project activities.

Estimated Average Size of Awards: $1,000,000.

Estimated Number of Awards: 13. We expect to make approximately three awards using FY 2000 funds and ten awards using FY 2001 funds. Awards using FY 2001 funds will be made after July 1, 2001.

Note:

The Department of Education is not bound by the estimated size and number of awards in this notice.

Project Period: Not less than one year and not more than five years.

Page Limits: Part III of each application submitted under a priority in this notice, the application narrative, is where an applicant addresses the selection criteria that are used by reviewers in evaluating the application. You must limit Part III to the equivalent of no more than the number of pages listed under each applicable priority, using the following standards:

  • A “page” is 8.5″ × 11″ (on one side only) with one-inch margins (top, bottom, and sides).
  • Double-space (no more than three lines per vertical inch) all text in the application narrative, including titles, headings, footnotes, quotations, and captions, as well as all text in charts, tables, figures, and graphs.
  • If using a proportional computer font, use no smaller than a 12-point font, and an average character density no greater than 18 characters per inch. If using a nonproportional font or a typewriter, do not use more than 12 characters per inch.

The page limit does not apply to Part I—the cover sheet; Part II—the budget section, including the narrative budget justification; Part IV, the assurances and certifications; or the one-page abstract, the resumes, the bibliography or references, or the letters of support. However, you must include all of the application narrative in Part III.

We will reject without consideration or evaluation any application if—

  • You apply these standards and exceed the page limit; or
  • You apply other standards and exceed the equivalent of the page limit.

Applicable Regulations: (a) The Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) in 34 CFR parts 75, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 85, and 86; and (b) The selection criteria for this program are drawn from EDGAR in 34 CFR 75.210.

Note:

The regulations in 34 CFR part 86 apply to institutions of higher education only.

Description of Program: The statutory authorization for this program and the application requirements that apply to this competition are set out in section 651-655 of the IDEA.

Findings and Purposes: (a) States are responding with some success to multiple pressures to improve educational and transitional services and results for children with disabilities in response to growing demands imposed by ever-changing factors, such as demographics, social policies, and labor and economic markets.

(b) In order for States to address those demands and to facilitate lasting systemic change that is of benefit to all students, including children with disabilities, States must involve local educational agencies, parents, individuals with disabilities and their families, teachers and other service providers, and other interested individuals and organizations in carrying out comprehensive strategies to improve educational results for children with disabilities.

(c) Targeted Federal financial resources are needed to assist States, working in partnership with others, to identify and make needed changes to address the needs of children with disabilities into the next century.

(d) State educational agencies, in partnership with local educational agencies and other individuals and organizations, are in the best position to identify and design ways to meet emerging and expanding demands to improve education for children with disabilities and to address their special needs.

(e) Research, demonstration, and practice over the past 20 years in special education and related disciplines have built a foundation of knowledge on which State and local systemic-change activities can now be based. Start Printed Page 62537

(f) Research, demonstration, and practice in special education and related disciplines have demonstrated that an effective educational system now and in the future must—

(1) Maintain high academic standards and clear performance goals for children with disabilities, consistent with the standards and expectations for all students in the educational system, and provide for appropriate and effective strategies and methods to ensure that students who are children with disabilities have maximum opportunities to achieve those standards and goals;

(2) Create a system that fully addresses the needs of all students, including children with disabilities, by addressing the needs of children with disabilities in carrying out educational reform activities;

(3) Clearly define, in measurable terms, the school and post-school results that children with disabilities are expected to achieve;

(4) Promote service integration, and the coordination of State and local education, social, health, mental health, and other services, in addressing the full range of student needs, particularly the needs of children with disabilities who require significant levels of support to maximize their participation and learning in school and the community;

(5) Ensure that children with disabilities are provided assistance and support in making transitions as described in section 674(b)(3)(C) of the Act;

(6) Promote comprehensive programs of professional development to ensure that the persons responsible for the education or a transition of children with disabilities possess the skills and knowledge necessary to address the educational and related needs of those children;

(7) Disseminate to teachers and other personnel serving children with disabilities research-based knowledge about successful teaching practices and models and provide technical assistance to local educational agencies and schools on how to improve results for children with disabilities;

(8) Create school-based disciplinary strategies that will be used to reduce or eliminate the need to use suspension and expulsion as disciplinary options for children with disabilities;

(9) Establish placement-neutral funding formulas and cost-effective strategies for meeting the needs of children with disabilities; and

(10) Involve individuals with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities in planning, implementing, and evaluating systemic-change activities and educational reforms.

Absolute Priority: Under section 653 and 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3), we will give an absolute preference to applications that meet the following priority. We will fund under this competition only those applications that meet this absolute priority.

This priority supports projects that assist State educational agencies and their partners in reforming and improving their systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transitional services, including their systems for professional development, technical assistance, and dissemination of knowledge about best practices, to improve results for children with disabilities.

