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Every public school district in the U.S. must provide all students with disabilities ages 3 through 21 with an individualized and free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. President Gerald R. Ford established this right when in 1975 he signed Public Law 94-142, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA). Parents of children with disabilities and other advocates hailed EAHCA as the “education civil rights act” for their children.
The Act was reauthorized in 1983, 1990, 1997, and 2004. In 1997 the Act was renamed The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Most recently, President George W. Bush signed the Act into law on December 3, 2004 (Public Law 108-446).
Public Law 108-446, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, is most commonly called IDEA 2004. Following enactment, the U.S. Department of Education took nearly two years to develop the federal regulations to answer common questions about critical parts of the law. The final draft of the federal regulations were published August 14, 2006, and took effect 60 days later, October 13, 2006. To some extent, the federal regulations clarify how the law should be put into practice. In some areas the final implementation of the law is up to the state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) - the public school districts.
IDEA 2004 continues granting to students with disabilities the right to a public education. IDEA 2004 continues regulating the special education services provided to these students through the SEAs and the public schools. Most notably, IDEA 2004 emphasizes preparing students with disabilities, ages 16 (or younger) through 21, for life beyond high school.
From “Get’em in” – to “Get’em through” – and now “Get’em ready!” Edit
An Act in three stages. The intent of the law changed over time in keeping with increasingly improved understandings of the needs of students with disabilities. PL 94-142, ‘stage one,’ purposed to “Get’em in” – opening the doors of public schools to students with disabilities.
The informal ‘second stage’ seeks to “Get’em through.” This phase continues and overlaps with ‘stage three.’ Educators, related services staff, personnel from non-LEA agencies and parents alike work to keep students with disabilities from dropping out. In the best of situations, all are working together to enable the students to graduate with well-deserved general education diplomas.
In the informal ‘third stage,’ IDEA 2004 most practically directs special education service providers to “Get’em ready,” preparing students for further' education, employment, and independent living.
Further underscores transition Edit
IDEA 2004 builds upon the amendments and reauthorizations of 1983, 1990, and 1997, clarifies the concept and position of transition, and strengthens the future-focus of special education services. IDEA 2004 indicates one of its purposes is “…to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living…” (author emphasis). The key word “further” emphasizes the direction and purpose and expected results of this special education legislation.
From breaking down the walls to looking beyond the walls Edit
Educational near-sightedness no longer. No longer will teachers be permitted to restrict their vision of education to the four walls of the classroom and the four years of high school. The focus is on the future. One constraining influence is the ‘other’ education legislation - the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). NCLB constantly pulls special education services and resources towards standardized testing and improving test scores. IDEA 2004 continuously counteracts by emphasizing individualized education and individualized preparation of individual children with disabilities for their individual lives in their individual communities beyond high school.
IDEA 2004 and the accompanying regulations most clearly reflect the focus on the future through the many uses of the word “transition” when it comes to directing the high school education and activities of children with disabilities: transition, transition planning, transition assessments, transition services, transition service providers.
An effective transition plan, in the eyes of many, drives middle school students’ and high school students’ IEPs Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). IDEA 2004 highlights post secondary goals and putting in place transition services, including courses of study, to facilitate the students’ movement from high school to post high school life.
Transition – a common definition Edit
The word “transition,” according WordNet Search, has a straightforward definition: “the act of passing from one state or place to the next” (see).
EI to ECE transition in IDEA 2004 Edit
Within IDEA 2004, the word “transition” has several different definitions according to its context in the Act.
In IDEA 2004, transition describes the process of a young child moving from early intervention services (EI) to early childhood education (ECE). In this EI to ECE process, transition indicates moving young children from one environment, set of services, and service personnel to another: “…the steps to be taken to support the transition of the toddler with a disability to preschool or other appropriate services.” It also indicates moving from one set of entitlements to another, “…a child who is transitioning from Part C of the Act to Part B and is no longer eligible for Part C services because the child has turned 3…” (See .)
Post secondary transition in IDEA 2004 Edit
When talking about post secondary transition the context is “…services and activities for older students (e.g., transition services, postsecondary goals).” But unlike the EI services to ECE transition, the high school students only start in the position of receiving entitlements – entitlements to services.. The students who leave, whether by graduation, aging out, or dropping out, leave to a condition of possible eligibility for services, with no absolute guarantee by law that they will continue to receive services.
One of the consequences, then, is an urgency to help students with disabilities make the most of the time they are in high school, while some funding, at least, is available, to prepare for post high school life.
