NCSET Position Paper
We have reached a point professionally and ethically where immediate steps must be taken to ensure that youth with disabilities fully access and benefit from the general education curriculum. They must leave our school systems prepared to successfully participate in postsecondary education programs, enter meaningful employment, live independently in our communities, and pursue lifelong learning opportunities (Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 1999). Study upon study conducted over the past 15 years has repeatedly documented the limited school and postschool results achieved by youth with disabilities. Low levels of desired academic achievement, high dropout rates, substantial levels of unemployment and underemployment, economic instability and dependence, social isolation, limited access to health care, and low levels of participation in postsecondary education programs are the pervasive findings of these studies. The transition service requirements of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 and the IDEA Amendments of 1997 were established for the specific purpose of addressing these and other difficulties that youth with disabilities experience as they attempt to prepare for and make the transition to adult life.
Today, the educational system as a whole is influenced by a variety of reform initiatives specifically focused on improving school and postschool results for all youth. For example, IDEA 97 conveys a broader vision of secondary education with an emphasis on the participation and involvement of youth with disabilities in the general education curriculum. Along with this broader vision have come the goals of increasing high school completion rates, engaging in early transition planning to improve postsecondary education participation and employment results, and the recognition that these goals must be accomplished through collaborative partnerships among multiple agencies and systems at all levelscommunity, state and national (Johnson, Emanuel & Willems, 2000; National Transition Summit, 2000; National Council on Disability 2000; Presidential Task Force, 1999; U.S. Dept. of Education, 1999).
We believe that the "next generation" of secondary education and transition services must evolve quickly, and that this must occur through an approach grounded in research and the perspectives of youth and families from all backgrounds. To this end, new knowledge, technical assistance, networking, and dissemination approaches are critically needed to address the magnitude of challenges that remain in ensuring that all youth with disabilities, including those who drop out, youth from diverse, multicultural backgrounds, those with limited English proficiency, young people with severe disabilities, the homeless, and those living in poverty achieve positive school and postschool results. This is the goal of the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.
Johnson, D. R., Emanuel, E., & Willems, G. (2000). Research summary: Critical challenges facing the future of secondary education and transition services in the United States. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.
National Council on Disability (2000). Transition and postschool outcomes for youth with disabilities: Closing the gaps to postsecondary education and employment. Washington DC: Author.
National Transition Summit (June 20 & 21, 2000). Presidential task force on the employment of adults with disabilities. Washington DC.
Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities (1999). Report from the subcommittee on expanding employment opportunities for young people with disabilities to the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with disabilities. Washington, DC: Author.
U.S. Department of Education Annual Report (1999). Twenty-first annual report to Congress on the implementation of the individuals with disabilities education act. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
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