SPECIAL EDUCATION RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Chapter 10

Information on Vocational Education

and Transition Services

From a 12-Chapter Manual

Available by Chapter and in Manual Form

Seventh Edition

Written by: Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE)

and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI)

Copyright © 1992 by CASE and PAI - Revised January 1998

Written permission of the Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) must be obtained for duplication of the materials contained in Special Education Rights and Responsibilities.

These materials are based on special education laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state special education law can change at any time. If there is any question about the continued validity of any information in the handbook, contact CASE, PAI or a legal authority in your community.

Click here to go directly to the Table of Contents.


 Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE), provides legal support, representation, technical assistance consultations, and training to parents throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area whose children need appropriate special education services. Trained advocates and attorneys assist parents at IEP meetings, Mediation Conferences and Due Process Hearings. CASE also provides free consultations about special education rights and services to parents and professionals by telephone or face-to-face. CASE is a nonprofit organization serving all children with disabilities who need or may need special education services. For more information, contact:

CASE

  • 1031 Franklin Street, Suite B5, San Francisco, CA 94109, Tel. - (415) 928-2273, FAX - (415) 928-2289
  • 680 W. Tennyson Road, Room 1, Hayward, CA 94544, Tel. - (510) 783-5333, FAX - (510) 783-8822
  • CASE-South Bay Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara County, 480 North First Street, San Jose, CA 95103, Tel. - (408) 283-1535

Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI), is a private, nonprofit organization that protects the legal, civil and service rights of Californians who have developmental or mental disabilities. PAI provides a variety of advocacy services, including information and referral, technical assistance, and direct representation. For information or assistance with an immediate problem, call:

PAI

Toll Free/TTY: (800) 776-5746 - 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM - Monday through Friday

  • Central Office 100 Howe Ave., Suite 185-N, Sacramento, CA 95828, Legal Unit - (916) 488-9950 / Administrative - (916) 488-9955
  • Southern California Area Office, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 902, Los Angeles CA 90010, Tel. - (213) 427-8747
  • San Francisco Bay Area Office, 449 - 15th Street, Suite 401, Oakland, CA 94612, Tel. - (510) 839-0811

PAI receives funding under the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act and the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act. Any opinions, findings, recommendations or conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations which fund PAI.


 On June 4, 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was amended by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Most of the new provisions in IDEA became effective on that date. Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) have incorporated these amended IDEA provisions into the Seventh Edition of the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual.

Because special education services in California are funded in part with federal money, these IDEA amendments take precedence over any prior inconsistent federal law or current state law, except where state law provides more protections or at least the same level of protections. In this edition of SERR, citations of federal law refer to the section numbers where these amendments appear in federal law at Title 20 of the United States Code. Citations of federal regulations refer to current, unrevised federal regulations at Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. State citations refer to current California law and regulations.

New federal regulations must now be developed to implement the new federal statutes. The new federal regulations are supposed to be issued by July 1, 1998. However, this process may take longer. In addition, California special education law and implementing regulations will also be amended once federal regulations are issued. CASE and PAI will monitor the development of these final federal regulations, and state law and regulations, so that final federal and state laws and regulations can be incorporated into later supplements and editions of SERR.

It is important for you to know that the Individual Education Program (IEP) provisions of the IDEA amendments do not become effective until July 1, 1998. Since IEPs written for the 1998099 school year must meet the new IDEA IEP requirements, CASE and PAI have chosen to include these new IEP provisions in this edition of the SERR manual (Chapter 4). We hope that this information will help as you develop IEPs for the 1998-99 school year and beyond.

For further information on the development of federal and state law and regulation, or clarification about IDEA implementation, please contact CASE or PAI.


SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 Information on Basic Rights and Responsibilities

Chapter 2 Information on Evaluations/Assessments

Chapter 3 Information on Eligibility Criteria

Chapter 4 Information on IEP Process

Chapter 5 Information on Related Services

Chapter 6 Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints

Chapter 7 Information on Least Restrictive Environment

Chapter 8 Information on Discipline of Students with Disabilities

Chapter 9 Information on Inter-Agency Responsibility for Related Services (AB 3632/882)

Chapter 10 Information on Vocational Education and Transition Services

Chapter 11 Information on Preschool Education Services

Chapter 12 Information on Early Intervention Services

NOTE: The text in each chapter refers to specific questions in other chapters by using the titles shown above.


SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Chapter 10

Information on Vocational Education

and Transition Services

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Question

1. What is vocational education?

2. Who is eligible for vocational education?

3. When should vocational services start?

4. What is a student enrolled in a vocational education program entitled to receive?

5. When should a vocational assessment occur and what should it include?

6. How can I work with my child's teacher to promote the skills necessary for my child to enter a vocational education program?

7. When I develop my child's IEP, how can I include vocational education services?

8. How can I decide in which vocational education program my child should participate?

9. Can my child enroll in a regular vocational program?

10. What if my child needs an accommodation to be in a regular vocational program?

11. If my child is to participate in a vocational education program, must his IEP describe or refer to the program?

12. Does the school district have to help students with disabilities make the transition from school to work?

13. What are transition services for students in special education?

14. What is an individual transition plan (ITP)?

15. When should transition planning occur?

16. How do I initiate a transition planning meeting?

17. How do I know if the school district will hold a transition IEP meeting?

18. How should the IEP include transition services?

19. When should a special education student begin receiving transition services?

20. What should a transition program for younger students (14-18 years old) contain?

21. What should a transition program for older students (18-21 years old) contain?

22. How can students be involved in developing their own transition plans?

23. Who should participate in a transition planning meeting?

24. What if the school district, parents, and student cannot agree on the statement of transition services in the student's IEP?

25. What if a participating agency fails to provide agreed upon transition services that are listed in the IEP?

26. What if the school district fails to provide transition services that are listed in the IEP or ITP?

27. What if the IEP team determines that transition services are not needed?

28. Can a special education student participate in the graduation ceremony with her peers and still continue to receive transition services?

29. When do students graduate?

30. What is a "prescribed course of study"?

31. What is a differential proficiency standard?

32. What happens if a student turns 22 before satisfying her prescribed course of study?

33. What is the difference between a diploma and a certificate of completion?

34. Can a student continue to receive transition services after receipt of an exit document?

35. Is high school graduation a change in placement?

36. Can a parent challenge a school district's decision to graduate her child?

37. If my child has not fulfilled the requirements for a diploma or other certificate and will continue to be served by the school district, can he participate in the graduation ceremony with his nondisabled peers?


 SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Chapter 10

Information on Vocational Education

and Transition Services

1. What is vocational education?

The California Code of Regulations, in accordance with Public Law 94-142 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112), defines Vocational Education for Special Education students as follows:

Specifically designed Vocational Education and Career Development for individuals with disabilities, which may include:

(a) Providing prevocational programs and assessing work-related skills, interests, aptitudes and attitudes.

(b) Coordinating and modifying the regular educational program.

(c) Assisting individuals in developing attitudes, self-confidence, and vocational competencies to locate, secure, and retain employment in the community or sheltered environment, and to enable such individuals to become participating members of the community.

(d) Establishing work training programs within the school and community.

(e) Assisting in job placement.

(f) Instructing job trainers and employers as to the unique needs of individuals.

(g) Maintaining regularly scheduled contact with all work stations and job site trainers.

(h) Coordinating services with the Department of Rehabilitation, the Employment Development Department, and other agencies as designated in the individual educational program. [5 California Code of Regulations (Cal. Code Regs.) Sec. 3051.14.]

2. Who is eligible for vocational education?

All special education students "regardless of severity of disability" [5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 3051.14] may receive career development or vocational education services. This would include, as described in California Education Code (Cal. Ed. Code) Section 56345(b):

(1) Prevocational career education for pupils in kindergarten and grades 1 to 6, or pupils of comparable chronological age.

(2) Vocational education, career education or work experience education in preparation for remunerative employment, including independent living skills training for pupils in grades 7 to 12 or comparable chronological age.

3. When should vocational services start?

Vocational services should be viewed as a long-range process and should begin as early as possible. Career awareness and the development of work attitudes may begin within the elementary years. Career exploration of specific vocational areas and behaviors often occurs at the junior high level, and continues throughout the four years of high school. Structured training experiences such as community classrooms and work experience generally begin between the ages of 13 to 16. Career placement should begin to be addressed during the two years prior to leaving school.

