United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, U.S. Senate July 2003 SPECIAL EDUCATION Federal Actions Can Assist States in Improving Postsecondary Outcomes for Youth GAO-03-773 July 2003 SPECIAL EDUCATION Federal Actions Can Assist States in Highlights of GAO-03-773, a report to the Improving Postsecondary Outcomes for Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Youth U.S. Senate States receive federal funds under Of all IDEA youth who left high school during the 2000-01 school year, 57 the Individuals with Disabilities percent received a standard diploma and an additional 11 percent received Education Act (IDEA) to help an alternative credential. High school completion patterns of IDEA youth students with disabilities reach have remained stable over recent years despite concerns that states’ their postsecondary goals, and increasing use of exit examinations would result in higher dropout rates. various federal programs offer services that can assist these youth. Students with some types of disabilities were much less likely, however, to However, research has complete high school with a standard diploma, receiving an alternative documented that youth with credential or dropping out instead. IDEA youth without a diploma have some disabilities are less likely to options for entering employment or postsecondary education, but national transition into postsecondary data on their post-school status are over a decade old. Twenty-one states education and employment. routinely track students’ post-school status, but these data have some Congress requested that GAO limitations. While most states used post-school data for program provide information on (1) the improvement purposes such as monitoring service delivery, some officials proportion of IDEA students indicated that guidance was needed on how to best collect and use these completing high school with a data. diploma or alternative credentials, and their postsecondary status; (2) the transition problems being A variety of transition problems, such as lack of vocational training and poor reported and state and local linkages between schools and service providers, have been consistently actions to address them; and reported by students, parents, and others. While state and local educational (3) the types of transition services agencies have taken actions to address some of the problems, other provided by the vocational problems such as lack of transportation are less likely to be addressed at the rehabilitation, the Workforce state level. While state Directors of Special Education reported being Investment Act youth, and the generally satisfied with assistance provided to them by the Department of Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Education in addressing transition issues, some expressed concerns about programs, and the factors affecting the timeliness of the federal feedback on their state improvement plans and participation of IDEA youth. inconsistency in the quality of technical assistance provided by the six federal Regional Resource Centers. GAO recommends that the The vocational rehabilitation (VR) program, the Workforce Investment Act Department of Education youth program (WIA), and the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency (Ticket) (1) gather and provide states with program all offer an array of employment and education-related services that information on sound strategies to can aid some IDEA youth. However, several factors may impede collect and use postsecondary data, participation by the IDEA populations that are eligible for services. The lack (2) develop a plan to provide states of participation may be explained in part by the insufficient capacity of the with timely feedback and VR and WIA programs to serve eligible populations requesting services, and consistent quality of technical potential concerns of Ticket participants about losing public assistance assistance, and (3) coordinate with other federal agencies to provide because of employment income. A general lack of awareness by youth and IDEA students and their families families of these programs may also limit participation. with information on federally funded transition services. www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-773. To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact David Bellis at (415) 904-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contents Letter 1 Results in Brief 3 Background 5 A Majority of IDEA Youth Complete High School, but Data on Transitions Are Limited 8 Problems Impeding Transition of IDEA Youth into Postsecondary Education and Employment Remain Partially Addressed 17 The VR, WIA, and Ticket Programs Provide Transition Services, but Several Factors May Limit the Number of IDEA Youth Who Use Them 25 Conclusions 32 Recommendations for Executive Action 33 Agency Comments and Our Evaluation 33 Appendix I Scope and Methodology 36 Survey 36 State Telephone Interviews and Analysis of State Data 36 Site Visits 37 Review of National Studies on Transition 38 Analysis of Existing Data 38 Appendix II State Data Collection Efforts 40 Appendix III State Waiting Lists for Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Fiscal Year 2001 49 Appendix IV Youth Eligible to Participate in the Ticket Program as of June 2003 50 Appendix V Availability of Medicaid Buy-In to Working People with Disabilities as of May 2003 52 Page i GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VI Comments from the Department of Education 53 Appendix VII Comments from the Department of Labor 55 Appendix VIII Comments from the Social Security Administration 58 Appendix IX GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments 60 GAO Contacts 60 Staff Acknowledgments 60 Tables Table 1: High School Completion and Dropout Rates by Disability Type, 2000-01 School Year 9 Table 2: Problems Reported by Stakeholders in the Transition Process 18 Table 3: Education’s Response Time as of March 26, 2003, to States Submitting Improvement Plans in 2002 23 Table 4: All Youth Ages 14 to 21 Served by Selected Federal Programs 27 Table 5: Selected Services Provided to Youth through the VR Program in Fiscal Year 2001 28 Table 6: Selected Services Provided through WIA in Program Year 2001 28 Table 7: Site Visit States and Local School Systems 37 Table 8: State Approaches to Collecting Data on Postsecondary Employment and Education Status of IDEA Youth 40 Table 9: State Methods of Collecting Data on Postsecondary Employment and Education Status of IDEA Youth 43 Table 10: State Examples of Using Postsecondary Employment and Education Status Data 47 Page ii GAO-03-773 Special Education Figures Figure 1: Disability Characteristics of IDEA Youth Leaving High School in School Year 2000-01 6 Figure 2: Completion and Dropout Rates for IDEA Students from 1997-98 to 2000-01 School Years 11 Figure 3: States That Collect Data on IDEA Youth Leaving High School 14 Figure 4: Types of Postsecondary Employment and Education Data Available in States 46 Abbreviations ADA Americans with Disabilities Act IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act IEP individualized education program NCES National Center for Education Statistics NLTS National Longitudinal Transition Study NLTS2 National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 OSEP Office of Special Education Programs RSA Rehabilitation Services Administration SIG State Improvement Grant SLIDEA Study of State and Local Implementation and Impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act SPeNSE the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education SSA Social Security Administration SSDI Social Security Disability Insurance SSI Supplemental Security Income VR vocational rehabilitation WIA Workforce Investment Act youth program This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. It may contain copyrighted graphics, images or other materials. Permission from the copyright holder may be necessary should you wish to reproduce copyrighted materials separately from GAO’s product. Page iii GAO-03-773 Special Education United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548 July 31, 2003 The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy Ranking Minority Member Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions United States Senate Dear Senator Kennedy: In 2003, states received nearly $9 billion for assuring that over 6 million children and youth identified as having a disability received a free appropriate public education, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).1 Most youth had been identified as having learning disabilities such as dyslexia, with a smaller number having some type of emotional, mental, or physical impairment. Research has documented that youth with disabilities—especially those with some types of disabilities such as emotional disturbances—are less likely to transition into postsecondary education and employment once they leave high school. In the 1997 Amendments to IDEA, Congress required greater state and local accountability for improving graduation rates and postsecondary results for youth with disabilities. The law directed state education agencies to include youth with disabilities in statewide achievement assessments, and to begin including a statement of the transition service needs in students’ individualized education program (IEP) at age 14, in addition to age 16. The Department of Education (Education) monitors states’ compliance with these requirements, as well as provides technical assistance to enhance state and local capacity to improve graduation rates and the postsecondary employment and education status for youth with disabilities. In addition, other federal agencies fund programs that can assist youth with disabilities during their transition into the adult world. In an effort to better ensure that all students have the necessary academic preparation to successfully pursue postsecondary education or employment, many states are now requiring that students pass exit examinations to graduate from high school with a diploma. However, 1 The data on the number of children covered under IDEA are for the 2001-02 school year, the latest year for which data are available. Page 1 GAO-03-773 Special Education concerns have been raised that states’ use of exit examinations will result in higher dropout rates for youth with disabilities or issuing alternative credentials2 in lieu of diplomas that may limit youths’ options for postsecondary education and employment. While federally funded transition services are available to help youth with disabilities pursue postsecondary options, there are also concerns that many may not be using these services. To address these concerns, you asked that we provide information on: (1) the proportion of IDEA students completing high school with a diploma or alternative credentials, and what is known about their postsecondary education and employment outcomes; (2) the types of transition problems that have been reported and actions taken by state and local education agencies to address them; and (3) the types of transition services provided by the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program, the Workforce Investment Act youth program (WIA), and the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency (Ticket) program, and the factors affecting the number of IDEA youth using them. To provide this information, we administered and analyzed results from a survey to 50 state Directors of Special Education, as well as conducted phone interviews with state officials in the 21 states that reported routinely collecting data on IDEA students’ postsecondary outcomes. We also visited 3 states and 6 school districts where we met with state and local officials, school administrators, teachers, parents, IDEA students, and service providers.3 In addition, we synthesized the findings of nationally available studies on IDEA students’ transition experiences, interviewed federal officials responsible for programs that can assist students during transition, and analyzed program data from federal agencies administering these programs. Appendix I explains our methodology in more detail. We performed our work in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards between June 2002 and June 2003. 2 Alternative credentials may be issued based on various criteria, including completion of an IEP, attendance, or occupational skill attainment. 3 We conducted fieldwork in New York, Alabama, and California. We selected these states to obtain a mix based on differences in geographic location, the size of the IDEA population in the state, high school completion patterns, exit examination policies for IDEA youth, postsecondary data collection efforts, and state monitoring processes, as well as recommendations of experts in transition. Page 2 GAO-03-773 Special Education State data reported by Education show that in the 2000-01 school year, Results in Brief about 70 percent of IDEA students completed high school with either a standard diploma or an alternative credential. However, completion rates ranged from 45 percent to 83 percent depending on disability type. The high school completion rate was the lowest for youth with emotional disturbances and the highest for youth with impairments affecting hearing or eyesight. Despite concerns that states’ increasing use of exit examinations would result in more IDEA youth dropping out of high school, high school completion patterns have remained fairly stable, perhaps in part, because states have generally offered alternative routes to high school completion for youth with disabilities. However, what happens to IDEA youth after they leave high school is difficult to determine. Less than half of the states routinely collect data on students’ employment or education status after graduation, and existing data collection efforts have limitations. Despite limitations of individual states’ efforts, state studies taken together show that IDEA youth were much more likely to enter employment than postsecondary education or training programs. In Wisconsin, for example, 80 percent of IDEA youth reported being employed and 47 percent reported attending some type of postsecondary education institution 1 year out of high school.4 While most state officials reported using data on IDEA youth postsecondary status for purposes such as monitoring service delivery or targeting schools for technical assistance, some officials indicated that guidance was needed on how to best collect and use these data. Education officials in 2 states, for example, were unsure whether their survey questions were appropriate to obtain the best