State Improvement Plan. Applicants must submit a State improvement plan that—

(a) Is integrated, to the maximum extent possible, with State plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if appropriate;

(b) Identifies those critical aspects of early intervention, general education, and special education programs (including professional development, based on an assessment of State and local needs) that must be improved to enable children with disabilities to meet the goals established by the State under section 612(a)(16) of the Act. Specifically, applicants must include:

(1) An analysis of all information, reasonably available to the State educational agency, on the performance of children with disabilities in the State, including—

(i) Their performance on State assessments and other performance indicators established for all children, including drop-out rates and graduation rates;

(ii) Their participation in postsecondary education and employment; and

(iii) How their performance on the assessments and indicators compares to that of non-disabled children;

(2) An analysis of State and local needs for professional development for personnel to serve children with disabilities that includes, at a minimum:

(i) The number of personnel providing special education and related services; and

(ii) Relevant information on current and anticipated personnel vacancies and shortages (including the number of individuals described in paragraph (b)(2)(i) with temporary certification), and on the extent of certification or retraining necessary to eliminate those shortages, that is based, to the maximum extent possible, on existing assessments of personnel needs;

(3) An analysis of the major findings of the Secretary's most recent reviews of State compliance, as they relate to improving results for children with disabilities; and

(4) An analysis of other information, reasonably available to the State, on the effectiveness of the State's systems of early intervention, special education, and general education in meeting the needs of children with disabilities;

(c) Describes a partnership agreement that—

(1) Specifies—

(i) The nature and extent of the partnership among the State educational agency, local educational agencies, and other State agencies involved in, or concerned with, the education of children with disabilities, and the respective roles of each member of the partnership; and

(ii) How those agencies will work in partnership with other persons and organizations involved in, and concerned with, the education of children with disabilities, including the respective roles of each of these persons and organizations; and

(2) Is in effect for the period of the grant;

(d) Describes how grant funds will be used in undertaking the systemic-change activities, and the amount and nature of funds from any other sources, including funds under part B of the Act retained for use at the State level under sections 611(f) and 619(d) of the Act, that will be committed to the systemic-change activities;

(e) Describes the strategies the State will use to address the needs identified under paragraph (b), including how it will—

(1) Change State policies and procedures to address systemic barriers to improving results for children with disabilities;

(2) Hold local educational agencies and schools accountable for educational progress of children with disabilities;

(3) Provide technical assistance to local educational agencies and schools to improve results for children with disabilities;

(4) Address the identified needs for in-service and pre-service preparation to ensure that all personnel who work with children with disabilities (including both professional and paraprofessional personnel who provide special education, general education, related services, or early intervention services) have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of children with Start Printed Page 62538disabilities, including a description of how it will—

(i) Prepare general and special education personnel with the content knowledge and collaborative skills needed to meet the needs of children with disabilities, including how the State will work with other States on common certification criteria;

(ii) Prepare professionals and paraprofessionals in the area of early intervention with the content knowledge and collaborative skills needed to meet the needs of infants and toddlers with disabilities;

(iii) Work with institutions of higher education and other entities that (on both a pre-service and an in-service basis) prepare personnel who work with children with disabilities to ensure that those institutions and entities develop the capacity to support quality professional development programs that meet State and local needs;

(iv) Work to develop collaborative agreements with other States for the joint support and development of programs to prepare personnel for which there is not sufficient demand within a single State to justify support or development of a program of preparation;

(v) Work in collaboration with other States, particularly neighboring States, to address the lack of uniformity and reciprocity in the credentialing of teachers and other personnel;

(vi) Enhance the ability of teachers and others to use strategies, like behavioral interventions, to address the conduct of children with disabilities that impedes the learning of children with disabilities and others;

(vii) Acquire and disseminate, to teachers, administrators, school board members, and related services personnel, significant knowledge derived from educational research and other sources, and how the State, if appropriate, will adopt promising practices, materials, and technology;

(viii) Recruit, prepare, and retain qualified personnel, including personnel with disabilities and personnel from groups that are underrepresented in the fields of regular education, special education, and related services;

(ix) Integrate its plan, to the maximum extent possible, with other professional development plans and activities, including plans and activities developed and carried out under other Federal and State laws that address personnel recruitment and training; and

(x) Provide for the joint training of parents and special education, related services, and general education personnel;

(5) Address systemic problems identified in Federal compliance reviews, including shortages of qualified personnel;

(6) Disseminate results of the local capacity-building and improvement projects funded under section 611(f)(4) of the Act;

(7) Address improving results for children with disabilities in the geographic areas of greatest need;

(8) Assess, on a regular basis, the extent to which the strategies implemented under this subpart have been effective; and

(9) Coordinate its improvement strategies with public and private sector resources.

Required partners. Applicants must:

(a) Establish a partnership with local educational agencies and other State agencies involved in, or concerned with, the education of children with disabilities; and

(b) Work in partnership with other persons and organizations involved in, and concerned with, the education of children with disabilities, including—

(1) The Governor;

(2) Parents of children with disabilities;

(3) Parents of nondisabled children;

(4) Individuals with disabilities;

(5) Organizations representing individuals with disabilities and their parents, such as the parent training and information centers;

(6) Community-based and other nonprofit organizations involved in the education and employment of individuals with disabilities;

(7) The lead State agency for part C of the Act;

(8) General and special education teachers, and early intervention personnel;

(9) The State advisory panel established under part B of the Act;

(10) The State interagency coordinating council established under part C of the Act; and

(11) Institutions of higher education within the State.

Optional partners. A partnership established by applicants may also include—

(a) Individuals knowledgeable about vocational education;

(b) The State agency for higher education;

(c) The State vocational rehabilitation agency;

(d) Public agencies with jurisdiction in the areas of health, mental health, social services, and juvenile justice; and

(e) Other individuals.

Reporting procedures. Each State educational agency that receives a grant must submit performance reports to the Secretary pursuant to a schedule to be determined by the Secretary, but not more frequently than annually. The reports must describe the progress of the State in meeting the performance goals established under Section 612(a)(16) of the Act, analyze the effectiveness of the State's strategies in meeting those goals, and identify any changes in the strategies needed to improve its performance. Grantees must also provide information required under EDGAR at 34 CFR 80.40.

