WORK A Journal of Prevention,

Assessment & Rehabilitation


Work 10 (1998) 15-19

Documenting the need for transition services at an earlier age Thomas K Pledgie* , Qi Tao, Chester Freed Delaware Department of Education, Dover, DE 19903, USA Received 16 April 1997; accepted 10 June 1997

Abstract Though the reconciliation between the US Senate and House of Representatives on reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments (IDEA) was not successful in 1996, one area of agreement was the lowering of the age to begin transition services planning to 14. The current study provides documentation in support of this policy change. The enrollment records over a 5-year period of more than 7000 students were examined in Delaware public schools for the Class of 1995 to determine whether the exiting rates were different for students with and without a disability. Results indicate that students with a disability exited school at a significantly greater rate in grade 9 than their regular education peers; exited at almost double the rate in grade 10; and continued to exit at an alarming rate even in grade 12. Thus the need to begin effective transition services planning at age 14 or earlier is supported by this study of longitudinal data. © 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Keywords: Congressional action; Transition services; Disabilities

1. Introduction

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments (IDEA) of 1996 ground to a halt in the fall of 1996 without Congressional action for reconciliation of H.R. 3268 and Senate Substitute 1578 by Congress. The House, in the area of

* Corresponding author.

Individual Education Program (IEP), H.R. 3268 Content of the IEP [602 (10)], in addition to current requirements, lowered the age for initiating a statement of transition service needs to age 14. Likewise, the Senate Substitute 1578 contained a requirement for a transition plan for students age 14 and older and a statement of transition services for those 16 and older. Based on this study of children with disabilities over a 5-year period in the public schools of Delaware, it

1051-9815/98/$19.00 © 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. PIl S1051-9815(97)1007-9


T. Pledgie


Work 10 (1998) 15-19

appears vital that this policy change, to begin planning transition services earlier, be a keystone in any future IDEA reauthorization. Currently, the basis for transition services planning rests in IDEA sis 300.346.(b). (1). requirement that, (T)he IEP for each student, beginning no later than age 16 (and at a younger age, if determined appropriate), must include a statement of the needed transition services as defined in sis 300.18 ...

Some states have unilaterally lowered the age, i.e. New York is initiating transition planning services at age 12 and Delaware at age 14. Though a commonly held perception of school officials has been that transition services planning aids student movement from school into postschool activities once the student has completed his years in school, the current study identifies the necessity to start transition services planning sooner in order to meet the needs of early school exiters (students with a disability leaving school before receiving a diploma or reaching age 21). Additionally, this study supports the inclusion of efforts in the transition planning process to delay the exit date of students from educational services. During the 1995-1996 school year a statewide transition services planning committee was established in Delaware to review and make recommendations concerning the processes to be utilized in meeting the current federal transition planning requirements. As indicated earlier, these federal requirements are presently anchored at age 16 but allow for a state or IEP team to initiate planning earlier. Delaware had already lowered the age to initiate transition planning to 15 or the 9th grade whichever occurred first. The statewide committee wanted to know if this age should be lowered further. In answering the question, the whole issue of school drop-outs came under closer examination. The traditionally produced data over the period indicated a slightly elevated drop-out rate for special education students as compared to their regular education peers. The results of the study have led the Delaware

State Board of Education to lower the age to initiate transition services planning to age 14 or by the middle of the 8th grade with actual implementation occurring at an earlier point so that student IEPs meet this requirement on the date the student turns age 14. Additionally, the data from the study was incorporated into the systems change grant application that has received 5 years funding from the US Department of Education. 2. Method The question to be examined was whether there is a difference by grade level in the percent of students exiting school who have or do not have a disability. The definition for an exiter is someone who leaves the school system prior to graduation or age 21. A student with a disability is an individual who meets the requirements of the IDEA and the Delaware Administratiye Manual for Programs for Exceptional Children (AMPEC) and includes such categories as Serious Emotional Disturbance, Learning Disabled, Educable Mentally Handicapped, Autistic. Within the disability categories, it should be noted that there was a definite underreporting in the database of students receiving only speech therapy, though the actual impact of these students at the upper secondary grades is believed to be quite low. The Delaware public school system serves approximately 120000 students through 19 school districts operating some 170 schools throughout the state. Approximately 10% of the population has been identified as children with a disability in need of and receiving special education and/or related services. The Delaware Department of Public Instruction has established and operated for the past 10 years the Delaware Student Information System (DELSIS). Each student in the system has a unique student identifier that remains constant for the student throughout their school experience independent of where they are located in the state. Thus children moving across district lines still maintain their personal identifier. Also, the identifier for students who leave and then return to the state is reactivated upon their re-en-


T. Pledgie / Work 10 (1998) 15-]9

rollment in school. The DELSIS system is updated three times per year and maintains the following types of school enrollment and directory information: student name, identification number, district, school, grade, type of special education disability, race and sex. The task was to recreate the recently graduated Class of 1995 as 8th grade students during the 1990-1991 school year, to determine which students were then enrolled in regular and special education (part or full-time placement) and to discover what percent of the two groups disappeared annually from the data set over the next 4 years. A student who disappeared from the data set at one school or district but reappeared in another, or who re-enrolled later was considered as a continued enrollee. A student who was dismissed from special education and continued their enrollment in regular education was also considered as a continuing ellrollee within the special education group. Students who were still enrolled after the official class 'graduation' date of June, 1995, were also counted as enrolled and, at that point, as completers. One area of much discussion related to determining if an exiter simply was an individual who moved out-of-state and did not return rather than someone who had dropped out of school. Though special education students and their families do appear to be quite mobile, there is no evidence in the literature or local census data to suggest that the families of special education students move across state lines more frequently than their regular education peers. 3. Results

