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

To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of all Children with Disabilities - 1995

Services for Students with Disabilites in Rural Schools

The National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) was mandated by Congress in 1983 to provide information on the transition of youth with disabilities from secondary school to early adulthood. The NLTS provides a broad array of data on a nationally representative sample of secondary special education students who were 13 to 21 years old in the 1985-86 school year. Furthermore, the study sample was designed to provide data by type of community--rural, suburban, and urban (Valdes et al., 1990).6 This section presents data from the NLTS describing services available to and received by students with disabilities in rural, suburban, and urban secondary schools across the country.7

Data from the NLTS indicate that students with disabilities in rural secondary schools spent an average of 52 percent of class time on academic subjects, such as English/language arts, mathematics, science, social science, and foreign language. This was slightly lower than the percentage for students with disabilities in urban schools (56 percent). Table 7.3 shows coursetaking patterns for secondary students with disabilities in rural, suburban, and urban schools. In their most recent school year, over 90 percent of secondary students with disabilities in rural schools took English/language arts, 72 percent took mathematics, 55 percent took science, and 70 percent took other academic courses. The percentage of students enrolled in each academic course was slightly higher in urban schools than in rural ones. Students in suburban schools had coursetaking patterns similar those of students in rural schools.


TABLE 7.3 Courses Taken by Students with Disabilities in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools During Their Most Recent Year in Secondary School
Academic Courses Taken                    Rural   Suburban    Urban
------------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage taking English/language arts classes                             90.6%     89.6%      93.3%                                          (1.5)     (1.7)      (1.6)  Percentage taking mathematics classes    72.2%     74.1%      78.2%                                          (2.3)     (2.4)      (2.6)  Percentage taking science classes        55.0%     54.3%      55.8%                                          (2.6)     (2.7)      (3.2)  Percentage taking other academic  classes                                  70.2%     69.5%      76.1%                                          (2.4)     (2.5)      (2.7)   Percentage taking nonacademic classes    86.1%     88.7%      84.0%                                          (1.8)     (1.7)      (2.3)  Percentage taking nonsubject specific  special education classes                 8.1%     10.3%      9.8%                                          (1.4)     (1.7)      (1.9) 
Note: Academic courses include English/language arts, mathematics, science, social science, and a foreign language. Other courses are considered nonacademic. Data is for students age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


Students with disabilities in rural secondary schools received a variety of special education and related services in order to meet educational needs stemming from a disability. As shown in table 7.4, 54 percent of all secondary students with disabilities in rural schools received job training during their most recent school year, 28 percent received occupational therapy/life skills training, 18 percent received speech/language therapy, and 15 percent received personal counseling/therapy.


TABLE 7.4 Services Received by Youth with Disabilities in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools During Their Most Recent Year in Secondary School
Services Received                        Rural    Suburban    Urban
------------------------------------------------------------------- Job training                             53.5%     61.3%      50.6%                                          (2.6)     (2.6)      (2.9) Occupational therapy/life skills  training                                 28.3%     27.9%      25.1%                                          (2.3)     (2.4)      (2.5)  Speech/language therapy                  17.5%     20.3%      21.2%                                          (2.0)     (2.1)      (2.4)  Personal counseling/therapy              14.6%     14.8%      23.1%                                          (1.8)     (1.9)      (2.5)  A tutor, reader, or interpreter          14.1%     15.1%      17.1%                                          (1.8)     (1.9)      (2.2)  Help with transportation because of  disability                                7.8%     11.2%      13.5%                                          (1.4)     (1.7)      (2.0)  Physical therapy/mobility training        6.5%      3.5%       6.3%                                          (1.3)     (1.0)      (1.4) 
Note: Data is for students age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


Similar percentages of students with disabilities in rural, suburban, and urban schools received occupational therapy/life skills training, tutor, reader, or interpreter services, or physical therapy/mobility training during the year. A slightly higher percentage of students in suburban areas received job training than did students in urban or rural areas. Students with disabilities in urban areas were more likely than students in other types of communities to receive personal counseling or transportation assistance.