Use of funds. Each State educational agency that receives a State Improvement Grant under this program—

(a) May use grant funds to carry out any activities that are described in the State's application and that are consistent with the purpose of this program;

(b) Shall, consistent with its partnership agreement established under the grant, award contracts or subgrants to local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and parent training and information centers, as appropriate, to carry out its State improvement plan; and

(c) May award contracts and subgrants to other public and private entities, including the lead agency under part C of the Act, to carry out that plan;

(d)(1) Shall use not less than 75 percent of the funds it receives under the grant for any fiscal year—

(i) To ensure that there are sufficient regular education, special education, and related services personnel who have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities and developmental goals of young children; or

(ii) To work with other States on common certification criteria; or

(2) Shall use not less than 50 percent of those funds for these purposes, if the State demonstrates to the Secretary's satisfaction that it has the personnel described in paragraph (d)(1).

Selection Criteria: We will use the following selection criteria in 34 CFR 75.210 to evaluate applications for new grants under this competition. The maximum score for all of these criteria is 100 points. The maximum score for each criterion is indicated in parentheses.

(a) Need for project. (19 points). (1) The Secretary considers the need for the proposed project.

(2) In determining the need for the proposed project the Secretary considers the extent to which specific gaps or weaknesses in services, infrastructure, or opportunities have been identified and will be addressed by the proposed Start Printed Page 62539project, including the nature and magnitude of those gaps or weaknesses.

(b) Significance. (19 points). (1) The Secretary considers the significance of the proposed project.

(2) In determining the significance of the proposed project, the Secretary considers the likelihood that the proposed project will result in system change or improvement.

(c) Quality of the project design. (19 points).

(1) The Secretary considers the quality of the design of the proposed project.

(2) In determining the quality of the design of the proposed project, the Secretary considers the following factors:

(i) The extent to which the goals, objectives, and outcomes to be achieved by the proposed project are clearly specified and measurable.

(ii) The extent to which the design of the proposed project is appropriate to, and will successfully address, the needs of the target population or other identified needs.

(iii) The extent to which the proposed activities constitute a coherent, sustained program of training in the field.

(iv) The extent to which the design of the proposed project reflects up-to-date knowledge from research and effective practice.

(v) The extent to which the proposed project will establish linkages with other appropriate agencies and organizations providing services to the target population.

(vi) The extent to which the proposed project is part of a comprehensive effort to improve teaching and learning and support rigorous academic standards for students.

(d) Quality of project personnel. (8 points).

(1) The Secretary considers the quality of the personnel who will carry out the proposed project.

(2) In determining the quality of project personnel, the Secretary considers the extent to which the applicant encourages applications for employment from persons who are members of groups that have traditionally been underrepresented based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability.

(3) In addition, the Secretary considers the following factors:

(i) The qualifications, including relevant training and experience, of key project personnel.

(ii) The qualifications, including relevant training and experience, of project consultants or subcontractors.

(e) Adequacy of resources. (8 points). (1) The Secretary considers the adequacy of resources for the proposed project.

(2) In determining the adequacy of resources for the proposed project, the Secretary considers the following factors:

(i) The adequacy of support, including facilities, equipment, supplies, and other resources, from the applicant organization or the lead applicant organization.

(ii) The relevance and demonstrated commitment of each partner in the proposed project to the implementation and success of the project.

(iii) The extent to which the budget is adequate to support the proposed project.

(iv) The extent to which the costs are reasonable in relation to the objectives, design, and potential significance of the proposed project.

(v) The potential for continued support of the project after Federal funding ends, including, as appropriate, the demonstrated commitment of appropriate entities to this type of support.

(f) Quality of the management plan. (8 points). (1) The Secretary considers the quality of the management plan for the proposed project.

(2) In determining the quality of the management plan for the proposed project, the Secretary considers the following factors:

(i) The adequacy of the management plan to achieve the objectives of the proposed project on time and within budget, including clearly defined responsibilities, timelines, and milestones for accomplishing project tasks.

(ii) How the applicant will ensure that a diversity of perspectives are brought to bear in the operation of the proposed project, including those of parents, teachers, the business community, a variety of disciplinary and professional fields, recipients or beneficiaries of services, or others, as appropriate.

(g) Quality of the project evaluation. (19 points). (1) The Secretary considers the quality of the evaluation to be conducted of the proposed project.

(2) In determining the quality of the evaluation, the Secretary considers the following factors:

(i) The extent to which the methods of evaluation are thorough, feasible, and appropriate to the goals, objectives, and outcomes of the proposed project.

(ii) The extent to which the methods of evaluation provide for examining the effectiveness of project implementation strategies.

(iii) The extent to which the methods of evaluation include the use of objective performance measures that are clearly related to the intended outcomes of the project and will produce quantitative and qualitative data to the extent possible.

(iv) The extent to which the methods of evaluation will provide performance feedback and permit periodic assessment of progress toward achieving intended outcomes.

Competitive Preference: Within this absolute priority, we will give the following competitive preference under section 606 of IDEA and 34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i) to applications that are otherwise eligible for funding under this priority:

Up to ten (10) points based on the effectiveness of the applicant's strategies for employing and advancing in employment qualified individuals with disabilities as project employees in project activities as required under paragraph (a) of the “General Requirements” section of this notice. In determining the effectiveness of those strategies, we may consider the applicant's past success in pursuit of this goal.

For purposes of this competitive preference, applicants can be awarded up to a total of 10 points in addition to those awarded under the published selection criteria for this priority. That is, an applicant meeting these competitive preferences could earn a maximum total of 110 points.

Intergovernmental Review

This program is subject to Executive Order 12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR Part 79. One of the objectives of the Executive order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened federalism. The Executive order relies on processes developed by State and local governments for coordination and review of proposed Federal financial assistance.

This document provides early notification of our specific plans and actions for this program.

Applicants must contact the appropriate State Single Point of Contact to find out about, and to comply with, the State's process under Executive order 12372. Applicants proposing to perform activities in more than one State should immediately contact the Single Point of Contact for each of those States and follow the procedure established in each State under the Executive Order. The addresses of individual State Single Point of Contact are in the Appendix to this notice.

