IDEA Changes Lives: Preparing for the Transition to College & Careers

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law 40 years ago to assure that youth with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education that provides educational opportunities and services. Amendments to the law have emphasized transition planning that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of youth with disabilities to facilitate movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, career and technical education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.

The U.S. Department of Education is committed to the goal of ensuring that every student with disabilities is on track to graduate from high school with the essential knowledge and skills for success in college and careers. In order to achieve this goal, we must provide youth with effective transition services.

Recently funded projects that focus on the commitment to improving transition service delivery and outcomes for youth with disabilities and their families include: Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) and the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT).

PROMISE is an interagency collaboration of the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and the Social Security Administration. Under this competitive grant program, state agencies have partnered to develop and implement a model demonstration project (MDP) that provides coordinated services and supports designed to improve the education and career outcomes of children with disabilities receiving SSI, including services and supports to their families. The PROMISE program has afforded opportunities for states to be innovative in designing programs that meet the needs of families and that will improve outcomes of individuals with disabilities. More information is available at and

Six MDPs have been established serving a total of eleven states — Arkansas, California, Maryland, New York, Wisconsin, and the ASPIRE Consortium (UT, SD, ND, MT CO AZ). Here are a few highlights from the MDPs:

  • The projects are designed to improve the coordination and increase the use of existing services for which youth receiving SSI payments and their families are eligible, such as those available through IDEA, VR, Medicaid, Job Corps, Head Start, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.
  • The six MDPs will recruit a total of 13,172 participants by April 2016 (divided equally into a control or a treatment group).  Their current recruitment total is 7,365 participants.
  • In Arkansas, summer work experiences resulted in 345 youth being assigned to a wide variety of work sites around the state with approximately 84% completing or scheduled to complete 200 hours of paid employment.
  • In California during the month of July, 593 youth received case management/ transition services; 201 youth received financial planning/ benefits management services; 363 youth received career & work-based learning services; and 298 parents and guardians received training and information services.
  • Maryland recently hosted financial literacy skills trainings for youth and families which included activities such as opening checking and savings accounts, as well as using debit and credit cards.

NTACT is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and the Rehabilitation Services Administration. NTACT’s purpose is to assist State Education Agencies, Local Education Agencies, State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies, and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices ensuring youth with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.

The national center provides information and resources on a variety of topics including:

  • Transition Planning
  • Postsecondary Education & Employment Preparation
  • Graduation and Reengagement
  • Data Analysis and Use

More information is available at and