Because the NLTS focused on the transition from secondary school to adult life, a great deal of data were collected on vocational education services. As shown in table 7.5, 62 percent of secondary students with disabilities in rural schools were enrolled in some form of vocational education in their most recent year of schooling, compared to 69 percent of students in suburban schools and 59 percent of students in urban schools. Of those rural secondary students with disabilities enrolled in vocational courses, approximately half took occupationally-oriented courses. The other half took either home economics-oriented courses or other vocational education courses, such as prevocational courses, work exploration, or on-the-job training. On average, secondary students with disabilities were enrolled in approximately 5 hours of vocational coursework per week.


TABLE 7.5 Percentage of Students with Disabilities in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools Participating in Vocational Education During Their Most Recent Year in Secondary School
Vocational Education Courses  Taken                                      Rural   Suburban   Urban
------------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage enrolled in:  Any vocational education                   62.4%     68.6%    58.9%                                            (2.3)     (2.3)    (2.7)  Occupationally-oriented vocational education                                  49.6%     55.5%    44.0%                                            (2.3)     (2.5)    (2.7)  Home economics-oriented vocational education                                  30.0%     25.9%    24.8%                                            (2.4)     (2.4)    (2.8)  Other vocational educationa/               11.9%     17.5%    16.4%                                            (1.5)     (1.9)    (2.0)  Average hours per week in:  Any vocational education                    5.2       5.5      4.5                                            (0.3)     (0.3)    (0.3)  Occupationally-oriented vocational education                                   3.5       3.7      2.7                                            (0.2)     (0.3)    (0.3)  Home economics-oriented vocational education                                   1.3       1.1      1.0                                            (0.1)     (0.1)    (0.1)  Other vocational education                  0.7       1.0      1.0                                            (0.1)     (0.1)    (0.2) 
a/ Other vocational education includes training in prevocational skills, work exploration/work experience, and on-the-job training. Data is for children age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


As shown in table 7.6, youth with disabilities in rural areas attended schools that provided a wide range of vocational education services, including life skills programs (92 percent), vocational assessment counseling (90 percent), work adjustment training (84 percent), specific job skills training (70 percent), work exploration/experience (50 percent), job development/placement services (58 percent), and post-employment services (25 percent). In less than 2 percent of rural schools, none of these vocational services were available. Slightly larger percentages of suburban schools reported providing service and programs than urban and rural schools.


TABLE 7.6 Services and Programs Available in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools Attended by Secondary Students with Disabilities
Services/Programs                     Rural      Suburban     Urban
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage of schools that made  available to secondary special  education students:  Life skills program                   91.7%        91.4%      86.8%                                       (1.4)        (1.5)      (2.1)  Vocational assessment/counseling      89.8%        93.1%      89.7%                                       (1.6)        (1.4)      (1.9)  Work adjustment training              84.4%        85.0%      91.8%                                       (1.9)        (1.9)      (1.7)  Specific job skills training          69.8%        73.4%      70.0%                                       (2.4)        (2.4)      (2.9)  Job development/placement services    58.0%        69.9%      71.8%                                       (2.6)        (2.4)      (2.8)  Work exploration/experience           49.8%        74.4%      69.9%                                       (2.6)        (2.3)      (2.9)  Post-employment services              25.2%        45.9%      49.6%                                       (2.2)        (2.7)      (3.2)  None of these                          1.6%         0.6%       0.9%                                        (0.6)       (0.4)      (0.6) 
Note: Data is for children age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


Despite the widespread availability of various vocational education services, relatively small percentages of secondary students with disabilities reportedly received such services. As shown in table 7.7, 12 percent of secondary students with disabilities in rural schools received testing/assessment services, 14 percent received specific job skills training, 13 percent received basic skills training, 12 percent received career counseling, and 12 percent received job placement services. It is unclear from these data whether students chose not to enroll in the available vocational courses or if there were not enough spaces available to serve all those who requested such services.