information on outcomes, while another state official had concerns that local school systems did not have the expertise to use such data to improve transition outcomes for IDEA youth. During our site visits, students, parents, teachers, and others consistently reported a variety of problems that impede youth transition to postsecondary education and employment, including poor linkages between schools and youth service providers and a lack of community work experience while in high school. States and local education agencies have taken various steps to address some of the problems, including hiring transition coordinators and offering work preparation experiences, such as job shadowing opportunities. Some schools, however, have not yet benefited from these efforts and continue to experience problems. For 4 Percentages do not add to 100 since some youth were both employed and in postsecondary school. Page 3 GAO-03-773 Special Education example, a number of schools still rely on special education teachers to develop linkages with community service providers according to the Study of State and Local Implementation and Impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (SLIIDEA), although teachers indicated during our site visits that they often do not have the time or training to do so. Further, while research has shown work experience and vocational education to be a significant factor in obtaining postsecondary employment with higher earnings, findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) show that 60 percent of IDEA youth had paid work experience and about 24 percent received vocational services. Our survey of state Directors of Special Education shows that states have developed action plans to increase services such as vocational training, and community work experience for IDEA youth. Other significant problems, however, are less likely to be addressed because they are not considered by state officials to be within the purview of the education system. For example, the 3 states we visited did not include transportation problems for IDEA youth in their state improvement plans, although it was one of the most cited problems by parents and school and state officials. Education provides some assistance to states in their efforts to address transition problems, and most state Directors of Special Education found this assistance useful. For example, states can use Education’s Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process to obtain feedback on state improvement plans for addressing transition problems, and obtain related technical assistance from Education’s Regional Resource Centers for Special Education (Regional Resource Centers). State officials expressed some concerns, however, about the timeliness of Education’s feedback on their state plans and some inconsistency in the quality of assistance provided by the Regional Resource Centers. The VR, WIA, and Ticket programs all provide similar and complementary services that can ease youth transition from high school to postsecondary education and employment, but several factors may affect how many IDEA youth use them. Services include tutoring and study skills training, job coaching and placement, as well as necessary support services such as transportation and counseling. However, IDEA youth are not automatically eligible for these services. For example, available data suggest that about 29 percent of IDEA youth meet Workforce Investment Act’s low-income requirement, and about 13 percent of IDEA youth meet Ticket’s age and benefit requirements. While not all IDEA youth eligible for VR, WIA, or Ticket services may need or want to use them, several factors may impede those that do. For example, WIA officials from states we visited said that workforce centers often do not have the expertise to serve youth with disabilities, and may refer these youth to VR; Education Page 4 GAO-03-773 Special Education officials report that a number of states currently have waiting lists for VR services. The most recent data available from fiscal year 2001 show that VR agencies in 25 states had waiting lists for its services that may defer access for transitioning youth. Further, youth may not access services because they are concerned about losing access to public assistance, or are unaware that these federal resources exist. For example, while all youth aged 18 or older that qualify for Social Security disability benefits are eligible for transition services under the Ticket program, less than 1 percent participate, in part, due to concerns that employment income may jeopardize their eligibility for other federal and state services such as health insurance and subsidized housing according to parents and service providers we spoke with. Finally, students, parents, and teachers who are responsible for identifying transition service needs were generally unaware of the universe of available federal transition services and how to access them in the states we visited. While most people we talked with were aware of VR services, many were unaware of the Ticket program, and knowledge of the Workforce Investment Act assistance centers varied widely, even though these programs all serve overlapping populations. We are making recommendations to Education to help state and local education agencies improve transition outcomes for IDEA youth by disseminating information on best practices for collecting and using data on their postsecondary status, providing more timely and consistent services to states seeking assistance, and identifying strategies for informing students and families about federal transition resources. States that receive IDEA funding must comply with certain requirements Background for special education and related services. These requirements include the development of an IEP that spells out the specific special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services to be provided to each student based on the student’s needs, including transition services designed to help the student obtain the skills and experiences to reach desired postsecondary goals. During the 2000-01 school year, over 300,000 IDEA youth left high school.5 Most youth had been identified as having learning disabilities such as 5 This includes those students that graduated with a diploma or alternative credential, dropped out, died, or aged out. Page 5 GAO-03-773 Special Education dyslexia, with a smaller number having some type of emotional, mental, or physical impairment, as shown in figure 1. Figure 1: Disability Characteristics of IDEA Youth Leaving High School in School Year 2000-01 Emotional disturbances Other 12% 13% 61% Learning disabilities 14% Mental retardation Source: GAO analysis of data from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Note: Disability types included in the “other” category are speech or language impairments, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, deaf-blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments. They have been combined into a single category because each of these disability groups represents less than 10 percent of IDEA youth population leaving high school. In an effort to raise expectations for IDEA youth and to make school systems accountable for their performance, IDEA Amendments of 1997 required that these students be included in state and district assessments, to the extent possible. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 also required school systems to establish annual assessments in order to demonstrate that all students, including those with disabilities, made academic progress. Although federal law does not mandate that school systems tie assessment results to graduation with a standard diploma, current law does provide states with the flexibility to implement exit examination policies that would require students to pass an exit examination in order to graduate with a diploma. Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provides a number of resources to assist state and local education agencies in serving Page 6 GAO-03-773 Special Education children and youth with disabilities. One such resource is OSEP’s Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process, whereby OSEP provides feedback to state education officials on state improvement plans they develop to address problems providing education and transition services to IDEA youth at the state and local level. Another resource is Education’s six Regional Resource Centers for Special Education through which OSEP facilitates networking and information sharing among states, and helps state and local areas improve education programs by providing technical assistance, consultation, and training. In addition, the federal government funds other services that may offer assistance to IDEA youth during their transition from high school into postsecondary education or employment through programs administered by agencies such as Education, the Department of Labor (Labor), and the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Department of Education. Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration provides funds to state VR agencies to help persons with disabilities prepare for and engage in gainful employment. The regulations implementing the Rehabilitation Act require state VR programs to develop an individualized plan for employment for students eligible for vocational rehabilitation services before they leave school. Furthermore, for a student with a disability who is receiving special education services, this plan must be coordinated with the student’s IEP in terms of goals, objectives, and services. The Department of Labor. Labor’s Employment and Training Administration oversees the implementation of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The Workforce Investment Act promotes partnerships among diverse programs and community representatives, including educational institutions. For all youth, who are between 14 and 21 years of age, WIA includes provisions for preparing them for the transition from high school to employment and postsecondary education that may interrelate to the transition requirements under IDEA. The Social Security Administration. SSA implements the Ticket program, established under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. The goal of the Ticket program is to enable Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries and disabled or blind Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, who are between Page 7 GAO-03-773 Special Education 18 and 64 years of age, to obtain the services necessary to find, enter, and retain employment.6 During the 2000-01 school year, almost 70 percent of IDEA youth A Majority of IDEA completed high school with a standard diploma or an alternative Youth Complete High credential.7 Completion rates for IDEA youth remained stable over recent years despite concerns that states’ increasing use of high school exit School, but Data on examinations would result in higher dropout rates. IDEA youth who leave Transitions Are high school without a standard diploma have some options for entering employment or postsecondary education, but national data on their Limited postsecondary status are over a decade old. Nearly half of the states routinely collect such data, but states’ data collection systems are subject to a number of limitations. Most states used these data for purposes such as monitoring or improving programs that serve IDEA youth, but several officials involved with state data collection efforts had concerns about whether states were employing the best approaches to collecting and using these data. A Majority of IDEA Youth During the 2000-01 school year, 57 percent of IDEA youth completed high Complete High School school with a standard diploma and an additional 11 percent completed with a Diploma, but high school with an alternative credential. Students with some types of disabilities were much less likely to complete high school with a standard Differences Exist among diploma, receiving alternative credentials or dropping out instead. (See Disability Types table 1.) For example, in 2000-01, about 28 percent of high school graduates with mental retardation received an alternative credential instead of a diploma, compared with about 11 percent for the overall population of IDEA youth. Dropout rates for youth with emotional disturbances were generally more than twice as high as for youth with other disabilities; more than half of these students dropped out during the 2000-01 school year compared with about one-fourth or less of their peers with other disability types. 6 SSDI is provided to workers who become disabled for as long as they cannot work due to their medical condition, and the amount of the benefit is based on past earnings. SSI is provided to individuals who can demonstrate financial need and have a disability affecting their ability to participate in any substantial gainful activity, whether or not they have worked in the past. 7 An OSEP official said that students leaving high school without a standard diploma are still eligible to receive special education services until they receive a diploma or age out. Page 8 GAO-03-773 Special Education Table 1: High School Completion and Dropout Rates by Disability Type, 2000-01 School Year Completion rate Total Alternative completion Disability Diploma credential rate Dropout rate All IDEA students 57 11 68 29 Emotional disturbances 39 6 45 53 Learning disabilities 64 8 71 27 Mental retardation 40 28 68 25 Other cognitive disabilities 57 20 77 13 Speech/language impairments 64 8 72 26 Orthopedic impairments 64 11 76 18 Sensory impairments 69 14 83 14 Other health impairments 68 7 75 23 Multiple disabilities 48 20 68 17 Source: GAO analysis of data from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Notes: Total completion rate may not equal the sum of diploma and alternative credential rates because of rounding errors. Total completion and dropout rates do not add to 100 because a small percentage of students aged out of high school or died. We found no data source that could be used to compare high school completion rates for IDEA and general education students. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) had data from 33 states on all youth who completed high school during the 1999-2000 school year, as well as data from 36 states and the District of Columbia on all youth who dropped out during that year. These data show that among the 33 states, high school completion rates for all youth ranged from about 63 percent to Page 9 GAO-03-773 Special Education 89 percent. Among 37 states, dropout rates ranged from about 3 percent to 9 percent.8 Graduation Rates Completion and dropout rates for IDEA youth remained stable between Remained Stable Despite the 1997-98 and 2000-01 school years. As figure 2 illustrates, the rate of States’ Use of High School IDEA students graduating from high school over that time period with a standard diploma or completing high school with an alternative credential Exit Examinations fluctuated between 67 percent and 69 percent, while the dropout rate remained at 29 percent in the latter 3 school years. 8 Officials from OSEP and NCES cautioned that there are large differences in the methodologies used by the two entities to calculate students’ completion and dropout rates. For example, OSEP’s rate is based on the total number of students who left high school in a given year, while NCES’ s rate is based on the total number of students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in a given year. In addition, NCES did not provide national totals for completion or dropout rates because not all states reported the number of dropouts to NCES. Page 10 GAO-03-773 Special Education Figure 2: Completion and Dropout Rates for IDEA Students from 1997-98 to 2000-01 School Years Percent 70 60 58 57 56 56 50 40 31 29 29 29 30 20 11 11 11 11 10 0 1997-1998 1998-1999 1999-2000 2000-2001 School year Diploma rate Certificate rate Dropout rate Source: GAO analysis of data from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Completion and dropout rates among IDEA youth remained stable despite states’ increasing use of exit examinations for students to graduate from high school with a standard diploma. While states’ use of exit examinations addressed concerns over whether students obtaining a diploma are able to demonstrate evidence of academic achievement, it also generated concerns that dropout rates will rise among youth unable to pass such examinations, particularly among youth with disabilities. A study of 1998-99 completion and dropout rates sponsored by Education did not show higher dropout rates in states with exit examinations, or among the various disability groups.9 We updated that analysis using 9 Berry, Hugh and William Halloran, Graduation Exam Requirements and Students with Disabilities: A Correlational Study of Disability, Race, and Outcomes (Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, February 2003). Page 11 GAO-03-773 Special Education states’ completion and dropout rates from the 2000-01 school year, and found similar results.10 Despite these study results, the effect of exit examinations on IDEA graduation rates has not been fully tested because most states have been providing IDEA youth with different options, such as exempting them from the examinations, modifying the examinations to various extents, or offering alternative exit credentials that do not require students to pass the exit examinations.11 For example, IDEA students in Georgia can petition for an exemption from the state’s exit examination and still receive a diploma. New York allows students with disabilities who are unable to pass state’s exit examinations to take a modified and less rigorous version. Other modifications available to IDEA youth in some states include using different scoring criteria or allowing IDEA students to retake the examination. In addition, more than half of the states with exit examinations also offered alternative credentials. For example, Alabama allows IDEA students to obtain an occupational diploma based on completion of courses incorporating certain career and technical education standards, such as Consumer Mathematics and Employment English in lieu of traditional Mathematics and English. A state official from Alabama stated that offering such alternative credentials assists the state in raising academic standards for all students without increasing IDEA youth’s dropout rate. IDEA Youth Transitioning IDEA youth completing high school with alternative credentials or from High School without dropping out do have some opportunities to immediately enter Standard Diplomas Have employment. State and local officials, as well as employer representatives in states we visited, indicated that some employers place higher value on Some Options for Entering the prospective applicant’s job skills, such as willingness to learn and Employment or ability to interact with others, than on a specific graduation document. For Postsecondary Education example, New York officials from the State Workforce Investment Board 10 We updated Education’s analysis for all IDEA students, but not for individual disability groups. 11 Education’s analysis of 1998-99 completion rates showed that the percentage of IDEA youth receiving a certificate in states with exit examination requirements was approximately 16 percent, compared with about 6 percent for states without such requirements. We updated that analysis for the 2000-01 school year and found that about 14 percent of IDEA youth in states that have implemented the exit examination requirement received a certificate compared with about 9 percent of IDEA youth in states that did not have such requirement or have not fully implemented it. Page 12 GAO-03-773 Special Education and a local Employment and Training Center said that employers would be willing to hire youth with disabilities without a standard diploma and provide job related training as long as they had the necessary communication skills and basic work ethic. Options for pursuing postsecondary education include programs focusing on vocational education and skills training, as well as academic programs. In California, for example, IDEA youth can enter Regional Occupational Programs that lead to vocational certificates in a wide range of fields. While high school diplomas may not be necessary for such programs, other prerequisites, such as entrance examinations, may be required. Community colleges are another option for youth wishing to pursue a college degree. In many states, community colleges have an open enrollment policy, admitting students regardless of high school diploma status. Some community colleges, however, may require youth to pass an entrance examination to determine if they have the ability to benefit from the college’s academic programs. Youth who do not pass the entrance examination may enroll in remedial adult education courses to prepare for the examination or obtain a high school equivalency degree. State Data Showing Data from Education’s National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS), Transition of IDEA Youth showing the proportion of IDEA youth who obtain jobs or pursue into Employment and postsecondary education after high school, are over a decade old.12 Education is currently funding NLTS2, but information on the long-term Postsecondary Education transition outcomes of students included in the study is not yet available Have Limitations since they are only now beginning to complete high school.13 These national studies are not representative at the state level. However, according to our national survey of state Directors of Special Education, nearly half of the states routinely collect data on students’ transition for their own use.14 (See fig. 3.) 12 Education funded NLTS in the late 1980s and early 1990s, providing information on a nationally representative sample of students ages 13 to 21 enrolled in special education programs in the 1985-86 school year. 13 Education plans to conduct the study until 2010 and release reports annually. The study involves a nationally representative sample of special education students who were 13 to 16 years old as of December 2000. 14 In addition, state education officials from Kansas, Maine, and Minnesota reported to us that they are in the process of developing and implementing a routine data collection system. Page 13 GAO-03-773 Special Education Figure 3: States That Collect Data on IDEA Youth Leaving High School Wash. Mont. Maine N.Dak. Oreg. Vt. Minn. Idaho N.H. S.Dak. Wisc. N.Y. Mass. Wyo. Mich. R.I. Nev. Iowa Pa. Conn. Nebr. Utah Ohio N.J. Ill. Ind. Colo. W.Va. Del. Calif. Kans. Mo. Va. Md. Ky. N.C. Tenn. Ariz. Okla. N.Mex. Ark. S.C. Miss. Ala. Ga. Hawaii Tex. La. Fla. Alaska States without routine data collection efforts States with routine data collection efforts Source: GAO survey data. Costs and funding sources for the data collection efforts varied among states. (See app. II, table 8.) To fund their data collection efforts, most states used federal funds such as those provided under IDEA, and some Page 14 GAO-03-773 Special Education states also used state funding.15 For example, New York is using IDEA discretionary funds for a $2.75 million 7-year follow-up study, while Florida is spending approximately $400,000 for the state fiscal year 2002-03 effort, using primarily general state revenues. Despite state efforts to collect information on the postsecondary employment and education status of IDEA youth, state methodologies have limitations that preclude using the data to represent the status of IDEA youth in the state, or decrease the usefulness of the data in other ways. (See app. II, table 9 and fig. 4 for information on state methodologies and type of data states have available.) • Selection of students. Ten states did not design their follow-up efforts to include a representative sample of IDEA youth. For example, Alabama and California collected data only on students in those school districts participating in the states’ model transition initiatives. In addition, approximately half of the states collecting data did not include IDEA youth who had dropped out of high school. • Adjusting for nonresponse bias. At least 8 states had a response rate of less than 50 percent. For example, Texas had a response rate of less than 12 percent. Moreover, none of the states reported that they conducted analyses comparing the characteristics of respondents and nonrespondents to identify possible sources of bias in the results. • Ability to disaggregate data. Six states did not collect information on IDEA students’ disability type. In addition, 2 states collected information on the outcomes of all students without the ability to differentiate between outcomes for IDEA youth and their peers. • Timing and number of student follow-ups. All but 1 state followed up within 2 years of students leaving high school to obtain information on their immediate transition outcomes. For example, Delaware conducted its follow-up after 6 months, while Alabama collected information 1 year 15 IDEA funds included state discretionary grants and State Improvement Grants (SIG). Discretionary funds are awarded to states on the basis of a competitive review process. SIGs are provided by Education to assist state education agencies and their partners in reforming and improving systems for providing educational, early intervention, and transitional services, including systems for professional development, technical assistance, and dissemination of knowledge about best practices to improve results for children with disabilities. Page 15 GAO-03-773 Special Education after graduation. However, only 8 states collected data at more than one point in time to examine students’ long-term transition outcomes. • Type of data available. Only 6 states had data on how many students were both employed and attending postsecondary school. These data are necessary to determine the overall proportion of IDEA youth transitioning to these activities after high school. Only 11 states collected information on reasons why some students failed to successfully transition into employment or postsecondary education. While studies from most of the states with routine data collection efforts, by themselves, are of insufficient methodological quality to be cited alone, together they show that the majority of IDEA youth were working or going to school within a year of leaving high school, and that they were more likely to be employed than to be enrolled in postsecondary education programs. For example, in Wisconsin, a state with one of the more sound approaches to data collection and analysis, 88 percent of IDEA youth who left high school between December 1999 and 2000 participated in an employment or educational activity 1 year later. Of these youth, 80 percent reported being employed and 47 percent reported attending some type of postsecondary education institution.16 These results are consistent with the national survey findings from the early 1990s. Most states that collected data have been using them for purposes such as monitoring school districts or targeting schools for technical assistance. (See app. II, table 10 for examples of state uses of data.) For example, Idaho looked at the transition outcomes of students in order to select school districts for focused monitoring, and New York prioritized its technical assistance to school districts that appeared to be struggling with transition. Nearly one-third of these states, however, did not regularly share the results with local school systems. Finally, while more than half of the states do not routinely collect data on postsecondary employment and education status of IDEA youth, most expressed interest in doing so. However, officials familiar with state data collection efforts indicated that state and local school systems did not always have appropriate guidance on how data could be collected, analyzed, and used to improve programs and outcomes for youth with 16 Percentages do not add to 100 since some youth may have been both employed and in school; the results are unweighted. Page 16 GAO-03-773 Special Education disabilities. For example, officials in 2 states reported that they were not certain whether their surveys included appropriate questions related to students’ postsecondary status. In another state, an official reported that local school systems did not have the necessary expertise to use data available to them for purposes such as improving programs for IDEA youth. A variety of problems that impede IDEA youth transition to postsecondary Problems Impeding education and employment have been consistently reported by youth, Transition of IDEA parents, teachers, and others. States and local education agencies are addressing some of the reported problems related to education and work Youth into experiences youth receive while in school; however, transportation Postsecondary problems are less likely to be addressed at the state and local level. State Directors of Special Education are generally satisfied with assistance Education and provided to them by Education in addressing transition issues at the state Employment Remain and local level, but some expressed concerns about the timeliness of Partially Addressed federal