[Federal Register: July 8, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 130)]
[Notices]              
[Page 39423-39425]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr08jy10-168]                              

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION


National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
(NIDRR)--Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers
Program--Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs)--
Effective Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Service Delivery Practices

AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services,
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final priority.

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    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.133B-8.
SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services announces a priority for the Disability and
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by
NIDRR. Specifically, this notice announces a priority for an RRTC on
Effective Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Service Delivery Practices.
The Assistant Secretary may use this priority for competitions in
fiscal year (FY) 2010 and later years. We take this action to focus
research attention on areas of national need. We intend this priority
to improve rehabilitation services and outcomes for individuals with
disabilities.

DATES: Effective Date: This priority is effective August 9, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marlene Spencer, U.S. Department of

[[Page 39221]]

Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 5133, Potomac Center Plaza
(PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2700. Telephone: (202) 245-7532 or by e-
mail: Marlene.Spencer@ed.gov.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the
Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice of final priority is in concert
with NIDRR's Final Long-Range Plan for FY 2005-2009 (Plan). The Plan,
which was published in the Federal Register on February 15, 2006 (71 FR
8165), can be accessed on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr/policy.html.
    Through the implementation of the Plan, NIDRR seeks to: (1) Improve
the quality and utility of disability and rehabilitation research; (2)
foster an exchange of expertise, information, and training to
facilitate the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the unique
needs of traditionally underserved populations; (3) determine best
strategies and programs to improve rehabilitation outcomes for
underserved populations; (4) identify research gaps; (5) identify
mechanisms of integrating research and practice; and (6) disseminate
findings.
    Purpose of Program: The purpose of the Disability and
Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program is to plan and
conduct research, demonstration projects, training, and related
activities, including international activities, to develop methods,
procedures, and rehabilitation technology, that maximize the full
inclusion and integration into society, employment, independent living,
family support, and economic and social self-sufficiency of individuals
with disabilities, especially individuals with the most severe
disabilities, and to improve the effectiveness of services authorized
under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act)
(29 U.S.C. 701 et seq.).

RRTC Program

    The purpose of the RRTC program is to improve the effectiveness of
services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act through advanced
research, training, technical assistance, and dissemination activities
in general problem areas, as specified by NIDRR. Such activities are
designed to benefit rehabilitation service providers, individuals with
disabilities, and the family members or other authorized
representatives of individuals with disabilities. In addition, NIDRR
intends to require all RRTC applicants to meet the requirements of the
General Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTC)
Requirements priority that it published in a notice of final priorities
in the Federal Register on February 1, 2008 (73 FR 6132). Additional
information on the RRTC program can be found at: 
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/res-program.html%23RRTC.

Statutory and Regulatory Requirements of RRTCs

    RRTCs must--
     Carry out coordinated advanced programs of rehabilitation
research;
     Provide training, including graduate, pre-service, and in-
service training, to help rehabilitation personnel more effectively
provide rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities;
     Provide technical assistance to individuals with
disabilities, their representatives, providers, and other interested
parties;
     Disseminate informational materials to individuals with
disabilities, their representatives, providers, and other interested
parties; and
     Serve as centers of national excellence in rehabilitation
research for individuals with disabilities, their representatives,
providers, and other interested parties.
    Applicants for RRTC grants must also demonstrate in their
applications how they will address, in whole or in part, the needs of
individuals with disabilities from minority backgrounds.

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 762(g) and 764(b)(2).

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 350.
    We published a notice of proposed priority (NPP) for NIDRR's
Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program in
the Federal Register on May 14, 2010 (75 FR 27328). The NPP included a
background statement that described our rationale for the priority
proposed in that notice.
    There are differences between the NPP and this notice of final
priority (NFP) as discussed in the following section.
    Public Comment: In response to our invitation in the NPP, five
parties submitted comments on the proposed priority. An analysis of the
comments and of any changes in the priority since publication of the
NPP follows.
    Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes, or
suggested changes the law does not authorize us to make under the
applicable statutory authority. In addition, we do not address general
comments that raised concerns not directly related to the proposed
priority.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the required activities
under paragraph (a) of the priority would take longer than the six
months that is allowed in the priority. These commenters suggested
allowing at least a year for grantees to complete these activities.
    Discussion: The required activities under paragraph (a) of the
priority are intended to help grantees identify State VR programs with
high employment outcome rates and promising VR service delivery
practices. The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) data to be
analyzed under paragraph (a) are readily available, and we believe that
the gathering of input from VR personnel and other stakeholders can be
completed within the first six months of the cooperative agreement.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: In reference to the requirements under paragraph (a) of
the priority, one commenter asked how NIDRR defines ``systematically
gathering input.''
    Discussion: The goal of this input-gathering activity is to help
identify promising practices that are associated with high rates of
employment outcomes. Toward that end, applicants must propose and
justify the methods that they will use to gather input from VR
personnel and other stakeholders in a consistent and orderly manner.