4. What is a student enrolled in a vocational education program entitled to receive?

Each student who enrolls in vocational education programs is entitled to receive:

(1) Assessment of the student's interests, abilities, and special needs with respect to completing successfully the vocational education program;

(2) Special services, including adaptation of curriculum, instruction, equipment, and facilities, designed to meet the student's needs as described in (1);

(3) Guidance, counseling, and career development activities conducted by professionally trained counselors; and

(4) Counseling services designed to facilitate the transition from school to post-school employment and career opportunities. [20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 2334(c).]

Note: Vocational education programs and activities for individuals with disabilities must be provided in the least restrictive environment. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 2334(a)(3).] See Questions 8, 9 and 10; see also Chapter 7, Information on Least Restrictive Environment.

5. When should a vocational assessment occur and what should it include?

Comprehensive vocational assessment should be undertaken prior to a student's enrollment in vocational education. The assessment process should determine vocational interests, aptitudes, achievement, and potential. A variety of assessment procedures have been developed to measure the student's level of performance in relation to selected careers and occupations such as work samples, on-the-job observation, simulated work stations, manual dexterity tests, career interest inventories, and paper and pencil aptitude tests.

Vocational interests can be determined through the use of career interest inventories and interviews with students, parents, and previous teachers. Prior experiences, hobbies, and career exploration activities are helpful in developing an assessment of the student's interest in particular career fields.

For students with more severe disabilities, for whom traditional vocational tests are not valid or who are unable to communicate, on-the-job work samples may be more appropriate.

Vocational aptitudes (such as manual dexterity, eye/hand coordination, fine motor skills, general intelligence) are examined in order to blend a student's career interest and vocational strengths and limitations.

The results of vocational assessments describe the skills the student possesses so that appropriate courses and programs can be selected.

6. How can I work with my child's teacher to promote the skills necessary for my child to enter a vocational education program?

It is essential for you to realize the importance of vocational education during the child's education. One look at the employment status of adults with a disability will tell you that vocational education must receive greater emphasis. You can see to it that vocational training begins early in school by ensuring that vocational objectives are written into your child's Individual Education Plan (IEP) and by communicating to the teacher your expectation that the child will work as an adult. It is never too early to begin. Make sure that grooming, physical fitness, mobility, communication and social skills are emphasized and mastered. The sooner basic skills are developed, the sooner emphasis can shift to specific vocational skills. You can assign household responsibilities from an early age and pay an allowance. You can also make sure that your child receives frequent experiences in the community, especially for leisure activities.

Again, the important point is that you recognize the critical nature of vocational education and take an active role in obtaining vocational activities tempered with a realistic assessment of what jobs potentially will be successful for your child.

7. When I develop my child's IEP, how can I include vocational education services?

Vocational education services can be included within the IEP in several ways. Depending upon the age and ability level of your child, goals for instruction can be included in the areas of grooming skills, social skills training and general work behaviors. As your child moves toward secondary school age, vocational education services should be included in the IEP through training experiences in the classroom and in the community.

For example, experiences may include travel training on routes within a student's daily schedule (pedestrian and public transportation), training on specific work tasks in the classroom and at sites throughout the community such as local businesses or industries. Transition services (which include, among other things, a coordinated set of activities which promote movement from school to post-school life) must be included in the IEP for every student 16 years old and older, and, where appropriate, in the IEPs of students 14 years old and older. See Question 13.

One of the specific related services listed in federal law is Rehabilitation Counseling Services. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(22).] Rehabilitation Counseling Services means services provided by qualified personnel in individual or group sessions that focus specifically on career development, employment preparation, achieving independence, and integration in the workplace and community of a student with a disability. The term also includes vocational rehabilitation services provided to students with disabilities by vocational rehabilitation programs funded under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.16(a)(10).] This related service should be requested for every special education student who has needs in the area of career development, employment preparation, achieving independence, or community and workplace integration.

8. How can I decide in which vocational education program my child should participate?

The following points should be considered in deciding which program is best for your child:

(1) Student's goal;

(2) Your expectations;

(3) Results of vocational assessments;

(4) Results of work samples (can include classroom samples, commercially produced samples and those prepared by and for local programs);

(5) Results of experiences in vocationally oriented programs;

(6) Descriptions of previous work experiences;

(7) Student's physical and mental capacity for work;

(8) Student's employment-related behaviors (for example, attendance, social and interpersonal skills, attention span, communication skills, personal hygiene, dependability, and productivity);

(9) Course objectives and curriculum requirements;

(10) Prerequisite skills;

(11) Modifications necessary to make classrooms, shop and work sites accessible;

(12) Alternative instructional materials;

(13) Staff/student ratio;

(14) Methods for evaluating and grading student performance;

(15) Opportunities for work experience;

(16) Employment outlook for a person trained in the specific skill, both locally and nationally; and

(17) Local availability of jobs.