feedback on their state improvement plans and inconsistency in the quality of technical assistance provided by federal Regional Resource Centers. Poor Linkages between Discussions with students, parents, teachers, and others during our site Schools and Youth Service visits revealed that a variety of transition problems still remain that have Providers and Other been consistently reported by these groups in past surveys and published studies. Transition problems affecting IDEA youth include those related to Problems Impeding IDEA self-advocacy training and insufficient information about the transition Youth Transition Have process. For example, youth responding to a national survey by a youth Been Partially Addressed association,17 reported problems identifying and learning how to ask for at the State and Local specific accommodations they need to succeed in school and the Level workplace. In addition, parents we interviewed said they did not have information about the spectrum of education and employment service providers that were available. Other problems included an absence of linkages to adult service providers, insufficient vocational education and work-related experiences obtained during high school, and lack of 17 The survey was conducted by the National Youth Leadership Network during 2001-02 and included responses from 202 youth with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 24. Survey respondents came from 34 states and the District of Columbia but were not randomly selected and survey results cannot be generalized to the national population of youth with disabilities. Page 17 GAO-03-773 Special Education transportation after high school to the job site or postsecondary school. (See table 2.) Table 2: Problems Reported by Stakeholders in the Transition Process Transition problem Stakeholders Lack of self-advocacy training Youth Insufficient information about transition process Parents Absence of linkages between school systems and service Teachers providers Lack of vocational education and community work experience Researchers Lack of transportation Federal, state, and local officials Source: National Youth Leadership Network 2001-02 Youth Survey, site visits, Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPeNSE), NLTS2, and our interviews. Self-advocacy training. Youth with disabilities responding to a national survey by a youth association, reported problems obtaining knowledge about their rights under laws like IDEA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990,18 and identifying and learning how to ask for specific accommodations they need to succeed in school and the workplace. Research shows that many youth with disabilities have difficulties developing the necessary attitudes and skills to prepare for their lives after graduation, but suggest that youth who obtain self- determination skills are more likely to achieve positive education and employment outcomes. State Directors of Special Education in 24 states reported that less than half of IDEA students received self-advocacy training while in high school. Many states and local education agencies have taken various actions to provide and promote self-advocacy training. For example, 3 states passed legislation or developed regulations mandating self-advocacy curriculum in schools according to our survey of state Directors of Special Education, and 44 percent of local education agencies include self-advocacy training for IDEA youth in their curriculum according to a national survey by Education.19 While a national survey of personnel serving students with 18 The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, and public accommodations against qualified individuals with disabilities. 19 SLIIDEA collected transition data in 1999-2000 from the 50 states and a nationally representative sample of districts and schools that serve children with disabilities. Page 18 GAO-03-773 Special Education disabilities20 shows that less than two thirds of special education teachers frequently teach self-determination skills, Directors of Special Education in about half of the 50 states we surveyed reported introducing programs to train teachers on how to teach self-advocacy skills. Transition process. Parents interviewed during our site visits reported problems helping their child navigate the transition process as students prepare to leave high school for the adult world. Research shows that when parents participate in their child’s education, their child improves academically and has higher aspirations for school and career development. However, parents from our site visits and family support groups said that they did not have the necessary information to adequately participate in their child’s transition from high school. Parents we interviewed said they did not have information about where to go for assistance after high school, the spectrum of education and employment service providers that were available, and the type and level of support that may be offered by providers. Moreover, they were unaware of the ADA or other laws protecting their children’s rights, and family support resources available to them in the community such as Parent Training and Information Centers.21 States have taken some actions to provide this knowledge to parents. Eight states indicated in our survey that they have passed legislation or regulations to include parents or advocacy groups in transition planning while youth are in high school.22 In addition, at least three-fourths of the states are funding parent centers or other family advocacy groups, establishing task forces and workgroups, and providing technical assistance to local school systems. Ongoing efforts also exist in over half 20 SPeNSE surveyed personnel from a nationally representative sample of districts, intermediate education agencies, and state schools for students with vision and hearing impairments. 21 Parent centers are funded by Education and serve families of children and young adults with disabilities. The centers provide training and information to parents and connect children with disabilities to community resources that address their needs. Each state has at least one parent center, and states with large populations may have more. There are approximately 100 parent centers in the United States. 22 IDEA also requires that parents be given the opportunity to attend meetings discussing the child’s individualized education program, provide consent to any provision of services to the child when given the first time, and be informed of the child’s progress toward annual goals. Page 19 GAO-03-773 Special Education of the states to increase parent participation through developing culturally diverse transition materials. Linkages between schools and service providers. Teachers responding to a national survey by Education23 reported that in the area of IDEA youth transition, more than half rarely, if ever, coordinate referrals to adult service providers. National data from NLTS show that more than 85 percent of IDEA youth received services that were sought after high school, and IDEA legislation requires that a student’s IEP include a statement of interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages, if appropriate, to ensure that IDEA youth will receive the services needed to achieve their postsecondary education or career goals. Twenty-one state Directors of Special Education reported in our survey that many local school systems do not have designated intermediaries to establish such linkages, and 18 Directors of Special Education said that their agency also had difficulty coordinating with other state agencies outside of the school system. Teachers from our site visits cited lack of time and knowledge about available service providers as part of the problem. All states are taking some action to provide direction and resources for improving linkages between schools and service providers. Ten states reported in our survey that they passed legislation or regulations providing for greater coordination between schools and service providers. In addition, according to Education’s survey of state and local education areas, while less than half of school districts reported having a transition coordinator at each high school, all but 3 states reported hiring state transition coordinators who can assist teachers in their efforts to link students with providers after high school. All states reported providing technical assistance or training to local education agencies on interagency coordination, with Connecticut also developing policies and procedures for students to access adult services, and Utah providing training to other state agencies on IDEA transition requirements. Vocational education and community work experience. Findings based on parent interviews from NLTS2 show that 24 percent of youth received vocational services and 60 percent had paid work experiences while in high school, despite findings from the SLIIDEA study that about 90 percent of high schools reported offering prevocational training and work experience to IDEA students. Past research has shown that IDEA 23 SPeNSE. Page 20 GAO-03-773 Special Education youth who received these services experienced higher rates of successful transition. For example, NLTS researchers reported that youth with disabilities obtaining vocational education and community work experience had been less likely to drop out of school, and achieved greater success in obtaining employment with higher earnings.24 Those conducting more recent state and local studies reported similar results. State and local education officials from 3 states we visited indicated that school districts have difficulties offering an appropriate mix of vocational programs that reflect the job market demands as well as meet the students’ career interests. States and local education agencies have taken various actions to provide and promote vocational education and career preparation opportunities for IDEA youth. Nine Directors of Special Education in our state survey said that their state had passed legislation or regulations requiring vocational education and career preparation for IDEA students, and most Directors of Special Education said that they disseminated best practices in the area of vocational education and career preparation. Other actions taken by half of the states included funding outreach and collaboration efforts of local education agencies to create vocational education and work opportunities. Transportation. Federal, state, and local officials in 3 states we visited all said that many youth may not have access to transportation they need to pursue employment and postsecondary education. In rural areas, public transportation may be very limited, or may not be available during the time needed to get to their job site or college. Availability of transportation is not always the only issue. One parent told us that using public transportation was not feasible because her child suffered from seizures. While private providers may be better prepared to serve youth with disabilities, parents and advocacy groups said that private providers were often unreliable and their services were not coordinated with public transportation systems. An advocacy official indicated that one reason why these providers are unreliable is because they generally operate on a priority system that gives medical needs a higher priority than employment needs. 24 NLTS showed that vocational education has a positive impact on both education and employment outcomes for the majority of students, while work experience has a positive impact on education for all students with disabilities and on employment for students with orthopedic or health impairments. Page 21 GAO-03-773 Special Education The 3 states we visited had not addressed transition issues related to the lack of reliable transportation in their state improvement plans.25 State education officials said these types of problems are outside their area of responsibility. In New York and California, however, some local areas are taking initiative to address this problem. In western New York, a collaborative endeavor involving 30 agencies provides transportation, as well as other services, to youth with disabilities to help them in career preparation activities. In California, youth workforce development centers work with the Sacramento Regional Transit District to provide complementary transit tickets to youth with disabilities so they can come to the centers for educational and employment services. Education Provides Some Over half of state Directors of Special Education reported that federal Assistance to States in assistance was very helpful in assisting states address transition problems, Addressing Transition but some stated that the timeliness or consistency of assistance could be improved. One of the ways Education provides assistance to states is by Problems, but Concerns providing feedback on state improvement plans that states develop and Remain about Timeliness use to show how they plan to address areas of weakness in implementing and Consistency of IDEA, including transition requirements.26 While 39 state Directors of Assistance Special Education found this feedback useful, some expressed dissatisfaction over Education’s timeliness in providing the feedback. For example, of 21 state plans submitted to Education in 2002, only one-fourth received feedback within 6 months, and at least another one-fifth did not receive formal written feedback for a year or more. (See table 3.) 25 We previously reported on federal, state and local actions needed to coordinate transportation services, U.S. General Accounting Office, Transportation - Disadvantaged Populations: Some Coordination Efforts Among Programs Providing Transportation Services, but Obstacles Persist, GAO-03-697 (Washington D.C.: June 30, 2003). 