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NLTS2 Data Brief

Reports from the National Longitudinal Transition Study

January 2002 Vol. 1, Issue 1

National Longitudinal Transition Study logo

Introducing the NLTS2

The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) is part of a valuable portfolio of congressionally mandated studies sponsored by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education. NLTS2 will provide a rich description of the characteristics, experiences, and achievements of youth with disabilities who are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and will identify factors that contribute to positive outcomes for youth.

NLTS2 involves a nationally representative sample of almost 12,000 students who were 13 to 16 years old and received special education in December 2000. The study, being conducted by SRI International, will follow them until 2010 in an effort to understand their educational, vocational, social, and personal experiences as they transition from adolescence to early adulthood. SRI International is a large, not-for-profit research institute located in Menlo Park, CA, and has conducted a variety of research in education and human services for over 50 years. NLTS2 focuses on factors such as high school coursework and placement, academic performance, extracurricular activities, postsecondary education and training, adult services, employment, independent living, and community participation. NLTS2 will be of great value to the U.S. Congress; federal, state, and local education agencies; parents and youth; educators; researchers; and advocacy groups as they shape policy and practice for young people with disabilities over the next decade and more.

Sharing the "Wealth"

Over its 10-year life, NLTS2 will be a "gold mine" of information about the characteristics, experiences, and achievements of youth with disabilities as they transition from secondary school to early adulthood. In sharing this wealth, NLTS2 will

  • Report information as soon as findings can be made available. Reports will be released every year, beginning in 2002.
  • Provide information in reasonable-size packages targeted to key issues.
  • Tailor products to the information and access needs of important audiences and communicate through organizations that serve them.
  • Make information available in a variety of formats (e.g., reports, topical information sheets, issue papers) on the World Wide Web at

The Original NLTS

The first NLTS, funded by OSEP from 1984 to 1993, provided valuable information that helped inform federal special education policy throughout the 1990s. NLTS2 will both revisit many of the NLTS topics and take a deeper look at such issues as access to the general education curriculum in high school, the social adjustment of youth, and increasing postsecondary education participation.

Data Collection Activities

NLTS2 information will represent the important perspectives of parents, youth, and school staff who serve students with disabilities, and will document student coursework and performance. All information gathered by NLTS2 is confidential. It will not be shared with anyone in any way that identifies individual students, parents or guardians, teachers, schools, or school districts.

Parent and Youth Interviews and Surveys
Parents or guardians will be interviewed by telephone about the experiences of their students and households. Youth who are able to complete a telephone interview will also be interviewed, beginning in 2003. Parents and youth who cannot be interviewed by telephone will be sent a questionnaire by mail. Information will be gathered from parents and youth every two years until 2009.

School Data Collection
For each NLTS2 student, a teacher and/or another school staff member who knows the student's school program will be asked to complete a mailed questionnaire. These surveys will take place in the spring of 2002 and 2004 for all youth who are still in school at the time.

  • The School Program Survey will be completed by the person who knows each student's school program best to provide information on the student's overall school program, special education and vocational courses, and performance in school.
  • The General Education Teacher Survey will collect information from the teacher about the experiences and performance in class of each student who takes general education courses. One focus of the survey will be students' participation and progress in general education classes.
  • The School Characteristics Survey will provide descriptions of the student body and school policies and resources in the schools where students attend.

Direct Assessments
An assessment of students' core academic skills (vocabulary, reading comprehension, mathematics), content knowledge in science and social studies, self-concept, self-determination skills, and an interview about their views of school will be conducted by a trained professional. These in-person assessments will take about an hour and will be given only once for each student, in the spring of either 2002 or 2004, when he or she is between 16 and 18 years old. The assessment will be done at school or at home at a time that is convenient for the student and family. If the form or content of this assessment is not appropriate for a student, accommodations will be made, or an alternate assessment will be given.

High school transcripts will be collected to describe the courses students take and how they perform in school. Transcripts will be collected in 2002 and 2004 for all students who are still in school and again for each student in the year he or she leaves school, so that a complete record of high school courses and performance is available. If a student's special education program is not recorded on a transcript, an alternative form for describing the content of instruction will be used.

NLTS2 Timeline

Parent Interview
Youth Interview
Direct Assessment
Teacher Survey
School Program Survey
School Characteristics Survey

The Sample

The NLTS2 sample is designed so that information from the study will represent youth with disabilities nationally as a group, youth in each of the 12 federal special education disability categories, and youth in each of the five single-year age groups in the study.

Almost 12,000 students, representing all special education disability categories, were selected from more than 500 school districts and state-supported special schools throughout the United States.

The sample was selected in two stages. First, school districts were chosen, representing all geographic regions and variation in district enrollment and wealth. State-supported special schools for the deaf and blind were also invited to participate. In all, 476 school districts and 38 special schools were willing to take part.

In the second stage, students who were 13 to 16 years old, in at least 7th grade, and receiving special education as of Dec. 1, 2000, were selected from rosters of all students receiving special education services in participating districts and schools. Students were selected randomly from each disability category so that approximately 1,000 students are in the sample in most categories (fewer are in the low-incidence categories of traumatic brain injury and deaf/blindness). Taking attrition over time into account, this number of students will ensure that an adequate number of youth will remain for analyses in the later years of the study.

The sample will be statistically weighted to represent the relative sizes of the disability categories nationally.

Location of NLTS2 Students

Location of NLTS2 Students

Current Activities

The first wave of NLTS2 parent/guardian interviews began in May 2001, and extended into the fall. A mail survey of parents who were not reached by telephone were carried out through the end of the year. The perspectives of approximately 9,350 parents or guardians are expected to be represented in this first wave. The participation of parents and guardians is essential to the success of NLTS2. The information they provide about youth, households, and their own experiences of interacting with schools is critical to understanding how families and schools help youth transition to adulthood. NLTS2 values and appreciates the interest and support of all parents/guardians.

Upcoming Activities

NLTS2 expects to accomplish much during the 2001-2002 school year. Local professionals will be recruited to conduct direct assessments of students in spring 2002. School survey questionnaires and transcript requests will also arrive at schools in the early spring.

Looking Ahead

The years of transition to adulthood are a very exciting time for youth, their families, and those who serve them. Through quarterly topical updates, published in collaboration with NCSET, NLTS2 will keep parents, youth, educators, policy-makers, and researchers informed of study activities and findings. NLTS2 has tremendous potential for making a difference in the lives of youth with disabilities in transition; with your support and help, it will. Communicating with key audiences is of utmost importance to NLTS2. Your comments and suggestions are invited.

NLTS2 Welcomes Feedback!

Contact us -

333 Ravenswood Ave, BS-136
Menlo Park, CA 84025
Phone: 866.269.7274

The NLTS2 Data Brief is produced by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), in partnership with the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2).

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There are no copyright restrictions on this document. However, please cite and credit the source when copying all or part of this material.

This report was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, (Cooperative Agreement No. H326J000005). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.

This publication is available in an alternate format upon request. To request an alternate format or additional copies, contact NCSET at 612.624.2097.


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