In States that have not established a process or chosen a program for review, State, areawide, regional, and local Start Printed Page 62540entities may submit comments directly to the Department.

Any State Process Recommendation and other comments submitted by a State Single Point of Contact and any comments from State, areawide, regional, and local entities must be mailed or hand-delivered by the date indicated in this notice to the following address: The Secretary, E.O. 12372—CFDA# 84.323A, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Washington, D.C. 20202-0124.

Proof of mailing will be determined on the same basis as applications (see 34 CFR 75.102). Recommendations or comments may be hand-delivered until 4:30 p.m. (Washington, D.C. time) on the date indicated in this notice.

Please note that the above address is not the same address as the one to which the applicant submits its completed application. Do not send applications to the above address.

Instructions for Transmittal of Applications: (a) If an applicant wants to apply for a grant, the applicant must—

(1) Mail the original and six copies of the application on or before the deadline date to: U.S. Department of Education, Application Control Center, Attention: (CFDA# 84.323A), Washington, D.C. 20202-4725; or

(2) Hand-deliver the original and six copies of the application by 4:30 p.m. (Washington, D.C. time) on or before the deadline date to: U.S. Department of Education, Application Control Center, Attention: (CFDA# 84.323A), Room #3633, Regional Office Building #3, 7th and D Streets, SW., Washington, D.C.

(b) An applicant must show one of the following as proof of mailing:

(1) A legibly dated U.S. Postal Service postmark.

(2) A legible mail receipt with the date of mailing stamped by the U.S. Postal Service.

(3) A dated shipping label, invoice, or receipt from a commercial carrier.

(4) Any other proof of mailing acceptable to the Secretary.

(c) If an application is mailed through the U.S. Postal Service, the Secretary does not accept either of the following as proof of mailing:

(1) A private metered postmark.

(2) A mail receipt that is not dated by the U.S. Postal Service.

Notes:

(1) The U.S. Postal Service does not uniformly provide a dated postmark. Before relying on this method, an applicant should check with its local post office.

(2) The Application Control Center will mail a Grant Application Receipt Acknowledgment to each applicant. If an applicant fails to receive the notification of application receipt within 15 days from the date of mailing the application, the applicant should call the U.S. Department of Education Application Control Center at (202) 708-9495.

(3) The applicant must indicate on the envelope and—if not provided by the Department—in Item 10 of the Application for Federal Assistance (Standard Form 424) the CFDA number and suffix letter, if any, of the competition under which the application is being submitted.

Application Instructions and Forms: The appendix to this notice is divided into three parts, plus a statement regarding estimated public reporting burden, additional non-regulatory guidance, and various assurances, certifications, and required documentation. These parts and additional materials are organized in the same manner that the submitted application should be organized. The parts and additional materials are as follows:

Part I: Application for Federal Assistance (Standard Form 424 (Rev. 4-88)) and instructions.

Part II: Budget Information—Non-Construction Programs (ED Form No. 524) and instructions. The budget section of the application form requires all applicants for multi-year projects to provide detailed budget information for the total grant period requested. The Department will establish, at the time of initial award, the funding levels for each year of the grant award. By requesting detailed budget information in the initial application for the total grant period, the need for a formal noncompeting continuation application in the remaining years has been eliminated. A performance report will be required annually to determine substantial progress, rather than a non-competing continuation application.

Part III: Application Narrative.

Additional Materials

The following forms and other items must be included in the application:

a. Estimated Public Reporting Burden.

b. Assurances—Non-Construction Programs (Standard Form 424B) and instructions.

c. Certifications Regarding Lobbying; Debarment, Suspension, and Other Responsibility Matters; and Drug-Free Workplace Requirements (ED 80-0013).

d. Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension, Ineligibility and Voluntary Exclusion—Lower Tier Covered Transactions (ED 80-0014) and instructions.

Note:

ED Form GCS-0014 is intended for the use of grantees and should not be transmitted to the Department.

e. Certification of Eligibility for Federal Assistance in Certain Programs (ED 80-0016.

f. Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (Standard Form LLL) (if applicable) and instructions. The document has been marked to reflect statutory changes. See the notice published by the Office of Management and Budget in the Federal Register (61 FR 1413) on January 19, 1996.

g. Addresses of the individual State Single Point of Contact.

h. Table of Contents.

An applicant may submit information on a photostatic copy of the application and budget forms, the assurances, and the certifications. However, the application form, the assurances, and the certifications must each have an original signature. All applicants must submit one original signed application, including ink signatures on all forms and assurances, and three copies of the application. Please mark each application as “original” or “copy”. No grant may be awarded unless a completed application has been received.

For Applications and General Information Contact: Requests for applications and general information should be addressed to the Grants and Contracts Services Team, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., room 3317, Switzer Building, Washington, D.C. 20202-2641. The preferred method for requesting information is to FAX your request to: (202) 205-8717. Telephone: (202) 260-9182. Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the TDD number: (202) 205-8953.

Individuals with disabilities may obtain a copy of this notice or the application packages referred to in this notice in an alternate format (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette) by contacting the Department as listed above. However, the Department is not able to reproduce in an alternate format the standard forms included in the application package.

Electronic Access to This Document

You may view this document, as well as all other Department of Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at either of the following sites:

http://ocfo.ed.gov/​fedreg.htm

http://www.ed.gov/​news.html

To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at either of the previous sites. 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 Start Printed Page 62541Washington, DC., area at (202) 512-1530.

Note:

The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is available on GPO access at: http://www.access.gpo/​nara/​index.html.

Start Authority

Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1405, 1461, 1472, 1474, and 1487.

