Putting an end to discrimination includes preventing it before it starts. To do this, OCR provides information and other support services—known as technical assistance—to a variety of interested parties, including schools and colleges and community, student and parent groups. Assistance to educational institutions helps them comply with federal civil rights requirements, while assistance to parents, students and others informs them of their rights under law. OCR provides technical assistance through a variety of methods, including onsite consultations, conferences, training, community meetings and publishing and disseminating materials.
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OCR coordinated and/or participated in a number of conferences during FY 2003. In collaboration with the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, OCR hosted a conference on American Indian and Alaskan Native education, No Child Left Behind: Providing Educational Opportunity for American Indian and Alaskan Native Students, in Washington, DC. The conference, which was attended by more than 200 educators, included presentations on reading, English language acquisition, standards, assessment and accountability, safe schools, school choice, charter schools, and technology. Information was provided to attendees on No Child Left Behind programs and resources that support state and district-level efforts to raise the academic achievement of American Indian and Alaskan Native students.
OCR hosted a number of follow-up events around the country. Approximately 230 people attended a Regional American Indian Symposium sponsored by OCR, in cooperation with Northern Arizona University and the WestEd Equity Assistance Center. More than 250 people attended a second Regional American Indian Symposium, cosponsored by OCR, Montana State University and the Interwest Equity Assistance Center. The symposia included sessions on reading readiness, teacher quality, highly qualified paraprofessionals, school choice, parental involvement, state civil rights laws and OCR enforcement procedures and were attended by representatives from the states' university systems, public schools, tribal governments, tribal schools, Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, the White House Indian Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities, and parents of Indian students. OCR staff also sponsored a workshop in Minnesota for school districts and tribal leaders serving Native American students in Minnesota and Wisconsin to address best practices in Indian student education and efforts to improve the educational achievement of Native American students.
OCR staff conducted a number of presentations around the country addressing a variety of other issues, including: access and transition from high school to college for students with disabilities; racial, sexual, disability and national origin harassment; provision of services to English language learners; minority student access to gifted and talented programs and services; and misidentification of minorities in special education programs. Participants at these presentations included students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors, social workers, school board members, state education officials, and advocacy group representatives.
For example, more than 200 educators attended a conference in North Dakota at which OCR made a presentation on racial harassment and services for English language learners. In another instance, OCR provided technical assistance on harassment based on national origin to over 300 refugees and refugee service providers.
Twice a year, OCR staff provides training to state coordinators of vocational education methods of administration. These state coordinators are responsible for conducting their own comprehensive civil rights compliance reviews of vocational education programs and schools funded by ED.
OCR also provides technical assistance to state departments of education and local school districts on reducing referrals to special education by implementing research-based reading programs.
In addition to these kinds of proactive initiatives, OCR responds to inquiries and requests from the public. Calls and letters requesting assistance come from other federal agencies, state agencies, local school districts, community groups, parents and students.