TABLE 7.7 Percentage of Youth with Disabilities who Received Different Vocational Services in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools in Their Most Recent Year of Secondary School
Service Characteristics              Rural      Suburban      Urban
------------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage who received:  Job skills training                  13.9%        16.2%       11.8%                                      (1.8)        (2.0)       (1.8)  Basic skills training                12.9%        13.8%        8.4%                                      (1.8)        (1.8)       (1.6)  Career counseling                    12.2%        14.9%       11.2%                                      (1.7)        (1.9)       (1.8)  Job placement services               12.2%        14.3%       11.6%                                      (1.7)        (1.9)       (1.8)  Testing/assessment                   11.5%        15.3%       11.7%                                      (1.7)        (1.9)       (1.9) 
Note: Data is for children age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


When one looks more closely at the types of vocational education students received, slight differences among rural, suburban, and urban schools become more apparent. Secondary students with disabilities in rural areas were most likely to study construction trades (32 percent), office occupations (22 percent), and agriculture (20 percent). As one might expect, students in rural schools were more likely than students in urban or suburban schools to take agricultural courses, and less likely to study office occupations (see table 7.8). Students with disabilities in rural schools were also less likely than their urban and suburban peers to participate in on-the-job work programs.


TABLE 7.8 Percentage of Students with Disabilities in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools Studying Specific Vocational Education Fields During Their Most Recent Year in Secondary School
Vocational Education Courses          Rural      Suburban     Urban
------------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage of vocational  education students studying:  Construction trades                   32.4%       24.9%       18.8%                                       (2.9)       (2.8)       (3.0)  Office occupations                    21.9%       25.0%       30.0%                                       (2.6)       (2.8)       (0.5)  Agriculture                           19.8%        9.2%        4.5%                                       (2.5)       (1.8)       (1.6)  Machine/auto/motor repair             16.9%       13.3%       12.3%                                       (2.3)       (2.2)       (2.5)  Prevocational skills                  16.7%       16.6%       23.3%                                       (2.3)       (2.4)       (3.2)  Food service                           9.6%        8.0%        8.8%                                       (1.8)       (1.7)       (2.1)  Manufacturing/industrial arts          7.2%        7.1%        5.1%                                       (1.6)       (1.6)       (1.7)  On-the-job/work experience             6.6%       11.0%       11.2%                                       (1.6)       (2.0)       (2.4)  Painting/decorating/graphic art/ commercial art/drafting                6.5%        7.7%        8.3%                                       (1.5)       (1.7)       (2.1)  Distributive education                 4.1%        5.1%        5.0%                                       (1.2)       (1.4)       (1.7)  Custodial services                     3.9%        3.6%        3.8%                                       (1.2)       (1.2)       (1.4)  Electronics/communications             2.7%        2.7%        2.4%                                       (1.0)       (1.0)       (1.2)  Personal services                      2.5%        1.6%        2.8%                                       (1.0)       (0.8)       (1.3)  Health occupations                    1.6%         2.8%       2.6%                                      (0.8)        (1.1)      (1.2)  Other                                       1.1%        5.6%       7.9%                                       (0.7)      (1.5)      (2.0) 
Note: Data is for children age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


In order to describe in more detail the types of topics covered in vocational education classes, the NLTS surveyed schools regarding course content. Schools providing work adjustment training typically cover specific instructional areas, such as relationships with coworkers, attendance/punctuality, appropriate grooming, job-related practices, use of transportation, and work skills. The vast majority of rural, suburban, and urban schools providing work adjustment training addressed most of these areas of instruction. One exception was use of transportation. Rural schools providing work adjustment training were less likely than urban or suburban schools to cover this instructional area, presumably due to the lack of transportation alternatives in many rural areas.

In schools providing job development and placement services, specific services included referrals to potential employers, transporting students to and from interviews, reviewing interview experiences, helping prepare resumes, and working with employers on job modifications. Rural schools providing job development and placement services were less likely than suburban or urban schools to refer students to potential employers, 76 percent, 89 percent, and 94 percent, respectively. Furthermore, 58 percent of special education students participating in job development programs in rural schools were placed in jobs. Suburban schools had a somewhat better placement rate of 67 percent.

The vast majority of rural schools providing life skills programs for students with mild disabilities included training in functional skills, such as telling time (87 percent), home care skills (92 percent), planning/goal setting (100 percent), social skills (100 percent), and use of community resources (94 percent). Self-care skills were considerably less common (37 percent). Patterns were quite similar for urban and suburban schools.