NIDRR believes that specifying the methods an applicant must use would
be unnecessarily restrictive, and, therefore, is not identifying
specific methods for meeting this requirement.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: With respect to the activities required under paragraph
(b) of the priority, one commenter suggested that two to three in-depth
case studies would not capture the variation in the size of VR programs
or the regional variations that exist in VR programs across the U.S.
This commenter suggested that more case studies would capture data that
are more representative of VR agencies across the country.
    Discussion: The purpose of the case studies is not to build a body
of knowledge about VR programs that is representative of programs from
around the country. Rather, the stated outcome goal for these in-depth
case studies is improved knowledge of specific VR service delivery
practices that have strong potential for improving employment outcomes
for VR clients. This improved knowledge will help

[[Page 39222]]

provide a basis for the testing of VR service delivery practices
required under paragraph (c) of the priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the RRTC develop a
clearinghouse from which policymakers, researchers, and advocates could
learn about successful VR services, techniques, programs, or
approaches. This commenter suggested that such a clearinghouse could
facilitate the replication of successful practices and policies
identified by the RRTC.
    Discussion: Paragraph (d) of the priority seeks to enhance the
likelihood that effective practices identified by the RRTC will be
adopted and used in VR settings. Under this paragraph, the RRTC is
required to develop implementation strategies and tools that will
facilitate the use of effective practices identified by the RRTC. There
is a wide variety of strategies or tools that could be implemented to
facilitate the use of findings, including the use of clearinghouses.
NIDRR believes, however, that specifying the implementation strategies
or tools an applicant must use would be unnecessarily restrictive, and
therefore, NIDRR is not identifying such tools or strategies in the
priority. Accordingly, applicants must specify the tools and
implementation strategies that they will use to fulfill the
requirements of paragraph (d) of the priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter noted that the in-depth case studies that
are required under paragraph (b) of the priority to be completed by the
end of the second year of the cooperative agreement could be completed
in six months. This commenter also stated that the more extensive
testing of practices under paragraph (c) of the priority would take at
least 24 to 36 months and suggested that these activities should begin
late in the second year of the RRTC.
    Discussion: The commenter's suggestions regarding the timing of
activities in paragraph (b) are within the timeline constraints of the
priority and the project period of 60 months for grants under this
program. Applicants are free to specify in their applications the
timelines for conducting the required activities, so long as the
activities required under paragraph (a) of the priority are completed
within the first six months of the cooperative agreement and the
activities required under paragraph (b) of the priority are completed
within the first two years of the cooperative agreement. While certain
applicants may be able to complete the activities required under
paragraph (b) within six months, we do not have information that
indicates that all applicants could do so and therefore decline to
shorten that time period. With respect to the testing required under
paragraph (c) of the priority, we do not believe it is necessary to
specify a beginning date for these activities. Under paragraph (b) of
the priority, a grantee will need to complete its identification of the
practices to be tested by the end of year two of the cooperative
agreement. We expect that a grantee will begin the testing required
under paragraph (c) shortly after that process is complete.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters asked about the specificity with which
NIDRR uses the term ``service delivery practice.'' One commenter asked