By matching the information about the student with information about the vocational program, the IEP team will be better able to make appropriate placement decisions.

Vocational education and training in integrated settings provides students with opportunities to learn appropriate ways of interacting with others in school and work settings. As a means of encouraging greater use of integrated programs, Congress, when passing the Carl Perkins Act for vocational education [20 U.S.C. Secs. 2301 and following], did not allocate funds for vocational courses designed solely for students with disabilities. Rather, the law provides funds for supportive services and modifications in regular vocational programs to permit the participation of special populations. See Questions 9 and 10.

9. Can my child enroll in a regular vocational program?

In thinking about a your child's vocational education program, you should be aware that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title 29, United States Code, Section 794, requires that students with disabilities not be denied access to vocational programs because of their need for aides or because of architectural barriers.

Regular, mainstream programs usually include both classroom and lab instruction focusing on an occupational area (for example, business) or a specific occupation (for example, clerical). Mainstream programs offer the student with a disability the advantage of regular interaction with non-disabled students. Such programs more closely resemble the social setting that students with disabilities will encounter when they leave school and go to work.

It is important for parents to be sure that placement in a regular program with appropriate support services is thoroughly examined before consenting to a special or separate vocational education program placement.

10. What if my child needs an accommodation to be in a regular vocational program?

As stated in Questions 8 and 9, educators have a legal obligation to make necessary modifications to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. [29 U.S.C. Sec. 794; 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 104.12; 20 U.S.C. Sec. 2334(a)(I)&(2).] Most modifications are based on common sense and involve using safety or teaching practices that benefit all students. The use of curriculum modifications, specific instructional strategies, and adaptations of equipment or facilities (such as ramps, accessible desks, Braille manuals, talking terminals, sign language courses, and sensory devices) are the most common forms of modification.

Recent breakthroughs in rehabilitation engineering will increasingly benefit students with severe disabilities. The improved design and use of artificial limbs, communication devices, orthopedic braces, and mobility aids will assist in the integration process.

Specific modifications used to facilitate placement in regular vocational programs will depend on a careful analysis of your child's needs and the vocational program. A sample of commonly used techniques includes the following:

(1) Structured orientation period (which could involve parents);

(2) Peer tutoring;

(3) Vocational resource teachers;

(4) Small-group instruction;

(5) Readers/interpreters;

(6) Specialized instructional materials;

(7) Task analysis (breaking down skills to be learned into small parts);

(8) Large print materials;

(9) Sound or light signals on equipment;

(10) Counseling; and

(11) Adaptation of teaching techniques to the student's learning style.

11. If my child is to participate in a vocational education program, must his IEP describe or refer to the program?

Federal regulations state:

If a student with a disability is able to participate in the regular vocational education program without any modifications to compensate for the student's handicap, it would not be necessary to include vocational education in the student's IEP. On the other hand, if modifications to the regular vocational education program are necessary in order for the student to participate in that program, the IEP must include those modifications. Also, if the student needs a specially designed vocational education program, then the student's IEP must describe the necessary vocational education in all applicable areas (for example, present levels of educational performance, goals and objectives, and specific services to be provided). (Emphasis added.) [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 50.]

12. Does the school district have to help students with disabilities make the transition from school to work?

Yes. Federal special education law requires that there be transitional planning services for students with disabilities regardless of which agencies provide support or educational services to the student. Beginning at age 14, and updated annually, the IEP must contain a statement of the transition service needs of the student under the applicable components of the student's IEP that focuses on the student's courses of study (such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational education program). Beginning at age 16 (or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team), the IEP must contain a statement of needed transition services for the student, including, when appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(vii).]

A coordinated transition planning meeting (conducted as part of an IEP team meeting) should include representatives of agencies which would serve the student after graduation. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that the student continue to receive the support needed, from the appropriate public and private agency/agencies, to continue vocational training, education services, or find and maintain the most independent level of employment possible.

Various agencies provide continued educational support for students with disabilities after graduation. These include: the Department of Rehabilitation (DR), the Regional Center System, College Enabler programs, and other private agencies.