26 For more information on Education’s oversight process, see U.S. General Accounting Office, Special Education: Clearer Guidance Would Enhance Implementation of Federal Disciplinary Provisions, GAO-03-550 (Washington D.C.: May 20, 2003). Page 22 GAO-03-773 Special Education Table 3: Education’s Response Time as of March 26, 2003, to States Submitting Improvement Plans in 2002 State Federal Elapsed time State submission date response date in months Response received Minnesota February-02 March-03 14 Illinois January-02 February-03 14 Connecticut February-02 December-02 10 Delaware February-02 October-02 8 Idaho April-02 December-02 8 Nevada July-02 January-03 7 Oklahoma July-02 January-03 6 Wyoming May-02 October-02 4 Virginia October-02 February-03 4 Michigan July-02 October-02 3 New Hampshire August-02 October-02 2 Response pending South Carolina February-02 Pending 14+ Texas March-02 Pending 13+ Oregon June-02 Pending 9+ North Carolina June-02 Pending 9+ Tennessee July-02 Pending 9+ Rhode Island July-02 Pending 9+ Kentucky July-02 Pending 9+ Indiana July-02 Pending 9+ Georgia September-02 Pending 7+ Iowa October-02 Pending 6+ Source: Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Education does not have a standard response period and has not set a performance goal for providing feedback to states on their improvement plans. While Education officials stated that they provide extensive informal feedback to states prior to issuing a formal written response, they also stated that they are taking action to try and expedite the agency’s formal written responses. To preclude delays on the formal written feedback resulting from the agency’s internal review process, Education has developed standard language and written review procedures to be used in preparing feedback. According to Education officials, having standard language and review procedures will decrease the time necessary Page 23 GAO-03-773 Special Education to write and review the feedback report. They also hope these actions will reduce the response time to states. Another way Education provides assistance to states is by funding 6 Regional Resource Centers that states can use to obtain technical assistance for addressing transition issues.27 Services provided to states by the centers include guidance, training, information dissemination, assistance with state development of training materials, and facilitation of meetings states convene to address problems. Directors of Special Education in 29 states reported in our survey that assistance obtained from the centers was very helpful, but there are some concerns that the quality of services was sometimes inconsistent among the centers. One center, for example, consistently received high marks from the states in that region, while the remaining 5 centers received mixed reviews. State and center officials attributed the inconsistent quality of services to variation in the expertise available at each center, an observation also reported in a previous performance evaluation of the centers.28 This evaluation recommended that Education provide training to alleviate the disparity in staff expertise, particularly with regard to transition issues. In response to this issue, Education officials said that the agency offers periodic professional development opportunities and encourages the centers to operate as a network by sharing knowledge and expertise. Despite these efforts, however, some states still have concerns about service quality and are turning to private consultants to obtain help with transition issues. 27 Education also funds the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition to coordinate national resources, offer technical assistance, and disseminate information related to secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities in order to create opportunities for youth to achieve successful futures. 28 The performance evaluation of the Regional Resource Centers was conducted by Education’s Federal Resource Center of Special Education—June 2001. Page 24 GAO-03-773 Special Education The VR, WIA, and Ticket programs all offer services that can aid some The VR, WIA, and IDEA youth in their transition to postsecondary education or employment. Ticket Programs While the federal agencies administering these programs are not required to track how many IDEA youth use them, several factors may impede Provide Transition participation by the IDEA populations that are eligible for services. One Services, but Several factor limiting services under VR and WIA is insufficient program capacity to serve all eligible populations requesting services. Another factor Factors May Limit the affecting participation under the Ticket program is family concerns about Number of IDEA whether finding employment would result in youth losing public Youth Who Use Them assistance. A factor that may affect IDEA youth participation in all programs to various extents is a general lack of awareness by youth and families that these federal resources are available for transition assistance. The VR, WIA, and Ticket The VR, WIA, and Ticket programs all offer an array of similar and Programs Provide a Variety complementary education, employment, and support services for certain of Education and population groups. Employment Transition Education services. These services can support youth who are trying to Services complete their high school education as well as those youth furthering their education in postsecondary institutions, such as community colleges. Services for youth at all education levels can include those that prepare them for learning by providing tutoring and study skills training as well as providing access to educational programs through tuition support. Education services support both out of school youth, as well as those at risk of dropping out. We observed a tutoring program in an Alabama school district, for example, that used WIA funds to assist high school youth who are struggling academically. Employment services. These services can assist IDEA youth that are trying to obtain a job or obtain job skills necessary to increase potential wages. Services for youth in either situation can include those that prepare them for employment by providing job coaching and training, as well as direct placement with an employer. A service provider under the Ticket program in New York, for example, said that in addition to employment preparation services, they help find jobs for enrollees. Support services. These services can assist IDEA youth pursue their education and employment goals as well as achieve goals for independent living. These services can include mentoring and counseling, childcare, and transportation, as well as any other services that might be needed. In California, for example, the VR agency has cooperative agreements with education agencies to provide support services to youth with disabilities, Page 25 GAO-03-773 Special Education including financial assistance for assistive technology, such as wheelchairs and adapted computers, conducting vocational assessments for students, and providing information on options for both independent and supported living facilities. IDEA youth are not automatically eligible for these education, employment, and support services, and the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs serve populations that are both different and overlapping. Of the approximately 2 million IDEA youth ages 14 to 21, only some of these youth are eligible for these federally funded services. • Under the VR program, all people with a physical or mental impairment are potentially eligible for services, but states may only serve those with the most significant disabilities in times of funding constraint. The former administrator of Oregon’s VR program said that in the past the state was unable to serve some youth with psychiatric disorders due to funding constraints. • WIA primarily limits services to low-income youth that have some type of barrier to employment.29 While disabilities under IDEA may qualify as barriers for WIA purposes, available data suggest that only about 29 percent of IDEA youth meet WIA’s low-income requirement.30 • To qualify for the Ticket program, individuals must be at least 18 years old, and qualify for disability benefits from SSA.31 Available data suggest that about 13 percent of the IDEA youth population meets Ticket’s age and benefit requirements.32 Education, Labor, and SSA are not required to track the number of IDEA youth who are enrolled and obtaining transition services provided through 29 Under WIA, youth are eligible for services if they fall within one or more of the following categories: deficit in basic skills, school dropout, homeless, runaway, or foster child, pregnant or parent, has disability, offender, or requires additional assistance to obtain employment. Income qualification can be waived for up to 5 percent of youth in a local area. 30 To estimate the percentage of IDEA youth eligible for WIA programs, we used data reported in the NLTS2 survey on income of IDEA youth’s families. 31 Benefits are provided under the SSI program and the SSDI program. 32 We determined the percentage of IDEA youth eligible for the Ticket program by using data provided by SSA on the number of youth ages 18 to 21 receiving Social Security and SSI disability benefits. Page 26 GAO-03-773 Special Education the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs.33 However, available data for all youth show that over 550,000 were enrolled and received services during the time frames outlined in table 4. Table 4: All Youth Ages 14 to 21 Served by Selected Federal Programs Program Time frame Youth served a VR 10/1/01-9/30/02 175,000 WIA 7/1/01-6/31/02 376,014 b Ticket 2/02-11/02 496 Total 551,510 Source: The Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Council for State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and the Social Security Administration. a The estimate of the number of youth served is based on the proportion of youth (ages 14-21) who exited the VR program in fiscal year 2001. b This time period reflects the first 9 months that Ticket was implemented in 13 states. While federal agencies are not required to collect data on the type of education, employment, and support services actually provided to IDEA youth under the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs, Education and Labor do collect information on services provided to all youth ages 14 to 21.34 Education data on the approximately 94,000 youth who received services and exited the VR program in fiscal year 2001 show that three-fourths of youth obtained vocational, medical, and social counseling, and more youth obtained employment services than services to further their education or training. (See table 5.) 33 In fiscal year 2002, Education began collecting data on IDEA youth. 34 SSA does not collect data on services provided to participants in the Ticket program. Page 27 GAO-03-773 Special Education Table 5: Selected Services Provided to Youth through the VR Program in Fiscal Year 2001 Percent of youth Type of service ages 14 to 21 served Employment services Job finding services 36 Job placement services 29 Training services Business/vocational training 12 On-the-job training 8 Educational services Postsecondary educational training 21 Educational training below postsecondary level 19 Support services Counseling and guidancea 74 Transportation services 23 Source: GAO analysis of data provided by the Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration. a Counseling and guidance includes personal adjustment counseling, counseling that addresses medical, family, or social issues, vocational counseling, and any other form of counseling necessary for an individual to achieve an employment outcome. Labor data on the approximately 80,000 youth who received services and exited the WIA program in fiscal year 2001 show that about 40 percent of youth obtained employment and education services, but less than one- fourth received support services. (See table 6.)35 Table 6: Selected Services Provided through WIA in Program Year 2001 Percent of youth Type of service ages14 to 21 served Employment services 41 Summer employment opportunities 50 Educational services 38 Support services 18 Leadership development opportunities 15 Source: GAO analysis of data provided by the Department of Labor. 35 These data may be incomplete as the data set had a number of missing records. Page 28 GAO-03-773 Special Education Lack of Awareness and While IDEA youth vary in their need and desire to use federal transition Other Factors May Impede services, there are several factors that may impede their access to them. IDEA Youth Participation Three factors that may limit IDEA youth participation include (1) limitations in program capacity to serve the eligible population seeking in Federally Funded services, (2) youth and family fears that employment income may Transition Services jeopardize access to other public assistance, and (3) a lack of awareness about the availability of the transition resources. Program capacity. In regard to program capacity, the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs face different issues in serving IDEA youth eligible for their services. These problems include a lack of expertise to serve youth with disabilities, a lack of resources to serve all those seeking services, and unavailability of services in some states. For example: • Under the VR program, IDEA youth compete with all adults and youth with disabilities for services. Education officials report that a number of states have waiting lists for VR services. At the end of fiscal year 2001, for example, VR agencies had more people seeking services than resources to serve them, and about 30,000 people in 25 states were on waiting lists for services. (See app. III.)36 Of this total, Education reported that about 20 percent, or about 6,000 individuals, were on a waiting list for VR services in Washington state. • Under WIA, IDEA youth compete with all youth facing some type of barrier to employment, and older youth also compete with adults for services under the WIA adult program.37 WIA officials told us that WIA providers generally do not have the expertise to serve youth with disabilities,38 and in some cases facilities do not have the appropriate physical accommodations. In light of these deficiencies, WIA officials told us that this population is often referred to VR agencies for assessment and services. • The Ticket program has resources to serve all eligible youth seeking services; however, this new program has not yet been implemented in all 36 Moreover, Education officials informed us that the presence of waiting lists might keep additional individuals from seeking VR services. 37 WIA does allow local areas to waive income qualification criteria for up to 5 percent of youth served. 38 SSA has partnered with Labor to place disability navigators at all WIA assistance facilities. The navigators will have expertise in Social Security disability programs, disability law, and other relevant issues. Page 29 GAO-03-773 Special Education states. SSA plans to complete its rollout of the program to the final 17 states and the U.S. territories by 2004, which will increase access to the program for over half of the approximately 257,000 youth receiving assistance from SSA.39 (See app. IV.) Fear of losing public assistance. A second contributing factor may be that some youth and families that receive public assistance are afraid that employment income will jeopardize their access to other federal and state public assistance benefits such as health insurance and subsidized housing. SSA reports that less than 1 percent of eligible youth had signed up for the Ticket program to increase self-sufficiency. In the 3 states we visited, SSA officials, school administrators, teachers, advocacy groups, and others involved in the transition process said that fear of losing federal and state benefits is a common reason why individuals are hesitant to participate in federal work incentive programs such as the Ticket program. While some of these fears may be unfounded, others are not, and working and receiving income can affect youth’s ability to retain services such as health insurance benefits through Medicaid.40 For example, while SSA has encouraged states to offer beneficiaries the opportunity to retain Medicaid benefits while earning wages, only about half of the states have established such policies. (See app. V.) While some programs allow youth to earn a certain amount of income and retain benefits, amounts allowed under the various assistance programs can differ, and many families are not aware of the contingencies. Although youth unable to sustain employment can re-enroll in public assistance programs, parents we spoke with stated that enrollment in the various programs is a lengthy and difficult process that they do not want to repeat. Lack of awareness of available federal services. Finally, a third factor that may limit IDEA youth participation in federal programs is that many youth and families are unaware that they exist. While IDEA legislation requires schools to provide youth with transition services and information about available transition resources, students, parents, and teachers we spoke with in the 3 states visited were generally uninformed about the continuum of available federal transition services and how to access them. Most of those we talked with were familiar with the VR program and the 39 As of December 2002, about 244,000 youth between ages 18 to 21 were SSI recipients and about 13,000 youth 21 and under were SSDI recipients. 40 Medicaid is a jointly funded, federal-state entitlement program that finances health care coverage for low-income individuals. Page 30 GAO-03-773 Special Education types of services it provides.41 However, many were unfamiliar with the Ticket program, and familiarity with the services provided through the Workforce Investment Act assistance centers varied dramatically within and among states. In one California suburban community, a high school we visited had a close working relationship with the local assistance center, and school administrators, teachers, and students were aware of the services available there. However, teachers, parents, and students we talked to at an urban New York school were unfamiliar with the assistance centers that provide WIA services, even though a center was located only a few miles away. Education, Labor, and SSA recognize that action is needed to reach out to youth and families and tell them about federal resources such as the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs. While these agencies have several efforts underway to publicize or increase awareness of available resources, these efforts may not include information on all federal transition resources, or reach youth, families, and teachers involved in developing transition plans for youth leaving high school. For example: • Education’s Regional Resource Center in the Southeast developed a guide to inform students and families about available resources, but this guide does not include information about WIA services. The guide is available on the Web, but there is no consistent distribution process to provide the guide to all youth and families in all states served by the center. • Labor partnered with SSA and other federal agencies to identify more than 200 federal programs among 12 federal agencies that serve persons with disabilities. A Labor official said that once the report is finalized, it will be available to the public, including IDEA youth and families; however, this report is primarily targeted to policymakers and program officials. • SSA has several efforts underway to increase awareness of the Ticket program among other federal and state agencies, service providers, and advocacy groups. While the agency is conducting local outreach using benefits planning, assistance, and outreach centers as well as protection 41 VR agencies are required by law to conduct outreach to special education students while they are in high school. Page 31 GAO-03-773 Special Education and advocacy partners, these efforts do not consistently target youth and families through high schools.42 Youth served under IDEA are not a homogeneous population, and Conclusions graduation patterns and postsecondary education and employment status can differ significantly among those with physical, sensory, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. IDEA requires individualized education programs that address needed transition services that recognize the unique challenges each youth with a disability must face. These programs can best be developed when states and schools have the necessary information to evaluate how well existing programs are working to assist youth during and after graduation. State education officials increasingly show interest in collecting data on what happens to IDEA youth after they leave high school, and nearly half of the states voluntarily collect such data. Many states, however, are still searching for ways to develop cost-effective and sound data collection systems and there is no central information point to share alternative methodologies that may be most useful for identifying which groups of IDEA youth are behind their peers and whether programmatic changes are needed to eliminate performance gaps. In the absence of guidance and information on how to collect and use postsecondary data, state and local education agencies and schools will continue to experience difficulties in evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs for students with disabilities, initiating program improvements, and targeting resources to areas or groups that need them most. Although state and local education agencies are taking steps to minimize transition problems for youth with disabilities, challenges such as developing linkages between schools and community youth service providers still remain that need to be addressed both inside and outside of the education system. While Education provides some federal resources to help state and local education agencies address these problems, the usefulness of the assistance may be compromised because of delays and inconsistent quality of some services. Some transition challenges are likely to remain unless federal assistance is strengthened and used to help states take a more holistic approach to dealing with transition issues. 42 Under the Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach Program, SSA has established cooperative agreements with entities across the nation to provide benefits counseling and assistance, and conduct ongoing outreach efforts to inform beneficiaries of available work incentives. SSA also established the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security Program to serve SSI and SSDI beneficiaries who want to work. Page 32 GAO-03-773 Special Education Federal assistance provided under the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs can help augment transition services provided by state and local education agencies, or fund transportation or other services that are otherwise unavailable. While these services are intended to help youth overcome barriers to a successful transition, this assistance cannot be provided if youth, parents, and education officials are unaware that these services exist. In the absence of improved coordination among federal agencies to provide these customers with information on the array of available federal resources, youth eligible for such services will not be able to use them in their efforts to achieve a successful education or employment outcome. To expand the availability and use of data on the postsecondary Recommendations for employment and education status of IDEA youth, we are recommending Executive Action that Education collect and disseminate information to states on sound strategies for collecting these data and appropriately using these data for program improvement. To enhance federal assistance provided to states to help them address existing transition problems, we are recommending that Education develop an action plan with specific time frames to • provide states with feedback on state improvement plans to address education and transition problems of IDEA youth and • ensure consistency in the quality of technical assistance provided to states by its regional resource centers. Finally, to increase awareness of available federal transition services, we are recommending that Education take the lead in working with other federal agencies to develop strategies for using the federally mandated high school transition planning process to provide IDEA youth and their families with information about the full complement of federally funded transition services. We provided a draft of this report to Education, Labor, and SSA officials Agency Comments for their review and comment. Agency comments are reprinted in and Our Evaluation appendixes VI, VII, and VIII, respectively. While we made specific recommendations to the Department of Education, all agencies agreed with the recommendations for executive action and discussed their plans to address them. Page 33 GAO-03-773 Special Education Education plans to take steps to implement our recommendations to provide information to states on sound data collection strategies, improve feedback and technical assistance to states, and work with other federal agencies to provide IDEA youth with information about federal transition services. Education noted that its plans and actions will depend on legislative changes made to the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act, and that action to implement our recommendations will be taken after reauthorization of these laws is completed. Education also cautioned that because of variations in the collection and reporting of state data on student graduation, dropouts, and exit examination policies, it is difficult to draw valid conclusions about high school completion outcomes and the effect of exit examinations. Labor stated that our findings and recommendations substantiated the issues and concerns that it has with regard to transition challenges for youth with disabilities. Labor also described the steps it has taken to address WIA youth program concerns related to program capacity, lack of awareness, and eligibility. SSA noted that it would continue to work with Education to provide IDEA youth and their families with information about SSA programs, work incentives, and employment supports. SSA also cited its planning efforts that are aimed at promoting employment and economic self-sufficiency involving youth with disabilities. Education and SSA also provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate. We will send copies of this report to the Secretaries of Education and Labor, SSA, relevant congressional committees, and other interested parties. Copies will be made available to others upon request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov. Page 34 GAO-03-773 Special Education Please contact me at (415) 904-2272 if you or your staff has any questions about this report. Other major contributors to this report are listed in appendix IX. Sincerely yours, David D. Bellis Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues Page 35 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix I: Scope and Methodology Appendix I: Scope and Methodology In conducting our work, we administered a mail survey to state Directors of Special Education in all states, conducted telephone interviews with state officials, and visited 3 states. We also reviewed the findings of nationally available studies on transition experiences of students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), interviewed officials from the U.S. Department of Education (Education), U.S. Department of Labor (Labor), and the Social Security Administration (SSA), who are responsible for programs that can assist students during transition, and analyzed data from these programs. In addition, we interviewed disability advocates and national experts from organizations such as the National Organization on Disability, Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights, and Council for Exceptional Children, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, and National Association of State Directors of Special Education. We performed our work in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards between June 2002 and June 2003. To document state graduation and examination policies pertaining to Survey IDEA youth, challenges experienced by these youth during transition, actions taken by the states to address these challenges, states’ assessments of federal resources, as well as to obtain information on state efforts to routinely collect data on these students’ postsecondary status, we conducted a mail survey, sending questionnaires to state Directors of Special Education in 50 states. All 50 states responded to our survey. In many states, Directors of Special Education forwarded the survey to other individuals, such as state transition coordinators or education specialists, that they believed to be most knowledgeable about the issues covered in the survey. We analyzed the survey data by calculating descriptive statistics, as well as performing content analysis of the responses to open- ended survey questions. To obtain information on states’ efforts to collect data on postsecondary State Telephone employment and education status of IDEA students, we conducted Interviews and telephone interviews with state officials from 21 states who indicated on our survey that their states routinely collected these data. We contacted Analysis of State Data individuals in those states that the survey respondents identified as being most knowledgeable about data collection efforts in their states, such as state education officials or university researchers responsible for data collection in the state. To obtain additional information on the data collection methodologies used by the states, as well as to learn about postsecondary status