A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Biennial Evaluation Report - FY 93-94

Chapter 314

Secondary Education and Transitional Services for Youth with Disabilities

(CFDA No. 84.158)

I. Program Profile

Legislation: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), P.L. 101-476, Part C, Section 626 (20 U.S.C. 1425) (expires September 30, 1995).

Purpose: To strengthen and coordinate education and related services for youth with disabilities currently in school or who recently left school to help them make the transition to postsecondary education, vocational training, competitive employment (including supported employment), continuing education, independent and community living, or adult services; to stimulate the development and improvement of programs for special education at the secondary level; and to stimulate the improvement of the vocational and life skills of students with disabilities to better prepare them for the transition to adult life and services.

Funding History

Fiscal Year Appropriation
1984 $6,000,000
1985 6,330,000
1986 6,316,000
1987 7,300,000
1988 7,372,000
1989 7,284,000
1990 7,989,000
1991 14,639,000
1992 19,000,000
1993 21,966,000
1994 21,966,000

II. Program Information and Analysis

Performance Indicators

In l983, Congress mandated that the U. S. Department of Education commission a national study on the transition experiences of youth with disabilities in secondary school and beyond. The National Longitudinal Transition Study selected a sample of more than 8,000 youth who were ages l3 to 21 and secondary school students in special education in the l985-86 school year. This nationally representative sample permits generalizations to youth as a whole, as well as to youth in each of the then 11 special education disability categories.

Findings of the first wave of data collection of this comprehensive study can be found in Youth With Disabilities: How Are They Doing?, the first report produced by the study (III.2.).

This study includes multiple indicators of performance. Not only is extensive information provided on the population receiving transitional services (disability, gender, ethnicity, functional ability, household composition, socioeconomic status, age, school status, and grade level), but comprehensive information on services and program outcomes is provided, including information on coursetaking, placements, performance, school completion, social activities, personal and residential independence, employment, postsecondary enrollment, and productive engagement.

Population Targeting

In school year 1990-1991, 223,229 students with disabilities left school. Of these, 45.7 percent earned diplomas, 13.3 percent earned certificates of completion, 2.0 percent reached the maximum age served, 23 percent dropped out, and 15.8 percent left for other reasons. The count of students exiting with status unknown may include students who transferred to other school districts but were not known to be continuing their education, students who died, or students who did not formally withdraw but simply stopped attending school.

Students who are emotionally disturbed (37 percent), learning disabled (22 percent), and mentally retarded (22 percent) are more likely to exit school by dropping out. Factors associated with dropping out of special education include poor academic performance, poor social adjustment, frequent absenteeism, low parental support, low socioeconomic status, and substance abuse problems.


The National Longitudinal Transition Study provides rich information on the outcomes of secondary and transitioning special education students.

In-school outcomes indicate that secondary-school special education students have lower grade point averages (GPAs) than those in the general school-age population (2.0 versus 2.6 GPA); one-third of the students failed a course in their most recent school year; students average 15 days absent per year; and one in 10 students who remained in school was retained at grade level at the end of the school year.

More than half of youth with disabilities who left secondary school in a two-year period did so by graduating (56 percent), and three-fourths of those graduates were reported by their schools to have been awarded regular diplomas. Almost one-third of school leavers with disabilities dropped out of school (32 percent), a significantly higher dropout rate than for the general population of youth.

Out-of-school outcomes include:

The SRI data presented here are based on the 1990-91 school year, prior to the implementation of the State System for Transition Services Program which currently supports 30 projects. The intent of the State projects is to improve access to necessary transition services for all youth with disabilities by facilitating interagency cooperation. Together with the model demonstration projects support under the Secondary Education and Transitional Serives for Youth with Disabilities Program, more school districts are implementing exemplary transition services which will improve student outcomes.

Program Administration

Awards are authorized to institutions of higher education, State education agencies, local education agencies, and other appropriate public and private nonprofit institutions and agencies. Twenty-seven projects, primarily demonstrations, were funded in FY 1993. New projects focus on dropouts, self-determination, and special programs. A continuation grant was awarded to the Institute on Intervention Effectiveness, that focuses on the applied problems of youth in transition from high school to post secondary education, employment, adult and community living, and social integration. Six five-year cooperative agreements were funded under the State System for Transition Services for Youth with Disabilities. This program serves as a primary source of support and assistance to States implementing the transition services requirements of IDEA.

III. Sources of Information

  1. Fourteenth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Education of the Handicapped Act (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1992).

  2. Youth with Disabilities: How Are They Doing? (Menlo Park, CA: SRI International, 1991).

  3. Dropouts with Disabilities (Menlo Park, CA: SRI International, 1991).

  4. What Happens Next? Trends in Postsecondary School Outcomes of Youth With Disabilities (Menlo Park, CA: SRI International, 1992).
  5. Program files.

IV. Planned Studies


V. Contacts for Further Information

Program Operations:
Michael Ward, (202) 205-8163

Program Studies:
Susan Thompson-Hoffman, (202) 401-3630

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