Increasing Qualified Personnel to Work in the Field of Special Education

About the Personnel Development Program (PDP)

The OSEP Personnel Development Program (PDP) is one of the nation’s oldest and most visible Federal scholarship programs, originating in 1958 under P. L. 85-926, the Education of Mentally Retarded Children Act for training personnel in mental retardation. Over 20,000 scholars funded under this program received scholarships from over 800 grants between 2005 and 2015.

The need for well–prepared and skilled personnel to provide special education and related services to children and youth with disabilities and their families became evident when the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) was passed in 1975. The main objectives of the PDP are to: 1) reduce special education personnel shortages, 2) increase the quality of personnel, and 3) enhance the capacity of grantees to meet the personnel demands of local education agencies. Financial awards are made to grantees through a competitive grant process, and the successful grantees are required to use 65% of their budget (depending on the type of grant they receive) to provide scholarships to scholars.

The service obligation component was established in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA), because many PDP scholars left the field of special education upon completion of their program of study. Scholarship recipients are now required to work in the field of special education and related services two years for every year of scholarship support they receive or they are required to repay the scholarship amount. In the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, the responsibility for tracking scholars’ employment and service obligations was transferred from grantees to the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2012, OSEP contracted with EPI International, in partnership with Westat, to establish and maintain the Personnel Development Program Data Collection Center (DCC). The main objective of DCC is to collect and analyze data on scholars funded by PDP grants for use in reporting PDP program performance measures required by the Government Performance and Results Act (1993) and to track the service obligations of scholars funded by PDP grants awarded in federal fiscal year 2005 and any year thereafter.