OSEP and OSERS Guidance



OSERS issued a Q and A explaining ED’s “take” on the Endrew Supreme Court decision on December 7, 2017.

A direct link to the actual FAQ.  (Click here.)

A direct link to the Endrew Supreme Court decision:  (Click here.)

Also see our discussion of Endrew and additional links under Landmark Cases.

For some court cases on FAPE illustrating how courts are applying Endrew, see Guy’s 2017 Log for FAPE cases after March, 2017.

Introduction: *

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)  is a part of the United States Department of Education (ED).  A subdivision of OSERS is the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).   OSEP’s responsibilities (or mission) is  to administer the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IDEA authorizes formula grants to states, and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other nonprofit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.  The doorway to all of OSEP’s resources is its Home Page.  OSEP also sponsors a parent oriented resource center called the Center for Parent Information and Resources, which provides resources that may be equally valuable for service providers.

Prior to  1999, if a parent disagreed with the decision of a state hearing review officer or a state’s response to a complaint, he or she could appeal that decision to OSEP.   After that date, Part B no longer provided for an OSEP review of individual complaints to the state or due process hearings.  (Appeals may be made to state or federal courts, however.)osep

Although OSEP has its hands in many pies, one responsibility is to respond to policy questions of a more general nature.   For example, an advocate might have a concern over a state’s inclusion of a requirement that schools document a psychological processing disorder related to the area of academic deficit as a prerequisite for SLD entitlement.   Asking OSEP to review the state criteria would be an appropriate use of their resources.

Two caveats.  First, the turnover time in getting a response may in some cases be a year or more.  Second, the IDEA requires OSEP to add to every letter boilerplate telling the reader that ” our response is provided as informal guidance and is not legally binding, but represents an interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education of the IDEA in the context of the specific facts presented.”   What this means from a practical perspective is that while a court may find an OSEP opinion persuasive, their opinion should not be counted on as money in the bank.  Courts can and have interpreted the Federal Regulations differently (even though OSERS writes the Final Regulations for the IDEA and would be presumed to know what they mean.

osep letters

OSEP Letters on other pages *

The sections following this introduction to OSEP Letters are just a sample of what is available.

For a more complete collection of letters regarding Part C, click on Part C of the IDEA.

For OSEP letters regarding IEPs, click on Test Info/IEPs and the School Psychologist/OSEP Letters

For OSEP letters regarding emotional disabilities, click on Disability Info/Emotional Disabilities

For OSEP letters regarding disparate impact, click on Spedlaw/OCR/Title VI/OSEP Letters

For OSEP letters on Manifestation Determinations, also click on Disability Info/Emotional Disabilities/OSEP Guidance  and Disability Info/Discipline and the Disabled

There ate two searchable databases on the Internet (and one non searchable) that may be used to find OSEP letters on a particular topic or within a particular time frame. 


There are two databases available.  One, maintained by Pennsylvania (PAttan), the other by OSEP.

The PAttan database has two advantages:  more search words; and letters dating back to 1997.  The OSEP data base begins with letters issued after 2000.   The PAttan database is now current through 2016.

Click on OSEP Database image below:


Or click on the PAttan OSEP letter database image below:


Use of the PAttan database is not entirely intuitive; the Search box in the upper right hand corner will search PAttan’s website, not the OSEP data base.   That search engine is accessed by clicking on the down arrow next to the word, “Filter.”  The letters themselves are “tagged” by topics covered and the search term must correspond to one of those tags.  Alternatively, if the recipient of the desired letter is known, that name can be entered.  The drop down box also allows the user to search within a specific timeframe.    Press “APPLY” to search the database..


The following documents are a sampling of what is available for download from the federal website.

On July 18, 2014, OSEP, acting under Executive Orders, issued the following Q and A  on including English Learners with Disabilities in English language proficiency exams.  The summary follows:

Questions and Answers Regarding Inclusion of English Learners with Disabilities in English Language Proficiency Assessments and Title III Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives. 
This guidance document is on the inclusion of English Learners (ELs) with disabilities in English language proficiency (ELP) assessments under Titles I and III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA). These are assessments designed to measure the progress of ELs in attaining English language proficiency. The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) administers the ESEA and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) administers Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). OESE and OSERS are issuing the guidance to help states and LEAs understand how Part B of the IDEA and Titles I and III of the ESEA address the inclusion of ELs with disabilities in annual state ELP assessments.   