References to the Act and the corresponding regulations within this article on post secondary transition are from FR Doc 06-6656 [Federal Register: August 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 156)] [Rules and Regulations [Page 46539-46845] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr14au06-14]. Please see .
Transition services. Postsecondary goals. Transition assessments.
“(b) Transition services. Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include--
“(aa) appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate independent living skills;
“(bb) the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals…”
“Sec. 300.43 Transition services.
“(a) Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that—
“(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
“(2) Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes--
“(ii) Related services;
“(iii) Community experiences;
“(iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and
“(v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.
“(b) Transition services for children with disabilities may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction, or a related service, if required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.
“(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1401(34))”
Transition – IEP participants.
“b) Transition services participants.
“(1) In accordance with paragraph (a)(7) of this section, the public agency must invite a child with a disability to attend the child's IEP Team meeting if a purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals under Sec. 300.320(b).
“(2) If the child does not attend the IEP Team meeting, the public agency must take other steps to ensure that the child's preferences and interests are considered.
“(3) To the extent appropriate, with the consent of the parents or a child who has reached the age of majority, in implementing the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the public agency must invite a representative of any participating agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services.”
Parental consent and notification.
“2) For a child with a disability beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, the notice also must--
“(A) That a purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals and transition services for the child, in accordance with Sec. 300.320(b); and
“(B) That the agency will invite the student; and
“(ii) Identify any other agency that will be invited to send a representative.
“(2) Parental consent, or the consent of an eligible child who has reached the age of majority under State law, must be obtained before personally identifiable information is released to officials of participating agencies providing or paying for transition services in accordance with Sec. 300.321(b)(3).”
Non-LEA agencies not meeting transition commitments.
“(c) Failure to meet transition objectives—
“(1) Participating agency failure. If a participating agency, other than the public agency, fails to provide the transition services described in the IEP in accordance with Sec. 300.320 (b), the public agency must reconvene the IEP Team to identify alternative strategies to meet the transition objectives for the child set out in the IEP.
“(2) Construction. Nothing in this part relieves any participating agency, including a State vocational rehabilitation agency, of the responsibility to provide or pay for any transition service that the agency would otherwise provide to children with disabilities who meet the eligibility criteria of that agency.”
State Performance Plans put “teeth” into IDEA 2004 transition requirements Edit
Where’s the teeth?<i> As of 2005, the federal government will monitor transition plans for students with disabilities. The anticipated results of the monitoring will be improvements in the post school results for students with disabilities, made possible through the improvement of in-school educational programs.
The monitoring will happen through three related vehicles.
--State Performance Plan (SPP) (and especially Indicators 1, 2, 13 and 14)
--Annual Performance Report (APR)
--Continuous Improvement Focused Monitoring Process (CIFMP)
Early years of the monitoring focus on establishing a baseline for transition plans, and beyond that the federal and state governments will be using the data collection and analysis results to approve, inform, direct, and assist local school districts in the improvement of their educational programs.
Transition for students means a transition for teachers Edit
Planning for the future of the individual student often requires a paradigm shift for everyone involved. With the IEP that is in effect the year the student turns 16, the IEPs often make a subtle change from overcoming deficits and approaching developmental norms to post secondary goals, transition plan activities and transition services that capitalize on the students’ strengths, needs, preferences, and interests.
The special education professional community is working hard to catch up with this change in emphasis, and certainly many believe that it has a long way to go. At this point, nearly 6½ million children receive special education services. However, few college programs, like those at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater (see ) are preparing the next generation of professional educators to become effective in the transition planning and preparation process.
An electronic checklist simplifies transition planning Edit
The Department of Education is working hard to clarify the content of IDEA 2004 to the state directors of special education, the state transition specialists, and the national secondary transition technical support staff (see ). Meanwhile, LEA directors of special education and special education teachers across the country are working and periodically struggling to get their arms around post secondary transition, what it means, and how it affects the education of their students.
One of the promising means of guiding students and teachers through the maze of transition involves deploying corporate research-based technologies used for decades in private industry. In 1999, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services provided two grants to fund research into the feasibility of adapting existing technology (see ). The research launched a web-based, commercially available product in use by teachers and parents primarily in Illinois and Minnesota but increasingly around the country (see ).
This Wikipedia article does not replace educational or legal advice. For educational or legal advice, please see the special education professionals, attorneys, and advocates in your area.
For a review of IDEA 2004 and related helpful information, please see: .
For information on the State Performance Plan Indicators 1, 2, 13, and 14, please see: .
Post school outcomes technical assistance: 
Post secondary transition technical assistance: 
Drop out prevention for students with disabilities: