The IDEA Partnership is an investment in the stakeholder expertise. We believe that those that are closest to the work have much to share about what works and can be valuable partners in finding new approaches to challenges. Even more importantly, when groups with different perspectives work together, we begin to understand issues in new ways…ways that help us see the possibilities.

The IDEA Partnership facilitates interaction and shared work across professional and family organizations around common interests. Our work allows groups to come together around the issues they care about and create initiatives that will actively engage their members.

In pursuing real and lasting change, we use two approaches:

  • A focus on bringing stakeholders into the work of states as allies
  • A focus on broadly sharing the lessons learned with organizations

This section provides information about our mission, our history, and our partners. Additional sections describe our collaborative Partnership work and an overview to the website. We invite you comments, ideas and suggestions.

Today’s educational challenges cannot be solved simply. Contemporary issues are complex and interconnected. We have both academic and non-academic barriers to achievement. This understanding demands a new way of working that involves decisionmakers, practitioners and consumers in ways that each can share their perspective and learn from those that have other knowledge and experience.

The IDEA Partnership encourages facilitates and models this new way of working. To build these connections we:

  • Coalesce groups around common interests;
  • Develop simple shared messages for the field that can be delivered by each partner;
  • Create stakeholder developed tools that can be used to translate key policy and research information available through the federal funded technical assistance centers;
  • Use the networks and communication vehicles already available through national organizations to spread information, deepen understanding and change practice;
  • Build partnerships with state affiliates of national organizations to take  information to the state and local level;
  • Build Communities of Practice (CoP) with SEAs and state affiliates of national organizations modeled on the national IDEA Partnership.

Creating Dialogue

Partnership Work with National Organizations

Partnership Work with National Technical Assistance Centers

Collaboration on Issues

Building Communities of Practice

Creating Tools and Resources


Building a Unified IDEA Partnership

Transforming the individual partnerships into one unified partnership required a new way of working together while honoring the successes of the past. A period of reorganization and renewal helped us to connect and “feel like” partners by accepting invitations and making connections with others. With a shift to State and local change as our focus, we strive to open the State system for collaborative work and to involve the Partnership organizations and their State affiliates. We demonstrate a commitment to cross-partner work by ensuring that all activities are cross-partner work and by sharing the lessons learned in working across groups to encourage systems to become permanently more collaborative. The goals of the IDEA Partnership are summarized below.

Core Goals of the IDEA Partnership

Goal 1: To unite the goals and interests of 55 national organizations into a unified but organizationally specific and strategic effort that moves toward greater systemic impact at the State and local levels.

Goal 2: To deliver accurate, relevant and customized information to policymakers, implementers and consumers regarding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and IDEA, including Part C (early intervention).

Goal 3: To promote interaction and cross-stakeholder affiliation around shared issues, including the involvement of individuals from under-represented groups.

Goal 4: To stimulate cross-stakeholder involvement in State and local systems to deliver professional development and solve IDEA implementation problems.

Goal 5: To facilitate systemic change and cultural shift toward greater and more meaningful cross-stakeholder involvement in State and local systems change.

Roles for State Education Agencies, Other State Lead Agencies, and Partnership Organizations

Working in the new collaborative model requires a new or “renewed” way of doing. This includes moving beyond the valuing of all stakeholders’ expertise to creating opportunities for meaningful stakeholder s involvement. It also includes aligning initiatives, leveraging resources, and building a collaborative culture within and among States.

Roles for the Partnership Organizations

Partner organizations will contribute by scanning the environment; sensing opportunities, brokering connections, and ‘seeding’ efforts (through seed grants).
They will invite others to join that are doing related work, including OSEP TA investments. They will encourage the leveraging of resources, including influence. They will help states and organizations find the ‘value added’ to shared work and provide learning lessons for organizations and decisionmakers.

Core Activities of the IDEA Partnership

Dialogue Guides
Dialogue Guides are models for conducting interactive cross-stakeholder discussions in states and districts, through using important, publicly available information related to IDEA implementation from respected, knowledgeable sources. Each Guide will include tools for organizing groups to: examine the issue, identify commonalities among stakeholders, determine needs for more information, and agree on next steps or action plans, and is expected to reduce the need to produce new papers, making excessive federal vetting unnecessary.