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: October 12, 2000.

Judith E. Heumann,

Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

End Signature

Instructions for Estimated Public Reporting Burden

According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The valid OMB control number for this information collection is OMB No. 1820-0620. The time required to complete this information collection is estimated to average between 50-130 hours per response, including the time to review instructions, search existing data resources, gather the data needed, and complete and review the information collection. If you have any comments concerning the accuracy of the time estimate or suggestions for improving this form, please write to: U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202-4651. If you have any comments or concerns regarding the status of your individual submission of this form, write directly to: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, D.C. 20202-2641.

Application Narrative

The narrative should address fully all aspects of the selection criteria in the order listed and should give detailed information regarding each criterion. Do not simply paraphrase the criteria. Provide position descriptions, not resumes.

Budget

Budget line items must support the goals and objectives of the proposed project and be directly applicable to the program design and all other project components.

Final Application Preparation

Use the above checklist to verify that all items are addressed. Prepare one original with an original signature, and include three additional copies. Do not use elaborate bindings or covers. The application must be mailed to the Application Control Center (ACC) and postmarked by the deadline date of February 13, 2001.

Questions and Answers

Following is a series of questions and answers that will serve as guidance for State Educational Agency in completing the grant application for a State Improvement Grant (SIG) as authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The questions were chosen to provide additional insight into the statutory requirements contained in the grant application. The questions were generated from a number of sources including parents of students with disabilities, Regional Resource Centers, the Federal Resource Center, State Directors of Special Education, State Education Agency staff and staff from the Office of Special Education Programs.

Eligible Applicants

1. Who may apply for a State Improvement Grant?

A State Educational Agency of one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or an outlying area (United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).[1] (sections 602(18), 602(27), 652(a), and 655(a)(1)(2)).

2. Can two or more SEAs apply jointly for a SIG?

No. A State applying for a State Improvement Grant must submit an individual application. However, included in the application will be a description of how: (1) The State will work to develop collaborative agreements with other States for the joint support and development of programs to prepare personnel for which there is not sufficient demand within a single State to justify support or development of this type of program of preparation; and (2) the State will work in collaboration with other States, particularly neighboring States, to address the lack of uniformity and reciprocity in the credentialing of teachers and other personnel (section 653(c)(3)(D)(iv) and (v)).

Partners

3. With whom is the State supposed to form partnerships and how are the partnerships structured?

Part D Subpart 1—State Program Improvement Grants for Children with Disabilities, section 652(b) describes three types of State partners. In order to be considered for a State Improvement Grant, a State educational agency must establish a partnership with individuals and organizations considered “Required Partners.” Required partners are made up of two subsets of partners—those called “Contractual partners” and those called “Other partners.” The SEA's contractual partners are local educational agencies and other State agencies involved in, or concerned with, the education of children with disabilities. These partners are called contractual because they must be parties to a formal “partnership agreement” that is explained further below in question four.

The other partners are individuals and organizations involved in, and concerned with, the education of children with disabilities, with whom the SEA must work in partnership to implement the State improvement grant. Other partners may be, but the SEA is not required to make them, parties to the formal partnership agreement. Those “other partners” must include the Governor; parents of children with disabilities; parents of nondisabled children; individuals with disabilities; organizations representing individuals with disabilities and their parents, such as the parent training and information centers; [2] community-based and other nonprofit organizations involved in the education and employment of individuals with disabilities; the lead State agency for Part C; general and special education teachers, and early intervention personnel; the State advisory panel established under Part B; the State interagency coordinating council established under Part C; and institutions of higher education (IHEs) within the State. The State is encouraged to only partner with those IHEs that are currently implementing or, based on the partnership Agreement, will develop and implement, training programs that are consistent with the principles of IDEA Amendments of 1997 (e.g., training that facilitates access to the general education curriculum; training that facilitates inclusionary practices; joint training of general educators, special educators and parents, where appropriate; training that targets pedagogical practices that focus on accommodating and modifying instruction to meet State standards). Based on the needs assessment, the State must focus at least 75% of the funds received under the State Start Printed Page 62542Improvement Grant on the professional development and training of regular education, special education, or related services personnel (only 50% of the funds must be used on professional development if the State can demonstrate to the Department that it has sufficient personnel; see question 13 for additional clarification). In order to ensure that the perspectives of school based staff are represented in the grant activities, the State is encouraged to incorporate into its partnership agreement and partnership activities, professional organizations that negotiate for and may represent school-based staff.

In addition to required partners, the SEA, at its option, may include as partner's individuals and organizations called “Optional Partners”. The SEA may include “optional partners” as parties to the formal partnership agreement or work in partnership with them, without them being parties to the partnership agreement. Those optional partners may include individuals knowledgeable about vocational education, the State agency for higher education, the State vocational rehabilitation agency, public agencies with jurisdiction in the areas of health, mental health, social services, and juvenile justice and other individuals.

4. What is the partnership agreement and what must it include?

Each State's application must include a description of the partnership agreement entered into by the SEA with its contractual partners and with any “other” and “optional” partners who will be parties to the partnership agreement. As specified in the grant application package, the partnership agreement must specify the nature and extent of the partnership among the SEA, the LEAs, and other State agencies involved in, or concerned with, the education of children with disabilities. It must specify the respective roles of each member of the partnership in the implementation of the proposed State improvement grant. The partnership agreement must also specify how the SEA, LEAs, and other State agencies identified above, will work in partnership with other persons and organizations involved in, and concerned with, the education of children with disabilities (these would be the “other partners” and any “optional partners”), and must specify the respective roles of each of these persons and organizations (section 653(c)(1)(B)).