Transitional planning will give you a greater opportunity to become familiar with these community resources. Do not take a passive role in the planning process. Work with your school district to identify and work with the agencies that will assist your child after graduation.

The statement of needed transition services in each IEP must include, where applicable, a statement of the responsibilities of other participating agencies. Remember, however, that the school district remains ultimately responsible for ensuring that these services are provided. Therefore, if a participating agency ceases to provide an agreed upon service, the school district must fulfill that obligation or responsibility, either directly or through contract or other arrangement. See 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412(a)(12)(B); see also Decision of U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Vol. 20 Individuals With Disabilities Education Law Report page 536.

13. What are transition services for students in special education?

Transition services for students in special education are services that help students move from school to work and adult life. They should reflect the student's own goals for his future.

The law defines tranasition services as:

a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that--

(A) are designed within an outcome-oriented process, which promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(B) are based upon the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests; and

(C) include instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.

[20 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(30).]

One court has found that student's services may include driver's education, self-advocacy, and independent living skills. [Yankton School District v. Schramm, 24 IDELR 704, Eighth Circuit, 1996.]

California law is quite ambitious and specific in its descriptions of transition services and state and local education agencies' responsibilities to provide them.

Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56461 requires that the superintendent establish the capacity to provide transition services for a broad range of individuals with exceptional needs such as employment and academic training, strategic planning, interagency coordination, and parent training.

Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56462 describes the available transition services as including:

(1) In-service training programs and resource materials to support implementation of transition plans for all students with exceptional needs;

(2) Development of the role and responsibilities of special education in the transition process, including:

-- the provision of work skills training, including skills necessary to exhibit competence on the job,

-- the provision of multiple employment options and facilitating job or career choice by providing a variety of vocational experiences,

-- the collection and analysis of data on what happens to pupils once they leave school,

-- the provision of instructional learning strategies that will assist pupils who find learning difficult in acquiring skills that enable them to obtain diplomas, promote a positive attitude toward secondary and postsecondary education and training, and make a successful transition to postsecondary life.

(3) Development and implementation of systematic and longitudinal vocational education curriculum including the following:

-- Instructional strategies that prepare pupils with severe disabilities to make a successful transition to supported employment and that community, and

-- Introduction of vocational and career education curriculum in the elementary grades for pupils who can benefit from it.

(4) Development of resources and in-service training that will support the active participation of families in the planning and implementation of transition-related goals and activities;

(5) Development of resources and in-service training that will support the implementation of individualized transition planning;

(6) Development of a network of model demonstration sites that illustrate a wide variety of transition models and implementation strategies;

(7) Coordination with other specialized programs that serve students who face barriers to successful transition; and

(8) A research, evaluation, and dissemination program that will support the major programmatic aspects of transition services.

14. What is an individual transition plan (ITP)?

The Individual Transition Plan (ITP) is a term used to describe the written plan designed to help prepare students for passage from school to post-school life. [See Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56026(c)(4)(C); see also Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345.1 and 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1402(30).] The ITP must be based on the student's needs, preferences and interests and it must reflect the student's own goals. Objectives, timeliness, and people responsible for meeting the objectives should be written into both the IEP and the ITP.

15. When should transition planning occur?

Transition planning can occur at a combined Individualized Education Program (IEP) and an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) meeting, or an ITP can be developed in a separate meeting. A separate transition planning meeting can be beneficial because it allows more time to focus on the student's desires and preferences. Specific instructions and experiences can be identified to be included in the IEP.

When a combined ITP/IEP meeting is held, ideally, transition planning should occur first in order to incorporate the agreed upon transition goals into the academic program (IEP). Whichever way transition planning is implemented, transition objectives, goals and activities should be identified and included in the student's IEP or a separate ITP can be attached to the IEP form. All of the IEP procedural guidelines must be followed.

In any case, transition planning which focuses on courses of study must begin by age 14 and transtion planning which describes specific transition services must begin by age 16. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(vii).]

16. How do I initiate a transition planning meeting?

A parent or student can initiate a transition planning meeting by making a written request to the student's teacher, principal or special education administrative office. The letter should indicate that the purpose of the meeting is transition planning.

17. How do I know if the school district will hold a transition IEP meeting?

The school district must send out a meeting notice that:

(1) indicates that the purpose of the meeting will be to discuss transition,

(2) indicates that the student will be invited, and

(3) identifies any other agency that will be invited to send a representative. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.345(b)(2).]