Collaboration on Issues
Promoting interaction and cross-stakeholder affiliation around shared issues, including the involvement of individuals from under-represented groups is one of the major goals of the IDEA Partnership (Goal 3). As partners work together to identify the elements and strategies for their collaborative work, they begin to form a community where leadership is distributed among the members, and diversity is valued. As a result, the messages and products from the collaborative community appeals to a wide cross-section of the population and is written in terms that everyone can understand, share and put into practice. The collaborative work on important national issues — whose critical importance is acknowledged by states, districts, and partner organizations —are then packaged in the manner of a rollout or campaign.

Collaboration with Groups
Collaboration with organizations and national centers occurs naturally within the context of the IDEA Partnership work and is focused on improving results for children and youth with disabilities. Stakeholders have important perspectives, pertinent past experience, and tools and resources that contribute to the development of shared work. Stakeholders will vary depending on the work but the work is always grounded in the real work of the states. Representation of families, service providers & teacher, local administrators, and policy makers join together with organization and center representatives in collaborative work around topics and issues that are important to them. As they work together they begin to focus on their commonalities and shared values; their differences are valued perspectives in making their work strong and complete. Partner organizations may participate directly with states and the affiliate organizations in specific roles designed to raise the profile of the cross-stakeholder work and build more collaborative cultures within the state. This strategy promotes cross-stakeholder involvement in identifying and working on emerging concerns, as well as on issues that are unique to certain geographical settings, disability categories, cultural populations, or other interests.

Communities of Practice
According to their organizations’ goals and priorities, partners' representatives or members may choose to engage in current communities of practice that are deliberately linked in order to improve cross-issue learning. These communities facilitate information sharing between the partner organization and other issues-oriented stakeholders at both the national and State level, and are linked with OSEP's communities of practice. New communities of practice and/or practice groups may also emerge. The current communities of practice are:

National Communities Of Practice:
* IDEA and NCLB Collaboration Community of Practice
* National Community of Practice in Support of Transition
* National Community of Practice on Collaborative School Behavioral Health

State Communities Of Practice:
* Collaborative Professional Development/Adult Learning: State-Based and
Cross-State Communities of Practice
* Shared Agenda: A Cross-State Community of Practice on School Behavioral Health

All the Partnership issue communities communicate actively with the electronic communities established by OSEP. The OSEP communities at is one of several forums available as part of OSEP's Technical Assistance initiative to exchange strategies and ideas that will improve outcomes for children with disabilities. This project seeks to combine OSEP resources from the Monitoring and State Improvement Planning Division and technical assistance resources from the Research to Practice Division. They include:
  • Data - Part C/B Community
  • Exiting - Part B Community
  • Identification Part C Community
  • LRE-Part B Community
  • Preschool LRE-Part B/619 Community
  • Settings Part C Community

The IDEA Partnership Staff

Renee Bradley, Ph.D., Project Officer (OSEP)
Bill East, Ed.D., Principal Investigator
Joanne Cashman, Ed. D., Director
Patrice Linehan, Ed.D.
Diane Oglesby, Ed.D.
Mariola Rosser
Mironda Shepard

Contact us at:
1-877-IDEA INF(o) toll free or
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In 1997, after the passage of the 1997 amendments of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funded four linked partnership projects which were charged to engage partner organizations representing policy makers, service providers, family and advocates, and local administrators in the shared implementation of IDEA. It was clear to OSEP that the landmark change in IDEA ’97 would require the engagement of all stakeholders. The focus of the first partnership project was relationship building and collaboration. From 1998 to 2003, the four linked IDEA Partnerships were: Associations of Service Providers Implementing IDEA Reforms in Education (ASPIIRE) and IDEA Local Implementation by Local Administrators Partnership (ILIAD) (Council for Exceptional Children), Families and Advocates Partnership for Education FAPE (The PACER Center, Minneapolis), and the Policymaker Partnership (PMP)(National Association of State Directors of Special Education).

In 2003, OSEP issued a Request for Applications for a single unified project to bring all of the national organizations into collaboration with States, districts, schools, and higher education. Subsequently, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education was awarded the single IDEA Partnership project in late 2003. Together, its 55 Partner organizations form communities with the potential to transform the way we work.

The IDEA Partnership is funded through the Research to Practice Division of OSEP and is part of OSEP’s National Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network.

The IDEA Partnership is dedicated to improving outcomes for students and youth with disabilities by joining state agencies and stakeholders through shared work and learning.