whether the term ``practice'' includes VR program management practices
such as State agency partnerships, service funding arrangements, or VR
staff capacity-building efforts. Another commenter suggested that the
term ``practice'' reference VR program management practices, including
staff development systems and administrative policies.
    Discussion: The opening paragraph of this priority states that the
RRTC must focus on the delivery of VR services that are authorized in
the Rehabilitation Act. For the purposes of this priority, VR service
delivery practices do not include VR management practices,
administrative policies, staff development programs, or other practices
that do not directly involve the delivery of services to VR clients.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Three commenters asked about NIDRR's use of the term
``test'' in paragraph (c) of the priority. One commenter asked whether
NIDRR's use of the term requires research that would lead to cause and
effect assertions about VR practices. Another commenter noted that
randomized clinical trials are an unrealistic means of testing
practices under this priority, as such trials require more time and
resources than are available to an RRTC. A third commenter, drawing a
distinction between testing and evaluation, suggested that NIDRR add
language that would allow the RRTC to rigorously test or evaluate
practices under this paragraph.
    Discussion: Nothing in the priority either precludes or requires
the use of randomized experimental trials of VR service delivery
practices. The word ``test'' in this priority is used to describe
research activities that can begin to determine the effectiveness of
specific VR service delivery practices. Applicants are free to choose
experimental, quasi-experimental, case-control, or other applicable
research designs that are appropriate for an initial determination
about the effectiveness of VR service delivery practices identified
under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority. Because we are using the
term broadly, we agree with the commenter's suggestion to add the term
``evaluate'' to the language in paragraph (c) of the priority in order
to clarify our meaning.
    Changes: NIDRR has revised paragraph (c) of the priority to require
the RRTC to test or evaluate the service delivery practices identified
under paragraphs (a) and (b) of the priority.
    Comment: In reference to the requirement that the RRTC test at
least one intervention in each of the case study sites described in
paragraph (b) of the priority, one commenter stated that the case study
sites may not be the best sites in which to test the service delivery
practices. This commenter noted a number of factors that must be
considered in determining the suitability of a site for testing
specific service delivery practices. This commenter suggested that the
RRTC be allowed to work with NIDRR and RSA to determine the sites in
which practices would be tested.
    Discussion: NIDRR agrees with this commenter's assertion that the
case study sites might not be the best sites for testing VR service
delivery practices.
    Changes: NIDRR has removed the requirement that practices be tested
at the sites in which the case studies were conducted. NIDRR has also
revised the priority to require the RRTC to test service delivery
practices identified under paragraph (b) of this priority in at least
two sites that will be chosen in conjunction with NIDRR and RSA.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether NIDRR is interested either in
practices that are uniquely developed to assist specific subpopulations
of VR clients or in practices developed for a broader client base that
can be demonstrated to work with particular subpopulations.
    Discussion: NIDRR does not specify in the priority whether it seeks
research either in practices that have been developed for specific VR
subpopulations or in practices developed for the broader client base.
Accordingly, an applicant may include either research approach in its
proposal. NIDRR anticipates that decisions about the specific practices
to be tested under paragraph (c) of the priority will be driven by the
findings of the research activities conducted under paragraphs (a) and
(b) of the priority.