The partnership agreement must indicate that it is in effect for the period of the grant. The terms of the partnership agreement will determine whether the SEA will award subgrants or contracts to any of the partners listed in section 654(a)(2)(A).

5. What is the connection between the partnership agreement and the SEA's use of funds?

The SEA must, as appropriate, award contracts or subgrants to LEAs, IHEs, and parent training and information centers identified in the partnership agreement to carry out the State improvement grant activities. To carry out the State improvement grant activities, the SEA may also award contracts and subgrants to other public and private entities, including the lead agency under Part C and other agencies that are partners, as well as public and private entities that are not partners. It is anticipated that an SEA will need and desire the resources of other individuals and organizations to develop and implement all of the systemic change, technical assistance, in-service and pre-service training, dissemination and assessment activities designated in the State improvement grant application. There is, however, no required amount of funds that must be used for contracts or subgrants (section 654(a)(2)).

Funding Availability and Levels

6. What are the grant amounts to States?

We must make a grant to each State educational agency whose application we selected for funding under this subpart in an amount for each fiscal year that is: (1) Not less than $500,000, nor more than $2,000,000, in the case of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; and (2) not less than $80,000, in the case of an outlying area (United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Section 655(a)). This means that the Department will reject and will not consider any application that proposes a budget that exceeds the maximum award amount or is less than the minimum award amount for any single budget period of 12 months. However, we will consider, and may fund, requests for additional funding as an addendum to an application to reflect the costs of reasonable accommodations necessary to allow individuals with disabilities to be employed on the project as personnel on project activities.

Note:

As soon as the procedures for implementing reasonable accommodations are finalized, they will be posted on OSERS homepage at: www.ed.gov/​offices/​OSERS.

7. How will decisions be made regarding the amount of funds that States will receive if approved for a State Improvement Grant?

The Department will set the amount of each grant, within the limits outlined in the response to question 6, after considering: (1) The relative population of the State; (2) the types of activities proposed by the State; and (3) the amount of funds available for making the grants (section 655(c)). Using the same considerations, we funded successful applications for fiscal years 1998 and 1999 at the following levels:

North Dakota$500,000
Vermont500,000
Alaska550,000
Montana550,000
Nebraska575,816
Utah578,551
New Hampshire600,000
Hawaii600,000
Idaho625,000
Oklahoma814,000
Iowa875,526
Kansas900,000
Connecticut920,000
Kentucky1,000,000
Massachusetts1,009,000
Minnesota1,015,000
Alabama1,025,000
Georgia1,060,000
Maryland1,095,000
Missouri1,145,000
North Carolina1,210,000
Virginia1,240,000
Ohio1,320,000
Pennsylvania1,320,000
Michigan1,320,000
Illinois1,400,000
California1,840,000

8. How will the connection between grant amounts and “need” be determined?

As previously stated in the response to question 7, we must set the amount of each grant after considering: (1) The relative population of the State; (2) the types of activities proposed by the State or outlying area; and (3) the amount of funds available for making the grants. “Need” will be determined through the quality of the needs assessment performed under section 653(b) including: (i) an analysis of all information, reasonably available to the State educational agency, on the performance of children with disabilities in the State; (ii) an analysis of State and local needs for professional development for personnel to serve children with disabilities; (iii) an analysis of the major findings of the Department's most recent reviews of State compliance, as they relate to improving results for children with disabilities; and (iv) an analysis of other information, for example, findings made by the Department's Office for Civil Rights, reasonably available to the State, on the effectiveness of the State's systems of early intervention, special education, and general education in Start Printed Page 62543meeting the needs of children with disabilities.

9. What we will consider in making an award on a competitive basis?

Using the selection criteria identified elsewhere in this application package, we expect to select for funding applications from States that demonstrate a need for improvement and effective strategies to meet those State needs. The application should show how the State plans to fulfill the purpose of the State Improvement Grant, which is to assist State educational agencies and their partners in reforming and improving their systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transitional services, including their systems for professional development, technical assistance, and dissemination of knowledge about best practices, to improve results for children with disabilities. We will give priority to applications on the basis of need, as indicated by information from the findings of Federal compliance reviews (section 653(d)).

Improvement Strategies and Use of Funds

10. Can funds from the State Improvement Grants be distributed to LEAs on a competitive basis?

Yes. The statute does not provide a particular method for States to use when distributing State Improvement Grant funds to LEAs or other entities. When awarding and administering subgrants, under 34 CFR 80.37(a), the State must follow State law and procedures. As long as the SEA's proposal to contract or subgrant SIG funds is consistent with the partnership agreement and the funds are used to support the activities specified in the approved grant application, there is no statutory prohibition against the funds being distributed to LEAs on a competitive basis.

11. Can charter schools be involved as partners in the State Improvement Grant?

Yes. Charter schools are schools under contract—or charter—between a public agency and groups of parents, teachers, community leaders or others who want to create alternatives and choice within the public school system. Charter schools can be involved as partners in the State Improvement Grant, either as an LEA or as part of an existing LEA, consistent with the State charter schools law.

12. Does the “service obligation” apply to the use of State Improvement Grant funds if they are being used for scholarships?

No. The “service obligation” contained under the personnel preparation discretionary grant program provides that a recipient of a scholarship funded by the personnel preparation program under section 673(b), (c), (e), and to the extent appropriate (d), must subsequently perform work in the field in which they were trained or repay the cost of the financial assistance. The service obligation only applies to scholarships awarded under the personnel preparation program. However, consistent with State law, a SEA may impose its own service obligation.

13. Can funds be used to prepare early intervention personnel?

Yes, but only in limited circumstances. Under section 654(b)(1), a State educational agency that receives a grant must use not less than 75 percent of the funds it receives under the grant for any fiscal year to work with other States on common certification criteria or to ensure that there are sufficient regular education, special education, and related services personnel who have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities and developmental goals of young children. This section ensures that based on the needs assessment, the State focuses at least 75% of the funds received under the State Improvement Grant on the professional development and training of regular education, special education, or related services personnel. Only 50% of the funds must be used on professional development if the State can demonstrate to the Department that it has sufficient personnel. Training that prepares personnel to deliver early intervention services that could not also be considered regular education, special education, or related services would not be a permissible use of the 75%, or 50% as the case may be, of the funds. However, it would be permissible for early intervention personnel to participate in training in those areas of special education and related services that would be useful to them, even if the training is funded using the 75% of the funds. There is no limitation on the use of the remaining 25% of the funds received under the SIG; it can be used to train personnel to provide early intervention services or for any other activity in an approved SIG.

14. How does a State demonstrate that it meets the requirement to use at least 75% (or 50% if applicable) of the grant funds for professional development?

States should structure the presentation of their budget so that the Department can easily determine that the State has met the 75% or 50% requirement as the case may be.

15. What is the relationship of the SIG to the State set aside under Part B?

In order to carry out the activities proposed in the State's SIG application, a State may choose to supplement the State Improvement Grant award with funds from the IDEA Part B State set aside (i.e., the portion of the IDEA, Part B grant awards retained for use by the SEA under sections 611(f) and 619(d) of the Act for discretionary purposes).

16. Can funds from sources other than the SIG be used to support the required activities for awards under this program?

Yes. In addition to the SIG award, funds from other sources (e.g., other IDEA discretionary grants, Part B State set aside funds, preschool grants) may be used, so long as those activities are permissible under the funding statute and regulations to carry out any activities described in the State's SIG application. States may also use funds from private sources (e.g. foundations) to carry out activities described in the State's application. In its State Improvement Plan, the State must describe the amount and nature of funds from any other sources, including the Part B funds retained for use under sections 611(f) and 619(d) of the Act and Part D discretionary funds that will be committed to the SIG program.

17. Can SIG funds be used for direct services to children with disabilities?

Yes. The statute does not forbid the use of SIG funds for direct services to children with disabilities; however, funding for these services must come from the 25% or 50% of the grant award, as the case may be, not obligated by statute to fund professional development activities or to work with other States on common certification criteria. In addition, the need for direct services must be one of the critical aspects of early intervention, general education and special education identified in the State's need assessment. The direct services improvement strategy must be described in the States' application and be consistent with the purpose of the grant, which is to assist State educational agencies and their partners in reforming and improving their systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transitional services, including their systems for professional development, technical assistance, and dissemination of knowledge about best practices, to improve results for children with disabilities.

Strategies Used To Address Identified Needs

18. Is interstate personnel preparation mandatory? Start Printed Page 62544

No. The State is required to describe how it will work to develop collaborative agreements with other States for the joint support and development of programs to prepare personnel for which there is not sufficient demand within the State to justify support or development of this type of program of preparation (section 653(c)(3)(D)(iv)). If the State demonstrates, through its needs assessment, that there is sufficient demand within the State to support its own personnel preparation programs, then interstate collaborative agreements are not required.

19. Is training of general education personnel required?

Yes. In its application, the State is required to include a description of how the State will prepare general as well as special education personnel with the content knowledge and collaborative skills needed to meet the needs of children with disabilities (section 653(c)(3)(D)(i)).

20. Is training of parents required?

Yes. In its application, the State is required to include a description of how the State will provide for the joint training of parents and special education, related services, and general education personnel (section 653(c)(3)(D)(x)).

Role of Regional Resource Center/Technical Assistance and Dissemination Projects

21. What role can the Regional Resource Center (RRC) play in the development of the State improvement grant application?

The RRC is encouraged to provide general technical assistance to States in the development of their State improvement grant application. An RRC is funded to provide technical assistance and resources to all States within its region and must do so on an equitable basis across those States. Helping States improve their special education programs is the central mission of the RRCs and many State activities related to the State Improvement Grant program will be crucial in these improvement efforts. It would be inappropriate, however, for an RRC to help a State in drafting its grant application or even to provide technical assistance on strategies to improve the competitiveness of a State's application because it could be viewed as providing a competitive advantage to one potential applicant over another. On the other hand, helping States, for example, with data analyses, needs assessments, and facilitating meetings concerning planning the States' improvement activities could be, except as noted above, a part of the RRC's technical assistance activities to the States in their region. RRCs can also assist States in their implementation of a State Improvement Grant once those grants are awarded.

22. Can the State use SIG funds to subcontract or contract with the University or entity in which the RRC is located to carry out SIG activities?

Yes. The State can use SIG funds to subgrant or contract with the University or entity in which the RRC is located to carry out SIG activities. However, the University or other entity would need to ensure that personnel time and other resources covered by the RRC's cooperative agreement with the Department are not used to work on SIG activities performed under the subgrant or contract and that work done under the other subcontract or contract is not represented as being performed as part of the cooperative agreement with the Department of Education.

23. Can Technical Assistance and Dissemination (TA&D) projects funded by OSEP play a role in SIG activities?

Similarly to RRCs, TA&D projects funded by OSEP must ensure that the services they provide are fairly and evenhandedly available to their respective audience (under the terms of their OSEP funding agreement/grant/contract) in all States, that the proposed SIG activity is permissible under the terms of the particular Project's funding agreement/ grant/contract/ with OSEP and that projects do not accept SIG funds under contract or grant with an SEA for activities they are currently receiving Federal funds to provide. In addition, TA&D projects, like the RRCs, should not engage in activities that could be seen as providing a competitive advantage to any one State over others in the SIG competition.

Relationship Between State Improvement Grant and Other Federal Statutes and Requirements

24. What is the link between the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) and the SIG? What are the similarities and differences?

The requirements for a CSPD as amended by IDEA Amendments of 1997 must be implemented by July 1, 1998 regardless of whether or not a State receives a SIG. Under section 612(a)(14) of IDEA, in order to be eligible for funding under Part B, a State must have in effect a comprehensive system of personnel development that is designed to ensure an adequate supply of qualified special education, regular education, related services, and early intervention personnel and that meets the requirements contained in the personnel development sections of the State Improvement Plan addressing needs assessment and improvement strategies. It is intended that the CSPD meet the SIG personnel development requirements so that it may serve as the framework for the State's personnel development part of a SIG grant application.

25. To what extent does the State improvement grant proposal have to be linked to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?

To the “maximum extent possible” State improvement grant proposals must be linked to State plans under ESEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The IDEA Amendments of 1997 emphasize that children with disabilities have access to the general curriculum and general educational reforms. Although the legislation does not mention integration with any other State plans under any other Federal statute, because the State improvement grant proposal is focused on systems change for students with disabilities, integration with relevant State plans or projects would be beneficial (section 653(a)(2)(A)).

26. What is the relationship between the performance goals and indicators a State must have to be eligible for Part B and the State improvement grant proposal?

Under Part B (section 612(a)(16)), in order to be eligible to receive financial assistance under Part B, the State must have in place by July 1, 1998 performance goals for children with disabilities that must promote the purposes of the IDEA and be consistent, to the maximum extent appropriate, with other goals and standards developed for children established by the State and performance indicators to assess progress toward achieving those goals. A State must have developed those performance goals and indicators in order to apply for a State Improvement Grant because in conducting the needs assessment required as part of its application, the State must identify those critical aspects of early intervention, general education, and special education programs that must be improved to enable children with disabilities to meet the performance goals and indicators established by the State for the performance of children with disabilities under section 612(a)(16). In submitting the required SIG performance reports to the Department under section 653(f), the State must describe the progress of the State in meeting the performance goals established under section 612(a)(16), analyze the effectiveness of the State's Start Printed Page 62545strategies in meeting those goals, and identify any changes in the strategies needed to improve its performance.

Monitoring and Corrective Action Plans

27. How is the State Improvement Grant aligned with Federal compliance reviews?

There are three areas in which the State Improvement Grant aligns with Federal compliance reviews. First, the State improvement plan must include an analysis of the major findings of the Department's most recent reviews of State compliance, as they relate to improving results for children with disabilities (section 653(b)(2)(C). The second is that the State improvement plan must include a description of strategies that will address systemic problems identified in Federal compliance reviews, including shortages of qualified personnel (section 653(c)(3)(E)). The third area of alignment with monitoring is that in determining competitive awards we will give priority to applications on the basis of need, as indicated by information from the findings of Federal compliance reviews (section 653(d)(2)).

28. Can the State Improvement Grant funds be used to address deficiencies identified in Federal compliance reviews?

Yes, if the activities to address the deficiencies are consistent with the purposes of the grant and described in the State's application. If, for example, a Federal compliance review identified that a personnel shortage impacted on the provision of a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, then it would be consistent with the purposes of the grant to use grant funds to address the personnel shortage.

Applications, Length of Awards, and Reapplication

29. Can the first grant be written as a planning grant?

No. The purpose of the SIG program is to assist State educational agencies, and their partners referred to in section 652(b), in reforming and improving their systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transitional services, including their systems for professional development, technical assistance, and dissemination of knowledge about best practices, to improve results for children with disabilities. In order to be funded a State must include in its application improvement strategies that were developed to address State and local needs identified in the State needs assessment. The purpose of the needs assessment is to provide the necessary information to facilitate the development of a State improvement plan that identifies those critical aspects of early intervention, general education, and special education programs that must be improved to enable children with disabilities to meet the goals established by the State under section 612(a)(16). In conjunction with the needs assessment, the improvement strategies (section 653(c)) subsumed in the State improvement grant proposal constitute the State's plan for the use of SIG funds.

30. What grant period can a State request in its initial application?

A State may request a grant of from one to five years. However, we may award a grant that is shorter than the State requests, but not less than one year, if the State's application does not sufficiently justify the full requested duration.

31. If a project is funded for less than five years, can it be extended later?

No, with the exception of relatively short “no-cost” extensions that are sometimes given to allow the completion of project activities. These extensions do not award new funds or approve new activities.

32. After a State completes one State improvement grant, can it apply for another? If so, will it compete against all applicants or only against other States that have received previous grants?

Yes, a State can apply for another SIG after it completes one. It will be in competition with all applicants, not just those with previous grants. We will give priority to applications on the basis of need (section 653(d)(2)).

33. If a State applies unsuccessfully in one year, will it be able to apply again?

Yes.

34. Will a project be approved and funded all at once or a year at a time?

At the time of the initial grant award, the project duration of one to five years will be determined and budgets for all years of the grant will be established. However, funds can only be awarded one-year at a time. States receiving multi-year grants will submit annual performance reports to demonstrate that their grants are making “substantial progress.” Funding for project years after the first will be based, in part, on these reports. This is not part of the competitive process of awarding funds, and it is expected that funding will be continued each year for the duration of the project, provided that substantial progress is demonstrated and that Congress continues to fund the program.

35. Does funding have to be the same for all years of the project?

No, but it cannot exceed $2 million or be less than $500,000.

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Footnotes

1.  Unless otherwise noted, the term “State” refers to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the outlying areas (United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

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2.  States in which Community Parent Resource Centers are located are encouraged to include these organizations as “other partners.”

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BILLING CODE 4000-01-P

[FR Doc. 00-26701 Filed 10-17-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4000-01-C