18. How should the IEP include transition services?

The transition IEP should be "outcome oriented." That means that the IEP team should ensure that the coordinated set of transition activities can be designed to lead to a variety of goals, depending on the particular needs of the student. For example, the outcome for a student with moderate mental retardation might be a directly-hired job in a retail store and the ability to live independently in a supported living arrangement. The services for that person should focus on seeking and maintaining a position with the necessary supports and solidifying basic work habits, punctuality and grooming, while developing independent living skills, such as taking public transportation.

19. When should a special education student begin receiving transition services?

A statement of needed transition services must be included in the IEP by the age of 16 (or at a younger age if the IEP team believes it would be appropriate). [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(vii).] Transition statements for students younger than 16 may be particularly important for students with severe disabilities or for those who are at risk of dropping out of school before age 16.

20. What should a transition program for younger students (14-18 years old) contain?

Federal law requires that, beginning at age 14, a student's IEP contain a statement of transition service needs that focuses on the student's courses of study such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational education program. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(vii)(I).] Beginning at age 16 (or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team), the IEP must contain a statement of needed transition services for the student, including, when appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(vii).]

Students between the ages of 14 and 18 should participate in high school education programs similar to their non-disabled, same-aged peers. For example, a student may participate in full-time or part-time regular education classes at her neighborhood high school, with support from a full-inclusion program. Special education teachers and assistants and related resource educators collaborate with the general education teachers to adapt curricula, and give individualized instruction within these integrated environments to allow the student to meet IEP goals. Additionally, the student can begin to take part in individualized, functional, and integrated work experience, perhaps for 1 period, 1 or 2 days per week, both on and off the high school campus to begin gaining vocational competency.

21. What should a transition program for older students (18-21 years old) contain?

Ideally, these students should participate in a 100 percent community-based program that operates in the same fashion as an adult integrated work program. The student is supported by school staff to obtain and maintain an integrated job near the student's home, so that the student can be integrated in the community. The student should also be directly hired, so that the individual is on the employer's payroll, not paid through a subcontract with the school. Additionally, if a student works part-time, transition staff can assist the student to take integrated, regular college or adult education classes, to join fitness centers, and to participate in everyday community activities, such as shopping, public transportation, movies, library, adult outdoor sports, etc.

22. How can students be involved in developing their own transition plans?

Students must be invited to attend any ITP meeting. The meeting should be person-centered so that its focus is the student and her needs and desires for the future. The meeting should be conducted in a manner which enables the student to understand the planning process and to participate fully. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.344(c)(1).]

The ITP/IEP should be developed in a person-centered format. Goals and objectives in the student's IEP should emphasize the student's preferences, should be written in the first-person format, and include all life areas, such as home, work, community, social, etc.

For example, students are assisted in coordinating Futures Planning meetings that include paid and unpaid persons of their choosing that are involved in any area of their lives. During the meeting, the strengths, needs, dreams, fears, and wishes of an individual student are identified, along with non-negotiable items, and personal goals and objectives are generated. The student is always listed first and foremost for the implementation of her objectives, and other people responsible for supporting the student in meeting the objectives are identified.

If the student does not attend the IEP meeting, the school district must take other steps to ensure that the student's preferences and interests are considered. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.344(c)(2).]

23. Who should participate in a transition planning meeting?

In addition to the required IEP participants, the school district is required to invite a representative of any agency that is likely to provide transition services to the IEP meeting. If a representative does not attend, the school district must take steps to obtain the agency's participation in the planning of any transition services. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.344(c)(3).] The school district should invite representatives from the vocational rehabilitation agency, the regional center, community mental health, community colleges, and traditional private rehabilitation agencies, as appropriate.

24. What if the school district, parents, and student cannot agree on the statement of transition services in the student's IEP?

The IEP team should discuss any disagreements and attempt to resolve them informally. If either the family or the school district disagrees with the proposed IEP, either the parent or the school district may request an impartial due process hearing from the state Special Education Hearing office. Please refer to Chapter 6 for a complete discussion of the of the appeal process.

25. What if a participating agency fails to provide agreed upon transition services that are listed in the IEP?

If a participating agency agrees to provide transition services and then fails to do so the school district must initiate a meeting, as soon as possible, to identify alternative strategies for meeting the ITP goals. The school district retains ultimate responsibility for ensuring that transition services are provided, but the statute does not relieve any participating agency, including a state vocational rehabilitation agency of the responsibility to provide or pay for any transition services that the agency would otherwise provide to students with disabilities who meet the eligibility criteria of that agency. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412(a)(12)(B).]