of IDEA students in those states, we also requested Page 36 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix I: Scope and Methodology all states participating in the telephone interviews provide their survey instruments and any published materials or other available information reporting students’ outcomes. To obtain information on states’ utilization and assessment of federal resources available to assist them in addressing transition problems experienced by IDEA youth, we conducted telephone interviews with state officials in 11 states. We used our survey results to select states that had opposing views on how helpful they believed federal resources were in providing assistance to address transition problems. To obtain in-depth information on transition experiences of IDEA youth, Site Visits the challenges they are facing in the course of their transition, the extent to which federal and other programs are available to serve them, and actions taken at the state and local level to address existing transition challenges, we made site visits to 3 states—Alabama, California, and New York. We selected these states to obtain a mix based on differences in geographic location, the size of the IDEA population in the state, high school completion patterns, exit examination policies for IDEA youth in the state, postsecondary data collection efforts, and state monitoring processes, as well as recommendations of experts in transition. We visited 2 local school systems in each state, representing a combination of urban, suburban, and rural areas. (See table 7.) In addition, we consulted with state officials in helping us select local school systems with exemplary transition practices, as well as those that appeared to be struggling in the transition area. Table 7: Site Visit States and Local School Systems State Local school systems Alabama Jefferson Auburn California Elk GroveSan Francisco Unified New York Gowanda Buffalo City Source: GAO data. On each visit, we interviewed various stakeholders in the transition process at the state and local levels. At the state level, we typically interviewed Special Education, vocational rehabilitation (VR), and Labor officials, as well as members of the state Steering Committees established Page 37 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix I: Scope and Methodology as part of the federal Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process.1 At the local level, we interviewed school district officials responsible for special education services, school administrators and special education teachers, transition-age IDEA students and parents, community service providers and advocates, and VR, Workforce Investment Act youth program (WIA), and SSA officials responsible for local-level implementation of the VR program, WIA, and the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency (Ticket) program, respectively. To obtain information on transition problems as well as state and local Review of National efforts to address them, we reviewed and summarized the findings of Studies on Transition nationally available studies that addressed these issues, including the Study of State and Local Implementation and Impact of the IDEA, the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPeNSE), the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, and the National Youth Leadership Network 2001-02 Youth Survey. We used a statistician to evaluate these studies for methodological rigor, as well as to determine the extent to which these data could be used to offer a nationwide perspective on transition problems experienced by IDEA youth and on the actions taken by state and local education agencies to address these problems. We determined that the results from SPeNSE might be subject to bias since the nonresponse evaluation for this study was not available at the time of our request. The results of the youth survey presented the views of over 200 youth but did not reflect a nationally representative perspective because respondents were not randomly selected. We included the youth survey in our review because it was reported as the only data collection effort in the country designed and implemented by youth with disabilities. To determine high school completion rates for IDEA students, we Analysis of Existing obtained data collected from the states by the Office of Special Education Data Programs (OSEP) and summarized in Education’s Annual Reports to Congress. We used the 22nd and 23rd Annual Reports to obtain data for 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years. We used OSEP-administered Web site (http://www.ideadata.org) to obtain data for 1999-2000 and 2000-01 school years. In calculating graduation and dropout rates for IDEA youth, we relied on the method in use by OSEP. Specifically, OSEP reports what 1 We did not interview Steering Committee representatives in California because California did not fully participate in the federal monitoring process. Page 38 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix I: Scope and Methodology percentage of IDEA students leave high school with a standard diploma or drop out during a given school year out of the total number of IDEA students who leave high school with a standard diploma or a certificate, drop out, age out, or die during that year. OSEP does not report the certificate rate, but using OSEP’s data, we calculated the rate of youth completing with a certificate in the same manner. To determine high school completion and dropout rates for all students, we looked at an August 2002 published report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), presenting rates of students completing public school with a standard diploma or an alternative credential and dropping out (among states that reported dropouts) for school year 1999- 2000. These data were collected by NCES for public school completers and dropouts through its Common Core of Data system. We obtained information on states’ exit examination policies from the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition and the National Center on Education Outcomes. We used that information to update Education’s analysis of completion and dropout rates for IDEA students in states with and without exit examinations. Education’s analysis did not differentiate between states that had exit examination policies in general and those that had fully implemented those policies by requiring all graduating seniors to participate in the examination in order to graduate. When we repeated Education’s analysis, we defined exit examination states only as those that had required all graduating seniors to fully participate in the exit examination by 2000-01. These states were: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas. To determine how many youth participated in the VR, WIA, and Ticket programs, we analyzed data provided by Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and SSA. Because VR participation data only reflected the number of youth exited, we obtained from RSA and the Council for State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation an estimated number of youth enrolled for services. We also analyzed data from RSA on types of services provided to youth. Page 39 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Table 8 shows various entities responsible for collecting data, costs of data collection efforts, and funding sources used by 21 states that routinely collected data on postsecondary employment and education status of IDEA youth. Table 8: State Approaches to Collecting Data on Postsecondary Employment and Education Status of IDEA Youth Data collectors Cost of effort State or local Regional Cost of data school Resource University Nonprofit Private collection and State systems Center partner agency contractor analysis Funding source Alabama • • Respondent did not Federal State know Improvement Grant (SIG) funding until 2002; state and Auburn University funds California • Respondent did not IDEA and state funds know Delaware • $5 per student SIG funds initially; state follow-up survey funds beginning in 2003 sent (approx. $4,020 total cost for following up with the class of 1999) Florida • Approximately State funds $400,000 for the 2002-03 effort to track about 6 million individuals Georgia • Respondent did not Local school system know funds used for data collection; IDEA funds used for state-level data analysis Idaho • Less than $10 per IDEA funds student for 5 years of follow-up ($7,900 total for following up with the class of 2002) Indiana • Approximately IDEA funds $75,000 annually for state and district efforts Kentucky • Planned Respondent did not State funds know Page 40 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Data collectors Cost of effort State or local Regional Cost of data school Resource University Nonprofit Private collection and State systems Center partner agency contractor analysis Funding source Maryland • Respondent did not Future funding source know not yet determined Michigan • • Estimated $35,000 SIG funds for one-time follow- up with students graduating between December 2000 and November 2001 Missouri • Respondent did not State and federal know (IDEA, Vocational, and Title I) funds Nebraska • Districts receive IDEA funds $40 per student from the state for follow-up New York • • Approximately IDEA funds $75 per student for each follow-up cycle ($2.75 million for a 7-year contract) North Dakota • $30,000 annually IDEA funds Ohio • • • Estimated Federal and state $150,000 annually funds, and in-kind if the effort is university contributions extended to the entire state Texas • $220,000 annually IDEA funds for 4-year study Utah • $80,000 for follow- IDEA funds up with the classes of 1997 and 2000 Vermont • Respondent did not IDEA and state funds know Virginia • $93,000 for one- SIG funds time follow-up with the class of 1999 Washington • • Approximately IDEA funds $71,000 per year Page 41 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Data collectors Cost of effort State or local Regional Cost of data school Resource University Nonprofit Private collection and State systems Center partner agency contractor analysis Funding source Wisconsin • • First year of the IDEA funds for follow- st rd th 5-year contract: up during 1 , 3 , and 5 $50,000 (for follow- year of the contract. up with one group State funds provided to of students) districts for one 3rd year: $82,000 additional follow-up (for follow-up with during “off years.” two groups of Districts must use their students). The 5 th own funds for any year will also additional follow-ups. include two groups of students. Source: Information provided by state officials, December 2002 through April 2003. Table 9 presents various methods used by 21 states to routinely collect data on postsecondary employment and education status of IDEA youth. The table provides information on characteristics of students and school systems that states included in their data collection efforts and the time periods at which data were collected. Page 42 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Table 9: State Methods of Collecting Data on Postsecondary Employment and Education Status of IDEA Youth Students included Data collection times Number of post- Points in time Includes high when information information School system school on students’ All IDEA Includes on students’ or district In-school follow- postsecondary State students youth dropouts disability type participation information ups status is collected Alabama • • • Local school Information One 1 year (Self- systems from 11th identification) participating in grade state transition student program survey (approximately 38 percent of school systems) California • • Some districts in Information Two 1 year Workability from student 2 years Program survey (covering approximately 75 percent of special education students) Delaware • • • Full district One 6 months participation a Florida • • • Participation of N/A Annually all students who remain in state after they leave school Georgia • • Full district One February/March participation after exit Idaho • Full district Information Three 1 years participation from student 3 years exit survey 5 years Indiana • • • Voluntary district Information One 4 years participation from student (approximately exit survey 72 percent of planning districts) Kentucky • Planned Full district Information One October/November after participation from student after exit 2004 exit survey Marylandb • • Voluntary district Information One 1 year (Until participation from student 2003) exit survey Page 43 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Students included Data collection times Number of post- Points in time Includes high when information information School system school on students’ All IDEA Includes on students’ or district In-school follow- postsecondary State students youth dropouts disability type participation information ups status is collected Michigan • • • Full district One 1 to 2 years participation c Missouri • • Full district One 6 months participation Nebraska • • • Voluntary district One 1 to 1.5 years participation New Yorkd • • • Stratified cluster Information Three 1 year sample; 2000 from student 3 years sample from 74 exit survey 5 years school districts, 2001 sample from 141 school districts North • • • Voluntary district Information Three 1 year e Dakota participation; full from student 3 years participation exit survey 5 years beginning in 2003 f Ohio • • 6 samples in Information One for 1st study year: districts served from student each 1 and 3 years by 1 of the records student 2nd study year: state’s 16 sample 3 and 5 years Special (6 Education samples 3rd study year: Regional total) 1 and 3 years Resource Centers Texasg • • Voluntary district One For class of 1999 participation (3 years) For class of 2001 (1 year) Utah • • • 3 representative One or 1st study: class of samples of two, 1991 at 1 year students drawn depending 2nd study: class of from districts on study 1997 at 1 year across the state 3rd study: class of 1997 at 5 years and class of 2001 at 1 year Page 44 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Students included Data collection times Number of post- Points in time Includes high when information information School system school on students’ All IDEA Includes on students’ or district In-school follow- postsecondary State students youth dropouts disability type participation information ups status is collected Vermont • Full district Information One 1 year participation from student exit survey Virginia • • • Weighted One Class of 1999 at stratified random 2 years sample from