Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education

Graphic of the flag of the USA.Updated March 2016

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education regularly provides guidance to the field on the nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). “Guidance” can take several forms:

  • OSEP’s correspondence in response to questions received from the field;
  • policy documents and letters on priority issues;
  • State determination letters; and
  • non-regulatory guidance.

All are intended to clarify elements of the law and its regulations. Often, OSEP responds directly to questions from  state and local special education directors. These letters are an important part of understanding IDEA and how to implement it.

We are pleased to connect you with OSEP/DOE’s guidances, annual reports to Congress, and annual State Determination Letters.

Where OSEP/DOE Posts Its Guidance on IDEA

OSEP’s Legislation and Policy Guidance

OSEP Policy Correspondence

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OSEP Annual Reports to Congress

Every year OSEP must report to Congress on the implementation of Part C and Part B of the IDEA. These reports provide data on a wide range of implementation aspects, including  the number of children served under each Part and their disability, as well as where they received their free appropriate education (e.g., regular classroom). State-level data are also reported. A great source of data on who’s receiving early intervention services or special education services under IDEA.

Annual Reports to Congress can be accessed at:

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Part C Annual Performance Reporting

Each State’s Lead Agency for Part C is required to have in place a performance plan evaluating the state’s implementation of Part C and describing how the lead agency will improve such implementation. This plan is called the Part C State Performance Plan (SPP) and is required to be posted on the Lead Agency’s website. Part C refers to the IDEA Part C formula grant programs, which assist states in providing early intervention services for infants and toddlers (from birth through age two), and their families.

Each State’s Lead Agency must also report annually to the Secretary of Education on its performance according to its SPP targets. This report is called the Part C Annual Performance Report (APR).

State Determination Letters for Part C | OSEP  responds to the lead agency’s SPP and APR for Part C. Its letters to States (not surprisingly called State Determination Letters) can be found here:

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Part B Annual Performance Reporting

States are also responsible for state performance plans (SPPs) for Part B implementation, and to report to the public and to OSEP annual on their performance (APRs).

State Determination Letters for Part B | As with Part C, OSEP responds to the State Education Agency’s reporting. Find OSEP’s State determination letters for Part B at:

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