26. What if the school district fails to provide transition services that are listed in the IEP or ITP?

When the educational agency appears to have violated a part of special education law or procedure (for example, fails to provide transition services which are written in the student's IEP) a parent, individual, public agency or organization can file a complaint with the California State Department of Education (CDE) under 5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 4650(a)(viii)(D).

When CDE investigates a complaint, it will make a written determination of whether the education agency was out of compliance with law or with the student's IEP. If the CDE finds an education agency to be out of compliance, it will order the agency to come back into compliance. In addition, the CDE may order the agency to submit a plan of correction - a document describing the steps the agency has taken and will take to assure that the problem does not occur again, either to this student or to others.

To file a compliance complaint with the Department of Education, write to:

Complaint Management and Mediation Unit
Special Education Division
California State Department of Education
515 L Street, Suite 270
Sacramento, CA 95814

CDE must investigate and resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days from receipt of the complaint. Please see Chapter 6 of this manual for more detailed information about the Compliance Complaint.

27. What if the IEP team determines that transition services are not needed?

If the IEP team determines that services are not needed in the areas of instruction, community experiences, or the development of employment and other post-school living objectives, then the IEP must include a statement to that effect and the basis upon which the determination was made. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.346(b)(2).]

28. Can a special education student participate in the graduation ceremony with her peers and still continue to receive transition services?

Yes. Students may participate in the graduation ceremony with their peers and receive a certificate of recognition instead of an official diploma. [Chaparro, et al. v. Hacienda La Puente School District, CV 95-4118 AWT, Central District.] Students who participate in the graduation ceremony may be still entitled to receive special education services until they turn 22 or complete graduation requirements, whichever comes first. Once a student receives a certificate of completion or a diploma, the school district is no longer responsible for transition services.

29. When do students graduate?

A student graduates when he receives an exit document (i.e. a diploma or certificate of completion). The exit document means that the student has completed his prescribed course of study or has met the school district's, or the student's individualized differential, proficiency standards. If a student completes the district's prescribed course of study and meets regular or differential proficiency standards, he is entitled to a diploma. [5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 3069.] Receipt of an exit document means that a student is leaving school and is no longer eligible for special education services. However, participating in a graduation ceremony without receiving a diploma or certificate of completion does not terminate a student's eligibility for special education services. [Chaparro, et al. v. Hacienda La Puente School District, CV 95-4118 AWT, Central District.]

30. What is a "prescribed course of study"?

California state law defines "prescribed course of study" as "the course of study that is established by the local board of education pursuant to Education Code Section 51000" and following. [5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 3001(u).] Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 51210 contains the list of required areas of study for grades one through six, including English, mathematics, social studies, science, arts, health, and physical education. Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 51220 contains the list of required areas of study for grades 7 through 12. Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 51225.3 contains the requirements for numbers of courses in each area of study for graduation from high school with a diploma. These lists are the minimum requirements under state law; local school districts may adopt additional requirements.

31. What is a differential proficiency standard?

The governing board of each school district maintaining a junior or senior high school adopts standards of proficiency in basic skills for pupils attending school within its school district. Differential proficiency standards or modifications of general differential standards adopted by the governing board are developed to meet the unique needs and potential of pupils whose IEP teams have determined that they are unable to attain the district's proficiency standards with appropriate educational services and supports. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 51215.]

In developing differential proficiency standards, the governing board, with the active involvement of parents, administrators, teachers, and pupils, adopts alternative means for pupils to complete the prescribed course of study which may include practical demonstration of skills and competencies, supervised work experience or other outside school experience, vocational education classes offered in high schools, courses offered by regional occupational centers or programs, interdisciplinary study, independent study, and credit earned at a post-secondary institution. Requirements for graduation and specified alternative modes for completing the prescribed course of study is made available to pupils, parents, and the public. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 51225.3(b).]

Once a special education student is determined to need differential proficiency standards because the student is unlikely to be able to meet regular proficiency standards, the differential standards must be developed by the IEP team and specified in the student's IEP. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345(d).] If a student completes the prescribed course of study and meets the differential proficiency standards specified in student's IEP, the student is entitled to a diploma. [5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 3069.]