Click here for Cover Letter 7 18 2014

Click here for the  Questions and Answers re EL with Disabilities

Among the many topic papers issued by OSERS/OSEP is one detailing the federal requirements for state complaint procedures.  Click here for:  State Complaint Procedures


IDEA and McKinney-Vento *

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education issue this Question and Answer (Q & A) document to provide State and local educational officials, early intervention services providers, and homeless assistance coordinators with information to assist with implementation of the  requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its implementing regulations and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act  (McKinney-Vento Act)


Transition *

This document addresses significant changes from preexisting regulations to the final regulatory requirements regarding secondary transition.
Secondary Transition

This document addresses significant changes in the rules for surrogate parents.
Procedural Safeguards-Surrogates Notice and Consent 10-4-06

OSERS issues this Q&A document to provide parents, parent training and information centers, school personnel, State educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), advocacy organizations, and other interested parties with information to facilitate appropriate implementation of the IDEA due process procedures.
Procedural Safeguards-Resolution Meetings and Due Process He

OSERS issues this Q&A document to provide parents, parent training and information centers, school personnel, State educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), advocacy organizations, and other interested parties with information to facilitate appropriate implementation of the IDEA due process procedures.  But also see the updated Q and A on Mediation below and links on Dispute Resolution (2013) below.
Procedural Safeguards-Q and A


Mediation *

Questions and Answers on Mediation: an authoritative review
Q and A on mediation

This document addresses significant changes from preexisting regulations to the final regulatory requirements regarding mediation
Procedural Safeguards-Mediation

A PDF slide presentation on mediation
Mediation Q and A overheads

These two documents update OSERS/OSEP’s thinking on dispute resolution and the advice therein supersedes earlier dicta reported in earlier links above.

Dispute Resolution Memo 2013

Dispute Resolution QandA July 2013

small bus

Transportation *

OSERS issues this Q&A document to provide State educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), parents, advocacy organizations, and other interested parties with information regarding the requirements for serving children with disabilities eligible for  transportation
OSERS Transportation 2009


Reevaluations *

This letter responded to twelve questions asking for clarification regarding the IDEA requirements for reevaluation and the provision of FAPE.
Letter to Anonymous, February 6, 2007 (Reevaluations)

This Q and A updated the Department’s thinking about IEPs, evaluations, and reevaluations
IEP.Q&A. June 2010


History *

An “official” history of the IDEA from 1975 to 2000.
History of IDEA

early intervention

Early Intervention *

The IDEA 2004 and its implementing regulations allows for the use of some special education federal funding for early intervention services.  The document below explains in some detail both the scope and limitations of those changes.
Early Intervening Services 2006

Over representation *

A complex issue that addresses more than over representation of minority groups in special education.  A finding of disproportionality does not necessarily mean a school has discriminated against any particular group, but it is a red flag that can trigger changes in how funding can be used, particularly funding for prereferral interventions.  Currently, the most intense scrutiny has been focused on disproportional representation in discipline.

Disproportionaly Q & A 2009


Results Driven Accountability *

In May, 2012, OSEP took steps to move away from a one size fits approach, further emphasizing its shift from process based accountability (school compliance based solely on having squeaky clean paperwork) to a results driven accountability system.  Over the course of several months it issued five different documents (including one summary and one press release) in order to assist school systems in meeting the demands of a results based accountability system.  Those documents are available below.

Results Driven Accountability (Summary)
RDA Summary

Results Driven Accountability (Press Release)
Results Driven Accountability (RDA)

Sample Approaches for Using Assessment Data in RDA

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) was asked by the Office of Special
Education Programs (OSEP) to work with a team to provide input on measures that could be
used to review states’ performance results of their students with disabilities who receive special
education services  This is a result of their work.

A Q and A on Results Driven Accountability

health ins

Parental Consent for the Use of Public Benefits or Private Insurance to Pay for Services * *

OSEP prepared  this Non Regulatory Guidance Q and A explaining the February 14, 2013 Amendment to the IDEA.
An amendment to the IDEA changed the consent requirements for using publicly funded insurance for medical evaluations.   This Q and A details the rather complex provisions.
idea-part-b-parental-consen and insurance 2013