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The New SSIP Template: Is it Worth Making the Switch?

Have you heard about the new SSIP template? You may have heard that OSEP has provided an optional template that states can use for FFY 2019 SSIP submissions due April 1, 2021, but you may not have had a chance to review the template or consider if you want to use it this year. You may be wondering if you should just continue to submit a state-formatted report with a 508-compliance certificate instead. But don’t default to using the old format without considering the benefits of the new template. Before you decide, consider these three important ways using the new format can save you time and effort and improve your report.

  • A streamlined reporting process. The template includes drop down menus for yes/no questions and text boxes for explanations. The text boxes have character limits, but the available spaces should offer enough room to describe the specific information requested. Consider the advantages that this format will offer in contrast to the (often) lengthy state reports that need to include transitions, cohesive flow throughout, and extensive updates each year. The new template should require significantly less time for writing, editing, and internal reviews.
  • Built-in 508 compliance. To maintain 508 compliance, the new template allows only text. This precludes the use of graphics or charts but also frees you from the need to review and ensure 508 compliance in your own document. Since creating a 508-compliant document can be a time-consuming task requiring special skills, not having to make your report compliant at all can be another big benefit.
  • The right information to the right audience. Many states release their SSIP reports to stakeholder groups or the public as a way to keep them informed of the state activities and results. However, this “double-duty” use of the SSIP is likely not the best way to get needed information to OSEP or to your other audiences. Using the new template will ensure that OSEP receives exactly the information it needs in the most efficient format, and you can release other information to stakeholders using other formats. Having a targeted approach for each important audience is likely to improve their understanding of state activities and results and aid overall communication.

After considering the benefits of the new template, you may decide that it is a good choice for your state SSIP report this year. But what about next year? Will there be a choice of formats again, or will OSEP require the template? We don’t know the answer at this time, but we will be sure to let you know as soon as we learn more.

–Jennifer Schaaf  

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