- Report Published -
|Demographics of Students Exiting Special Education|
|Department of Education|
|HJR 4 (Regular Session, 1992)|
|The 1992 General Assembly House Joint Resolution No. 4 directed the Virginia Board of Education to conduct a study of the demographics of special education students exiting public education. This legislative study, linked to the Beyer Commission on Sensory and Physical Disabilities, was sponsored by Delegate Joan Munford. Specifically, the resolution asked for the study to develop recommendations for programs and activities to facilitate the transition of youth with disabilities from special education programs to the adult services system; to identify methods of targeting individuals who have vocational potential; to identify methods of targeting individuals who may need long-term rehabilitation services; and to include input from parents of children who receive special education services.|
An interdisciplinary team that included individuals representing five state agencies, local education agencies, parents, and researchers developed and carried out the study. Methods included: an analysis of the 1990-91 Virginia Federal Special Education Child Count Report (Table 1); a statewide follow-up study of 755 special education students that left school in 1990-91 (Table 2); a review of the transition services component of Individual Education Programs developed in 1992-93 for 238 students receiving special education; and, a survey of state agencies' information systems data collection and procedures for youth and young adults with disabilities.
This study found that youth and young adults with disabilities in Virginia experience outcomes similar to those reported in the national literature. High drop-out rates plague these students, particularly students with severe emotional disturbance. Youth who drop-out, regardless of disability, face poorer post-school outcomes. While in school, youth who drop-out do not receive the degree of transition services as students who remain in school. Females with disabilities, particularly minority females, are at a high risk for dropping out of school. Youth who drop out of school are less likely to reconnect with the existing service system.
Youth with multiple disabilities and severe retardation frequently remain in school through the maximum age of eligibility (age 22). These youth fact the greatest barriers to employment, housing, transportation and independent living upon school exit. Many of these individuals do not receive transition services directed to these areas while in school or upon school exit.
About 75% of the young adults with disabilities held jobs at some time since school exit, but only 57% were employed (range = 37% to 74%) at the time of the survey (Table 3). Most of the jobs were part-time and few paid more than minimum wage. Students with multiple and severe disabilities (54%), disturbance (49%) encounter the highest rates of unemployment or lack of involvement in postsecondary education or training. Most young adults who were employed found jobs on their own or with the help of family and friends and did not use the available adult services in finding employment.
Little comparative data are available for the general non-disabled population. The Virginia Vocational Education Student Follow-up of 1991 Vocational Education Program Completers provides some comparisons. That study found that 70% of the vocational completer respondents were employed or in the military, 20% were in school full time, and 10% were not employed or in school. The average wage for these young adults was above minimum wage with more individuals employed full time than part time. In comparison, youth with disabilities encounter poorer employment outcomes in terms of employment rates, hours, and wages.
Youth and young adults with disabilities in Virginia do participate in postsecondary education programs at higher rates than reported in other areas of the country. In fact, community college participation is similar to that projected by the general population. Retention of young adults with disabilities in postsecondary education programs is a concern. These young adults with disabilities do not consistently access the support services available within postsecondary education settings that would assist in successful completion of programs.
Efforts to implement consistent statewide transition planning for youth with disabilities are underway across the Commonwealth. However, linkages between school and adult services to foster an uninterrupted transition are not fully established. Youth and young adults do not access post-school supports or services at high rates. In addition, projections of anticipated service needs, systematic data exchange between agencies, and long range planning for service provision are not yet common practice across service providers. Consequently, gaps exist between needed services and available services.
Secondary and postsecondary transition service provision remains somewhat fragmented across Virginia with multiple providers offering services with differing eligibility criteria. Understanding and accessing the system present challenges. In addition, stakeholders such as employers and other community members have a role in facilitating the transition to employment or independent living. Efforts to create a collaborative community process to develop and improve the system and its services are critical.
School to work transition is an initiative that is now gaining emphasis within general and vocational education. The proposed process of integrating academics, work based learning, and creating connections between these components and the world of work parallels the transition initiative for youth and young adults with disabilities. It is imperative that Virginia's transition systems evolve together where the identification of needed supports for youth with disabilities becomes integral to the total system.
This report provides baseline data for the Commonwealth on the post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities. The results illustrate that differing and individualized supports will be needed. Disability needs, manner of school exit, and gender are factors that may influence program development and priorities. Common elements for all youth include the need for linkages, the need for information, the need for planning to occur, and the need to begin planning early.