Family Engagement and Guidance

Contact Information

The OSPI Special Education team works to ensure students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and WAC 392-172A. About 14 percent of students overall receive special education services in the state of Washington.

These pages are dedicated to providing students, families, and community members with information about special education, to ensuring that students and families know about their rights, answering questions they may have about how the process works, and sharing ways that partners may provide input and get involved.

Special Education Guidance for Families


For an overview of special education and to learn more about how the different components of special education fit together to provide your student with an education, start here:


Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC)

The Washington State Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) is established through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to advise the State Superintendent on matters pertaining to the provision of special education and related services. Please see the SEAC webpage for updated information about public meetings and reports, as well as information about applying to be a member of SEAC.

2021–22 Special Education State Design Team

As part of the State Design Team efforts over the 2021–22 school year, the OSPI Special Education team seeks to listen and learn with partners across education. We are honored that WestEd’s National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) is co-designing a systemic equity review throughout this process. Our joint priorities are to center partner voice, racial equity, inclusionary practices, and impact for students across all special education activities.

State Design Team Meetings

The initial kick-off meeting for the State Design Team was Tuesday, September 14, 2021, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm PT. This kick-off meeting explained the scope of work for the State Design Team, including information about the focus group meetings (see below for more information) and the equity review with NCSI. We will post the session recording and materials.

We expect to hold one to two additional State Design Team meetings over the 2021–22 school year to provide updates on the equity review and focus groups.

Focus Group Meetings

We are setting up focus groups based on partner interest, prioritizing diversity across groups. The focus group areas include:

  • Early Childhood;
  • Secondary Transition;
  • Inclusionary Practices;
  • Student Outcomes;
  • Family Engagement;
  • Disproportionality;
  • Special Education Monitoring; and,
  • Exploration of a Statewide IEP System

Focus groups will meet more frequently via zoom and work on shared documents. Some of the focus groups will be recommending state targets by the end of December. Information about focus group assignments and next steps will be sent to partners soon. We have developed a set of data overview resources for partners who want to learn more, which includes a Summary Guide to Special Education Indicators and Washington State Special Education Data Trends (links to these resources coming soon).

Systemic Equity Review with NCSI Partners

The systemic equity review activities will include teaming and data collection practices, along with monitoring priorities, activities, and tools. NCSI will work with State Design Team partners to co-design a process that moves beyond an equity lens, rather to align state efforts, targets, and resources with a foundational focus on the intersectionality of race and disability. Considerations will be also included for expanding these efforts into additional statewide initiatives.

Every Minute Counts – Calculating IEP Services to Improve Student Outcomes in Washington State

Every Minute Counts is a partnership between members of the Institute for Innovation in Development, Engagement, and Learning Systems (IDEALS) and the Special Education Division of the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The objective is to identify existing problems of practice related to IEP development and identify best practices for determining the amount and type of special education and related services contained in students’ IEPs. The initial stage of the project includes a comprehensive report and summary presenting the research literature, existing policies at the federal and state level, and other related resources. The next stages of the project include focus groups to further understand the problem of practice and identify solutions, which will inform the development of a technical assistance guide that will be released in late spring.

How to Learn More

We welcome you to join us in ways that work best for you. In addition to these larger meetings, you can also call 360-725-6075 or email the WISM team to learn more and share ideas. Our Special Education staff can join local meetings to share information and hear from families and communities. Updated information about the State Design Team, including meeting materials and recordings, will be posted to this page.

Partners are invited to join these efforts along the way, so please share this message with others who may be interested. Our Invitation to Serve form will remain open and is available here. Translated surveys are available as follows: Arabic | Chinese | Hindi | Khmer | Korean | Marshallese | Punjabi | Russian | Somali | Spanish | Tagalog | Ukrainian | Vietnamese

Dispute Resolution Partner Meetings

Since 2018, OSPI’s dispute resolution team has met quarterly with partners who work in special education dispute resolution and partners who work with and support families in engaging in dispute resolution. Partners meet to discuss the special education dispute resolution system, trends in dispute resolution, and areas for collaboration around continuous improvement. This group includes Sound Options Group, PAVE, Open Doors for Multicultural Families, the Office of Education Ombuds, and the OSPI Equity and Civil Rights Office. If you are interested in learning more about this work, please email the Special Education team.