Expect, Engage, Empower: Successful Transitions for All!
Introductory Blog Post
Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts on secondary transition from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).
We are dedicated to working alongside families, students, educators, advocacy groups and policymakers to rethink transition services. We want students and families to have the tools and resources necessary for successful secondary transition experiences.
As the leaders of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), we have strong perspectives on this important topic. To improve transition planning and transition services we believe that:
- The education and vocational rehabilitation systems must work together,
- Critical discussions about the future and transition planning process must start sooner, and
- ALL students with disabilities should have the opportunity to learn about all post-secondary opportunities and make the best choice for themselves.
Collectively, let’s focus on how we can better prepare our students to successfully access postsecondary education, training and real-world experiences after they leave high school. To do this, transition conversations and planning must be meaningful, student-centered and integrated into meetings from the early stages of a student’s education.
We know firsthand the critical importance of encouraging families, educators and other stakeholders to consider and plan for long-term life outcomes early and revisit these plans regularly. That is why we are so passionate about the need to explore postsecondary goals and desired life outcomes with students as they progress throughout their school years. By doing so, they will be better positioned to achieve their common goal of gaining meaningful school experiences that will result in lifetimes of fulfillment and independence.
Let’s look at the data, resources and initiatives that show us where we are and where we need to go.
Students with disabilities continue to trail their peers without disabilities in a range of postsecondary outcomes, such as attending college, becoming employed and living independently. To track these data, states submit to OSEP in their annual performance report data on post-school outcomes for students with disabilities who have exited high school. Data from 2019 and 2020 showed us that we still have a long way to go to improve postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. For example, we see that:
- During the 2019–2020 school year, only 23% of responding students with disabilities reported enrolling in higher education immediately after graduating or exiting from high school.
- Also, during the 2019–2020 school year, only 57% of responding students with disabilities reported participating in either higher education or competitive employment upon graduating or exiting from high school.
- Between the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 school years, there was a decline in the percentages of students with disabilities attending higher education or attaining competitive employment, which may be, in part, attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data are corroborated by labor force statistics from other stakeholders. For example:
- In 2022, the Association of People Supporting Employment First released data indicating that nearly 70,000 Americans with disabilities reported earning subminimum wages under 14(c) certificates in 2020.
- Also in 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data indicating that individuals with disabilities were employed at less than one third the rate of individuals without disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Education continues to demonstrate its support and investment in postsecondary transition by funding the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: The Collaborative to provide targeted technical assistance to states on effective practices in postsecondary transition.
In 2020, OSERS reissued A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities. This guide was designed to help students and youth with disabilities and their families better understand how the state education agencies, the local education agencies and state vocational rehabilitation agencies work together to facilitate improved outcomes for students and youth with disabilities.
Recently, on May 10, 2023, OSERS conducted our kickoff webinar for the “Expect, Engage, and Empower: Successful Transitions for All!” initiative, which featured perspectives from families, practitioners and system change experts involved in secondary transition for students and youth with disabilities. That event and those to come will address the challenges associated with transitions and the strategies and approaches to successfully address them. For additional information about this initiative, visit our website: Expect, Engage, and Empower: Successful Transitions for All! | OSEP Ideas That Work. Visit often for updated information and upcoming event announcements.
Although successful transitions for students with disabilities continues to be a priority for policymakers and practitioners alike, there is still much to do.
We look forward to forthcoming discussions and collaboration as we rethink our approach to supporting students with disabilities as they transition from high school. We specifically look forward to earlier discussions about high expectations and preparation for full access to educational, vocational and social opportunities.
Preparing each student for a flourishing adult life is arguably the most important outcome of K–12 education and the vocational rehabilitation program. Ideally, all students—with and without disabilities—will leave school with the tools and strategies they need to meet their long-term goals and aspirations.
Together, we can make this ambitious and critical goal a reality.
|Valerie C. Williams
Office of Special Education Program
|Carol L. Dobak
Delegated the authority to perform the
functions and duties of the Commissioner
Rehabilitation Services Administration
Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.