participating schools (29 percent of schools participate) h Washington • • Voluntary district Exit One 6 months participation information (approximately from student 90 percent of records districts) Wisconsin • • Representative Exit Two 1 year sample of information (studies 3 years students from student conducted (20 percent of records every IDEA students) other year) Source: Information provided by state officials, December 2002 through April 2003. a Florida does not collect data through surveying. Data are matched across several administrative databases, including: state departments of Education, Corrections, Children and Families; state Agency for Workforce Innovation; and the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and U.S. Postal Service. The follow-up effort does not include students who leave the state. b Maryland collects data on all students, not specifically on students with disabilities, although it was possible to identify students with disabilities for the class of 2002. Beginning with the class of 2003, only IDEA students will be included in the follow-up effort. In addition, an Anticipated Services Survey is administered to all special education students when they leave high school. c Missouri adds the total numbers of students who are working and who are attending postsecondary school without accounting for those who may be participating in both activities, potentially overestimating the successful transition rate. In addition, nonresponses are often put into the "other" category, thus boosting the response rate. d New York Post School Indicators study is scheduled to last for 7 years. Thereafter, some aspects of the effort may continue. e North Dakota is planning to drop the 5th year of data collection because of a low response rate. f Ohio’s current effort is seen as a pilot project. The Ohio Board of Education has called for statewide surveying of IDEA students beginning in 2004. g Texas’s follow-up survey effort in 2002 included both the class of 1999 and 2001. The state used three different survey versions to shorten the length of each and encourage student participation. Page 45 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts h Washington encourages districts to participate by requiring them to submit information on students’ postsecondary status in order to quality for Local Education Area grants. Figure 4 presents the types of data on IDEA youth’s postsecondary employment and education status available in 21 states with routine data collection efforts. Figure 4: Types of Postsecondary Employment and Education Data Available in States Employment Education Overall Other areas rs ion ra ege t lle niv uni uca ity n g e ll ed ed tio in ed nc pe e co nc in a ve at in rie y ar nro uc y ty n uc in n ng rie ye olle leg dar ar uc ot io om ity o ni ed lt e am nd i e ed r n tio wo nc at ed r te mu ex n io ica s xp r y l er co co ge e o po ogr co l ry o ie p ar e pl k e n e ho m da ed an hoo per se pr se nd om uc ch d tim -ti ni r nd e n ks /c st y co /u n st du of l n po loy eco y sc l ex on lo an rt s l co nd oy ull- io ge lle po io o or ce pa ife at p at d p at l o se a w se m s oo f vi in n ua situ st st ed du nal ed ed n st t e i En red uc te er h e d En ed c c sc oy oy ed ple Sh ry s po no tio y ar ng te ar ll si lit lt lt ta er pl pl pl ro ro p h h ca el hy ye vi ili Em ig ig Em th Em Em State Vo 2- Li M A W Tr A 4- H H O Q C Alabama ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● California ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Delaware ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Florida ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Georgia ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Idaho ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Indiana ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Kentucky ● ● ● ● ● ● Maryland ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Michigan ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Missouri ● ● ● ● ● Nebraska ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● New York ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● North Dakota ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Ohio ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Texas ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Utah ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Vermont ● ● ● ● ● Virginia ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Washington ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Wisconsin ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Source: Information provided by state officials, December 2002 through April 2003. Page 46 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Table 10 identifies possible uses of data on IDEA students’ postsecondary employment and education status, and provides examples from state education officials on how data are being used at the state and local levels for each data use category identified. Table 10: State Examples of Using Postsecondary Employment and Education Status Data Type of data use State example Providing regular reports on students’ Washington’s postsecondary outcome survey is conducted by a university contractor outcomes to school systems who sends 2 page outcome summaries to each school district participating in the student follow-up effort. The summaries include comparisons between student outcomes in the district and in the state, as well as results disaggregated by gender, race, and disability type. Providing feedback to school Florida produces annual reports of students’ outcomes that are then used to provide systems on their performance feedback to school districts and schools on the success of their programs. The reports are also used by parents and students in helping them choose local programs that show the greatest success. Setting baseline for future transition Missouri’s improvement plan places a priority on improving postsecondary outcomes for efforts students with disabilities. As a consequence, the state will use current postsecondary data to set a baseline to measure future progress. Monitoring compliance with IDEA Alabama uses postsecondary outcome data for conducing self-assessment and requirements and delivery of special developing self-improvement plan as part of the state’s monitoring effort. A statewide task education services in the state force of transition experts and transition stakeholders was created to use the outcome data for identifying areas for further improvement and implementing the improvement plan. Conducting program planning or Indiana’s Director of the Division of Exceptional Learners uses postsecondary outcome budgeting at the state level data when negotiating the state budget and determining state appropriations. Rewarding local school systems Kentucky holds schools accountable for students’ transition from high school, and schools with high rates of students experiencing a successful transition outcome may receive financial rewards. Targeting technical assistance to New York redesigned the technical assistance provided by its seven Transition school districts or schools Coordination Sites, based in part on data from its postsecondary outcome survey. As a result, technical assistance activities were shifted from training conferences to more individualized strategic planning with teams from individual schools. Data are used to identify struggling school districts in order to direct assistance to them. Assessing or improving transition Virginia has incorporated postsecondary outcome data into a study aimed at assessing programs transition services across the state. When completed, the study will include responses from consumers of transition services (both parents and students), transition specialists, and adult service providers. Outcome data will also be used in a statewide evaluation of middle and secondary education programs for students with disabilities with the goal of improving their academic achievement and postsecondary outcomes. Conducting monitoring or program Wisconsin began collecting postsecondary outcome data in response to a state statute planning at the local school system requiring the reporting of student outcomes. By collecting data, school districts not only level are able to fulfill this requirement, but also identify specific needs and develop their special education plans to address those needs. Page 47 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix II: State Data Collection Efforts Type of data use State example Adding, sustaining, or improving Maryland’s postsecondary follow-up study helps local school systems develop more programs at the local school system effective transition services that are targeted to addressing students’ needs. For example, level one county found that few students were connected with postsecondary education institutions. In response, county officials established a transition program that emphasizes linkages with community colleges for students while they are still in high school. As a result, students ages 18 to 21 who are still attending high school are able to attend community college computer and physical education courses to help prepare for employment. Establishing linkages with adult California’s transition program staff are able to reconnect with former students while service providers following-up to collect data on their postsecondary status. Students who are not participating in productive work or learning activities or who report other problems are provided with information on potentially beneficial services in the course of the follow-up process. Source: GAO analysis of data from interviews with state officials, December 2002 through April 2003. Page 48 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix III: State Waiting Lists for Appendix III: State Waiting Lists for Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Fiscal Year 2001 Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Fiscal Year 2001 The table below lists the states that, at the end of fiscal year 2001, had waiting lists for vocational rehabilitation services because the state did not have sufficient funds to serve all individuals who were determined eligible for the program. State Number of individuals Washington 6,245 Wisconsin 5,098 California 3,602 Tennessee 3,166 Pennsylvania 2,949 Kansas 2,855 Louisiana 2,127 Ohio 1,578 New Jersey 1,498 Oklahoma 298 Maine 276 Nebraska 135 Kentucky 132 Illinois 51 Maryland 43 Rhode Island 41 Minnesota 39 Oregon 34 Arkansas 33 Connecticut 16 Georgia 4 Delaware 4 Michigan 3 Mississippi 1 Idaho 1 Total 30,229 Source: GAO analysis of data provided by the Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration. Page 49 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix IV: Youth Eligible to Participate in Appendix IV: Youth Eligible to Participate in the Ticket Program as of June 2003 the Ticket Program as of June 2003 The table below shows the number of youth ages 18 to 21 eligible to participate in the first two phases of the Ticket program’s implementation. State Number Phase one states: February 2002 Arizona 3,480 Colorado 1,837 Delaware 541 Florida 11,265 Illinois 10,096 Iowa 2,261 Massachusetts 4,427 New York 12,184 Oklahoma 2,868 Oregon 2,240 South Carolina 2,951 Vermont 516 Wisconsin 3,999 Phase one total 58,665 Phase two states: November 2002 Alaska 417 Arkansas 2,499 Connecticut 1,949 Georgia 5,612 Indiana 4,017 Kansas 1,847 Kentucky 4,540 Louisiana 5,179 Michigan 7,505 Mississippi 3,143 Missouri 4,346 Montana 602 Nevada 1,023 New Hampshire 719 New Jersey 4,187 New Mexico 1,466 North Dakota 341 South Dakota 569 Page 50 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix IV: Youth Eligible to Participate in the Ticket Program as of June 2003 State Number Tennessee 4,290 Virginia 4,382 District of Columbia 519 Phase two total 59,152 Source: GAO analysis of data provided by the Social Security Administration. Note: The Social Security Administration plans to implement the program in the remaining 17 states and the U.S. territories by 2004. Page 51 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix V: Availability of Medicaid Buy-In to Appendix V: Availability of Medicaid Buy-In Working People with Disabilities as of May 2003 to Working People with Disabilities as of May 2003 The map below shows which states offer working people with disabilities the opportunity to maintain Medicaid benefits while receiving income from work. Wash. Mont. Maine N.Dak. Oreg. Vt. Minn. N.H. Idaho S.Dak. Wisc. N.Y. Mass. Wyo. Mich. R.I. Nev. Iowa Pa. Conn. Nebr. Utah Ohio N.J. Ill. Ind. Colo. Del. Calif. W.Va. Kans. Mo. Va. Md. Ky. D.C. N.C. Tenn. Ariz. Okla. N.Mex. Ark. S.C. Miss. Ala. Ga. Hawaii Tex. La. Fla. Alaska Available Not Available Source: Social Security Administration. Page 52 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VI: Comments from the Department Appendix VI: Comments from the of Education Department of Education Page 53 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VI: Comments from the Department of Education Page 54 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VII: Comments from the Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Labor Department of Labor Page 55 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Labor Page 56 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Labor Page 57 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VIII: Comments from the Social Security Administration Appendix VIII: Comments from the Social Security Administration Page 58 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix VIII: Comments from the Social Security Administration Page 59 GAO-03-773 Special Education Appendix IX: GAO Contacts and Staff Appendix IX: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments Acknowledgments Lacinda Ayers (206) 654-5591 GAO Contacts Tranchau Nguyen (202) 512-2660 In addition to those named above, Natalya Bolshun, Julianne Hartman Staff Cutts, Molly Laster, and Adam Roye made key contributions to this report. Acknowledgments Barbara Alsip, Carl Barden, Carolyn Boyce, Stefanie Bzdusek, Patrick DiBattista, Behn Kelly, and John Smale also provided key technical assistance. (130158) Page 60 GAO-03-773 Special Education The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of GAO’s Mission Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no cost is Obtaining Copies of through the Internet. 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Special Education: Federal Actions Can Assist States in Improving Postsecondary Outcomes for Youth
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-07-30.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)