[[Page 39223]]

    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked NIDRR for clarification regarding the
term ``intervention'' in paragraph (c) of the priority.
    Discussion: In the context of this priority, NIDRR uses the term
``intervention'' to mean VR service delivery practices.
    Changes: To avoid confusion, NIDRR has revised paragraph (c) of the
priority to eliminate use of the term ``intervention.''
    Final Priority: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services announces a priority for a Rehabilitation
Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Effective Vocational
Rehabilitation (VR) Service Delivery Practices. This RRTC must conduct
research that contributes to new knowledge of VR service delivery
practices that produce high-quality employment outcomes for VR
customers. This RRTC will contribute to improved employment outcomes by
generating new knowledge about effective practices that can be used by
State VR agencies in serving their customers. This RRTC must focus on
the delivery of VR services that are authorized in the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act) (29 U.S.C. 701 et seq.).
NIDRR will fund this research effort as a cooperative agreement in
order to ensure close interaction between the grantee and staff from
NIDRR and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).
    Under this priority, the RRTC must contribute to the following
outcomes:
    (a) Increased knowledge of the variations among State VR agencies
in achieving quality employment outcomes, including but not limited to
wages and hours of work, for subpopulations of individuals with
significant disabilities, as defined in the Rehabilitation Act (29
U.S.C. 705(21)(A) and (D)), who have lower than average employment
outcomes rates, wages, and hours of work. The RRTC must contribute to
this outcome by analyzing relevant RSA datasets that provide
information on the outcomes of these subpopulations of individuals with
significant disabilities and by systematically gathering input from VR
counselors and administrators, RSA staff, VR customers, and community
rehabilitation programs. This analysis will help to identify promising
practices by identifying agencies that demonstrate statistically better
than average employment outcome rates and quality employment outcomes
for these subpopulations of VR customers. The RRTC must complete this
work within six months of award of the cooperative agreement.
    (b) Improved knowledge of specific VR service delivery practices
that have strong potential for improving employment outcomes for the
subpopulations of VR customers identified in paragraph (a) of this
priority. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by conducting in-
depth case studies of VR agencies where data demonstrate quality
employment outcomes that are statistically better than average for the
subpopulations of VR customers identified in paragraph (a) above
compared to VR agencies that demonstrate average employment outcomes
for the same subpopulations. NIDRR and RSA staff must approve the
topics for the case studies and the agencies that will serve as sites
for these studies. The applicant must budget to conduct two to three
in-depth case studies. These case studies must identify the elements of
the promising practices, the barriers to and facilitators of the
implementation of the practices, and the outcomes of the practices. The
RRTC must complete this work by the end of year two of the cooperative
agreement.
    (c) New knowledge of VR service delivery practices that are
effective in producing high-quality employment outcomes for VR
customers, especially those identified in paragraph (a) of this
priority. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by conducting
research that rigorously tests or evaluates promising service delivery
practices identified in paragraph (b) of this priority. The RRTC will
work with NIDRR and RSA to identify at least two appropriate sites for
testing the service delivery practice(s).
    (d) Enhanced likelihood of adoption of service delivery practices
that demonstrate effectiveness as described in paragraph (c) of this
priority. The RRTC must contribute to this outcome by developing
implementation strategies and tools that will facilitate introduction
and use of newly identified effective practices in other VR settings.
    In addition, through coordination with the NIDRR Project Officer,
this RRTC must--
     Collaborate with existing RSA grantees, including Regional
Technical Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) Centers, RSA's
Technical Assistance Network, and RSA's National Technical Assistance
Coordinator to disseminate new knowledge to key stakeholders; and
     Collaborate with existing NIDRR grantees, including the
RRTC on VR, the Center on Effective Delivery of Rehabilitation
Technology by VR Agencies, and the Research and Technical Assistance
Center on VR Program Management.
    Types of Priorities: When inviting applications for a competition
using one or more priorities, we designate the type of each priority as
absolute, competitive preference, or invitational through a notice in
the Federal Register. The effect of each type of priority follows:
    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority, we consider only
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference
priority, we give competitive preference to an application by (1)
awarding additional points, depending on the extent to which the
application meets the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2)
selecting an application that meets the priority over an application of
comparable merit that does not meet the priority (34 CFR
75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority, we are
particularly interested in applications that meet the priority.
However, we do not give an application that meets the priority a
preference over other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).
    This notice does not preclude us from proposing additional
priorities, requirements, definitions, or selection criteria, subject
to meeting applicable rulemaking requirements.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in
which we choose to use this priority, we invite applications through
a notice in the Federal Register.

    Executive Order 12866: This notice has been reviewed in accordance
with Executive Order 12866. Under the terms of the order, we have
assessed the potential costs and benefits of this final regulatory
action.
    The potential costs associated with this final regulatory action
are those resulting from statutory requirements and those we have
determined as necessary for administering this program effectively and
efficiently.
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative
and qualitative--of this final regulatory action, we have determined
that the benefits of the final priority justify the costs.
    Discussion of Costs and Benefits: The benefits of the Disability
and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Programs have been
well established over the years in that similar projects have been
completed successfully. This final priority will generate new knowledge
through research and development.

[[Page 39224]]

    Another benefit of this final priority is that the establishment of
a new RRTC will improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. The
new RRTC will generate, disseminate, and promote the use of new
information that will improve the options for individuals with
disabilities to obtain, retain, and advance in employment.
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print,
audiotape, or computer diskette) by contacting the Grants and Contracts
Services Team, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW.,
room 5075, PCP, Washington, DC 20202-2550. Telephone: (202) 245-7363.
If you use a TDD, call the FRS, toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.
    Electronic Access to This Document: You can view this document, as
well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal
Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the
Internet at the following site: http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister. To
use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at
this site.

        Note: The official version of this document is the document
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: 
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.html.


    Dated: July 2, 2010.
Alexa Posny,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2010-16681 Filed 7-7-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P