Table 1 identifies the number of students for the Class of 1995 who were in the 8th, 9th, 10th, Table 1 Number of students in special and regular education during each

11 th and 12th grade as the Class progressed through their educational career. Basically the Class started as 7259 students (6402 in regular education and 857 in special education) and ended their next 4 years together as 4130 students (3825 in regular education and 305 in special education). Sixty percent of the regular education students could be accounted for between 1990 and 1995. Barely 36% of the special education students were located. Fig. 1 is a comparison of the percent of students for the Class of 1995 by the school year that they exited from the data set. In the 9th grade, 15% of the regular students exited as compared to 21% of the special education students, at 10th grade it was 13% regular to 27% special, at 11th grade 13-21% and at 12th grade 4-13%. Though these figures must be adjusted downward somewhat to reflect the out-of-state relocation for some students in the data set, it was felt the adjustment would impact both groups equally and was, most likely, in the 4-6% range. The critical finding is that at each and every grade level special education students exited at a higher percentage than regular education students. Special education students as a group exited at almost a 30% higher rate than their regular education peers as early as the 9th grade; exited at a 100% higher rate in the 10th grade; and a 50% higher rate in the 11th grade. Finally, whereas regular education students tended to complete school if enrolled in the 12th grade, special education students were still exiting at an alarming rate. Preliminary data collected to date on the Class of 1996 indicates a similar pattern, with 12% of regular education students exiting in 9th grade as compared with 17% for special education. In the 10th grade 14% of regular students exited com-


for the class of 1995

8th Grade

9th Grade

10th Grade

lith Grade

12th Grade

Regular education Special education

6402 857







3825 305







T. Pledgie / Work 10 (1998) 15-19



D Special Ed. • Regular Ed.





Fig. 1. Percent of students exiting school by grade for class of 1995

pared to 27% for special education and in the 11th grade 13% compared to 21%. Once again, the special education students are exiting earlier and at greater percentages at all grade levels than their regular education peers. Workforce analysis done by the Delaware Department of Labor indicates that approximately 63% of all persons with disabilities are unemployed. Adding these early school exiters to the workforce on an annual basis will certainly not improve the employment figures for teenagers and young adults. 4. Discussion The study examined the rates of early exiters from school for a single class of students over the 4-year period of their secondary education. For this class of over 7000 students the investigators were able to compare the exiting rates at each grade level for students enrolled in regular education and special education. It is clear from the data that special education students (1) exit from the public education system early even though they are eligible for services until they graduate or reach age 21; (2) exit at increasingly greater

rates each and every year than their regular education counterparts; and (3) continue exiting through grade 12. Cumulatively, 60% of the regular education enrolled students could be accounted for over the 4-year period; but the rate fell to only 36% for the special education students. Though this high cumulative drop-out rate has previously been identified by prior researchers, the early nature of the decision to exit and the rate of exiting are alarming. 5. Implications for practice Advocates at the national level must continue their efforts in IDEA reauthorization to have the age lowered for the initiation of transition service planning from the current mandated age of 16 to at least age 14. Unless this occurs, a sizable portion of the special education student population will have either exited school or be actively considering exiting before transition planning is even initiated. In terms of local educational program practitioners, the need is present in district special education programs to incorporate transition and

T. Pledgie / Work 10 (1998) 15-19

school-to-work type programs into the middle school curriculum. Students with disabilities need to be aware of the consequences of their potential decision to exit school at an early age and thus forego additional education and training. If this option to exit is chosen, they also need to know where to obtain alternative selVices to meet their needs in the future. Transition selVices need to focus not only on establishing linkages for the student to adult service agencies and employers, but also on incorporating a component to define the economic reality which the student can expect to face upon exiting from the school. The inclusion of Department of Labor data concerning employment and earning potential as critical elements of the transition plan must be assured to effectively educate students on the economic impact of an early school exit. To delay the exit will enable students with a disability to receive the maximum benefit from their educational entitlement. Just as additional education improves post-school outcomes for regular education students, the special education student will benefit specifically in the quality


of life areas of employment, independent living, mobility and leisure. References DeStefano L, Wermuth TR. IDEA (P.L. 101-476): Defining a second generation of transition selVices. In: Rusch FR, DeStefano L, Chadsey-Rusch J, Phelps LA, Szymanski E, editors. Transition from school to adult life: models, linkages, and policy. Sycamore, IL: Sycamore, 1992:537-549. Gajar A, Goodman L, McAfee J. Secondary schools and beyond: transition of individuals with mild disabilities. New York: Merrill, 1993. Halpern A. Transition: old wine in new bottles. Exceptional Children 1992;58:202-211. Halpern AS. The transition of youth with disabilities to adult life: a position statement of the Division on Career Development and Transition. Career Dev Except Individ 1994;17(1):115-124. Halpern AS, Benz MR, Lindstrom LE. A systems approach to improving secondary special education and transition programs at the community level. Career Dev Except Individ 1992;15(a):109-120. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). USC, Title 20, 1990. Siegel S, Sleeter C. Transforming transition: next stages for the school-to-work transition movement. Career Dev Except Individ 1991;14(1);27-41.

Documenting the need for transition services at an earlier age.

Though the reconciliation between the US Senate and House of Representatives on reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Ame...
1MB Sizes 0 Downloads 0 Views