For students with more severe impairments, rural schools offering life skills training tended to focus on planning/goal setting (100 percent), social skills (95 percent), and use of community resources (88 percent). They offered functional skills instruction (66 percent) and self-care skills (48 percent) less often.

Data in table 7.9 indicate that fewer schools in rural areas (42 percent) than in urban (64 percent) or suburban areas (61 percent) had vocational education classes designed specifically for students with disabilities. Staff in participating rural schools reported using a variety of techniques to help students with disabilities in regular vocational classes. Increasing teacher contact and simplifying instructions were the most common techniques. Staff also reported making physical adaptations and providing aides. While the percentage of urban, suburban, and rural schools providing these types of assistance were fairly similar, slightly fewer rural schools reported providing aides for students with disabilities in vocational classes. Furthermore, rural schools reported fewer hours, on average, spent in community-based vocational education experiences compared to urban and suburban schools.


TABLE 7.9 Accommodations Provided for Secondary Students with Disabilities in Vocational Education Classes in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools
Services/Programs                         Rural   Suburban    Urban
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Percentage in schools with vocational  classes designed specifically for  students with disabilities                42.3%    60.5%      63.6%                                           (2.5)    (2.6)      (3.0)  Percentage in schools that helped  students with disabilities in  regular vocational classes by:  Increasing teacher contact                70.0%    78.0      73.2%                                           (2.5)    (2.4)     (3.2)  Simplifying instruction                   67.4%    69.9%     56.5%                                           (2.5)    (2.6)     (3.6)  Making physical adaptations               44.1%    47.4%     39.3%                                           (2.7)    (2.9)     (3.6)  Providing human aides                     30.0%    55.1%     49.2%                                           (2.5)    (2.9)     (3.6)  Other accommodations                       7.9%    10.8%      6.8%                                           (1.5)    (1.8)     (1.8) 
Note: Data is for children age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


Data from the NLTS indicate that secondary students with disabilities who took vocational courses in rural schools spent 63 percent of their course time in classroom instruction, 13 percent in community-based experiences, and 13 percent in work experiences at school. Special education students in urban and suburban schools spent slightly more time in community-based experiences, 19 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

For those students in rural schools receiving vocational services, the average hours per year of vocational instruction was 150 (see table 7.10). The services accounting for the greatest hours of service were tutor/reader/interpreter services (52) and occupational therapy/life skills instruction (35). For students receiving tutor/reader/interpreter services, speech/language therapy, and help with physical needs, suburban schools tended to provide more hours of service per year than did urban or rural schools.


TABLE 7.10 Average Hours of Services Received by Youth with Disabilities in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools During Their Most Recent Year in Secondary School
Service                                  Rural    Suburban    Urban
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Average hours of vocational services  provided recipients in past year         150         169      138                                         (8.9)       (9.9)    (11.1)  Average hours of service provided  to recipients in past year:  Tutor/reader/interpreter services        51.7        67.6     50.1                                          (9.5)      (17.5)   (12.4)  Occupational therapy/life skills  training                                 35.4        25.6     24.0                                          (7.8)       (5.7)    (7.4)  Speech/language therapy                  14.0        21.7     14.1                                          (3.5)       (4.7)    (3.5)  Help with physical needs                  9.0        19.0     10.2                                          (6.6)      (11.7)    (7.3)  Counseling/therapy                        7.8         7.7     11.0                                          (2.9)       (2.1)    (3.5) 
Note: Data is for children age 13-21.

Note: Standard errors are in parentheses.

Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, SRI International.


The data from the NLTS provide an overview of some of the services available for students with disabilities in rural schools, and provide an opportunity to compare and contrast services in rural, suburban, and urban schools. Because the study was so extensive,only a small percentage of data available on services for students with disabilities in rural schools was presented here. Additional data are available from the study's Statistical Almanac, Volume 1: Overview (Valdes et al., 1990).


6 The types of communities in which youth last attended secondary school are categorized as rural, suburban, or urban based on the U.S. Department of Commerce definitions of metropolitan statistical areas as outlined on page 7-2.

7 For each percentage and mean, the NLTS tables include the approximate standard error in parentheses.
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