32. What happens if a student turns 22 before satisfying her prescribed course of study?

A student who turns 22 without having satisfied her prescribed course of study or without meeting the differential proficiency standards adopted for her will "age out" of the school system. That student will no longer be eligible for special education services and is not eligible to receive an exit document.

33. What is the difference between a diploma and a certificate of completion?

In California, when an individual with exceptional needs meets public education agency requirements for completion of prescribed course of study and adopted differential proficiency standards as designated in the student's individualized education program, the public education agency which developed the individualized education program shall award a diploma of graduation. [5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 3069.]

According to the California Department of Education (CDE), the local education agency is given broad authority through its Board of Education to determine what types of exit documents to award. The two types of documents most commonly used are diplomas and certificates of completion. There are typically two variations of diplomas issued. Some local education agencies award the same diplomas to all students. Some local education agencies award diplomas that specify whether the student met general proficiency standards or if they met differential proficiency standards. Whichever type of diploma is issued, the CDE states that receipt of a diploma is preferable to a certificate of completion.

A certificate of completion is less preferred because there are no set standards that govern when a certificate of completion is awarded. The local school board is given total discretion to determine the standards or requirements for a certificate of completion. When a student receives a diploma that says he met differential proficiency standards, it is at least understood that the student began with the same set of requirements as all the students in the school (i.e. the general proficiency standards) and that the IEP merely modified this general proficiency standard to meet the needs and potential of the student.

34. Can a student continue to receive transition services after receipt of an exit document?

If a student is still within the eligible age range for a free appropriate public education within the State, the State, at its discretion, could continue to provide needed transition services to the student and use funds under Part B of the IDEA to pay for the transition services, or contribute to the cost of those services through a shared cost arrangement with another agency-- provided that all applicable requirements of Part B of the IDEA are met. Thus, IDEA gives educational agencies the power to continue to serve a student post graduation as part of the student's transition goals, as long as the student is still within the age requirements (i.e. until the student turns 22 years of age).

As a safeguard, parents should ensure that their child's IEP includes a transition plan (this is required for students beginning at age 14 focusing on courses of study and for student's beginning at age 16, or younger, focusing on transition services). Parents should also discuss with the IEP team how the students' IEP goals addressing transition will be completed before all services from the school district have ended.

35. Is high school graduation a change in placement?

Every child identified as being disabled and in need of special education and related services under IDEA is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). When a student receives an exit document, however, that student's right to FAPE ceases, because conferral of the exit document signifies that the school district has fulfilled its duty to educate the student. Accordingly, graduation is a change in placement because granting of an exit document ceases a student's right to FAPE, which in turn ceases eligibility for special education and related services. [Cronin v. Board of East Ramapo School District, EHLR DEC. 441:124, 1988.]

36. Can a parent challenge a school district's decision to graduate her child?

When a student with disabilities is expected to receive a high school diploma, the IEP team should be convened, at an appropriate time before graduation, to review the student's IEP to ensure that graduation requirements will be met and that the goals and objectives in the IEP will be completed. Thus, before a diploma is issued, the educational agency must convene an IEP team to decide whether the student should graduate. [Letter to Richards, 17 EHLR 1322, 1990.]

Once a school district decides to graduate a disabled student, that student's parents have written notice and due process rights under IDEA to challenge a school district's decision to graduate their child because graduation is a significant change in placement. Once a parent files for a due process hearing, the "stay-put" provision of the IDEA applies and the school district is required to maintain the student's placement and implement the IEP during due process. If the student's IEP specified that she will participate in graduation ceremonies, as part of her participation in regular education activities, but not receive a diploma or certificate, then that aspect of the IEP would have to be implemented regardless of the fact that a parent may be challenging the district's decision to graduate their child.

37. If my child has not fulfilled the requirements for a diploma or other certificate and will continue to be served by the school district, can he participate in the graduation ceremony with his nondisabled peers?

If, as part of a student's integration into the regular education activities of his same-age peers, the student's IEP specifies that he will participate in the graduation ceremonies of his class, that aspect of the IEP must be implementing notwithstanding that the student will continue to receive special education services from the district. Students with disabilities who do fulfill the requirements for a diploma or other exit document and whose special education eligibility is ending have an absolute right to participate in his class' graduation ceremony under both state and federal anti-discrimination laws and cannot be prohibited from such activities on the basis of their disabilities.


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