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June 14-15, 2005
Capital Hilton
Washington, DC

National Leadership Summit on Improving Results for Youth

Findings & Outcomes:
State Priorities and Needs for Assistance

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Table of Contents


The 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its 1997 Amendments require state and local education agencies to specifically address the needs of students with disabilities as they transition from school to postschool goals such as college or employment. The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) similarly places a greater focus on educational outcomes for young people with disabilities. Yet, far too many of the 6 million young people with disabilities who attend our public schools today do not gain the skills or knowledge needed to achieve positive postschool outcomes upon exiting high school. National research data and follow-up studies over the past two decades have found that youth with disabilities have lower than desired academic achievement levels; high dropout rates; substantial levels of under- and unemployment; economic instability; and low levels of enrollment and completion in postsecondary education and training. To further validate this national data, the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), a research and technical assistance and dissemination center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, identified eight challenges that impact the future of secondary education and transition. These challenges are:

  • promote students' self-determination and self-advocacy;
  • ensure students have access to the general education curriculum;
  • increase the school completion rates of students with disabilities;
  • make high school graduation decisions based on meaningful indicators;
  • ensure students access to and full participation in postsecondary education and employment;
  • increase informed parent participation and involvement in education planning, life planning, and decision-making;
  • improve collaboration and systems linkages at all levels; and
  • ensure the availability of a qualified workforce to address the transition needs of youth with disabilities

These challenge areas are noteworthy as they mirror the technical assistance activities set forth by NCSET.

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Summit Results: What We Learned

The data collection process included a review of the pre-summit assessment surveys completed by all registered state leadership teams, and the state strategic action plans developed during the Summit dialogue sessions. A self-assessment summary tool was provided to each of the state team leaders prior to their arrival at the Summit. This summary was intended to initiate discussion among team participants concerning state outcomes issues, and provide a "mindset" for participation in the upcoming Summit's team activities. Each state team leader completed the self-assessment form and forwarded it to the Summit planning committee. The form provided preliminary information about: a) the priority issues the state would focus on at the Summit; b) an assessment of their current performance for continuous improvement in planning, implementing, and evaluating strategies to address these priority issues; and c) potential needs for technical assistance related to these issues.

At the National Leadership Summit, through facilitated discussions, each state team completed a strategic action plan for improved secondary education and transition results. In these plans, state teams were encouraged to: a) identify at least 3 priority issues concerning improving results of youth with disabilities; b) develop 3-5 state leadership goals/outcome statements for each identified priority issue; c) develop 3-5 state- or federal-level action steps for each identified goal; and d) identify the technical assistance needed to implement and sustain these actions. Each state team submitted a completed State Leadership Strategic Action Plan to the Summit planning team.

Following the National Leadership Summit, researchers from the University of Minnesota and TransCen, Inc. analyzed the self-assessment surveys and the state action plans to identify the cross-state (national) priorities for improving postschool results for youth with disabilities. The ten priority content areas and three overarching themes that emerged from the data are presented below:

State-level Infrastructure

      1. State Systems Infrastructure
      2. Data Design, Collection, and Use
      3. Collaboration
      4. Professional Development

Programs and Services

      5. Access to General Education, Standards, and Testing
      6. Postsecondary Access, Enrollment, and Options
      7. Graduation/Dropout Rates
      8. Workforce Development and Employment

Youth and Family

      9. Person-Centered and Transition-Driven Planning (IEPs, self-determination, independent living)
    10. Family Education and Involvement

Figure 1
reveals the number of individual states identifying each of the priority content areas in the state action plans developed at the Summit.

Figure 1. Priorities Identified by State Teams


Number of States

State-Level Infrastructure






Professional Development



Data Design Collection and Use



State Systems Infrastructure



Programs and Services






Workforce Development and Employment



Access to General Education, Standards, and Testing



Postsecondary Access, Enrollment, and Options


Youth and Family


Person-Centered, Transition-Driven Planning




Family Education and Involvement


In addition, the researchers reviewed the goals/outcome statements and action steps written in the state action plans, categorized them by state and region, and aligned them with the previously identified priority content areas (see Table 1). This analysis illustrates, in more detail, particular secondary education and transition challenges faced by specific states and regions.

Table 1. State Team Priorities from the National Leadership Summit



State Team Priorites


Primary Regional Designation


State Systems Infrastructure


• Coordinated systems approach to transition
• State-level leadership and transition planning team
• Formalized central structure
• Identify and remediate systemic compliance issues
• National awareness of Native American transition issues


Mountain Plains, Southeast

Data Design Collection and Use


• Improved and expanded data systems
• Effective, efficient data collection systems
• Establish shared data systems
• Data-driven and evidence-based decision making and practice
• Collect and use postschool outcomes data


Mountain Plains, Western, Great Lakes



• Build/increase/sustain state and local interagency collaboration
• Increase state interagency coordination and system linkages
• Interagency collaborative funding and cost-sharing
• Earlier interagency collaboration
• Build understanding among agencies about access to services and resources
• Improve capacity of adult systems to provide postschool support
• Create community councils to build awareness, e.g. with WIBs


Northeast, Mountain Plains, Mid-South, Southeast, Western, Great Lakes

Professional Development


• Professional development about IDEA and Rehabilitation Act
• Develop understanding of relationship between NCLB and IDEA
• Building awareness/recognition of value of transition
• Training and Technical Assistance for professionals
• Develop a Transition Specialist certificate program
• Develop cross-state transition academy at postsecondary level
• Effective preservice and inservice teacher training
• Refine and disseminate transition curriculum for teachers and others
• Provide more support for LEA teachers


Mountain Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast


Access to General Education, Standards, and Testing


• Align transition with standards-based education
• High school reform
• Diploma options and high stakes testings
• Close achievement gap


Northeast, Mountain Plains

Postsecondary Access, Enrollment, and Options


• Build capacity of postsecondary system to serve students with disabilities
• Improve postsecondary preparation and increase postsecondary enrollment
• Improve postsecondary education
• Expand and improve postsecondary options


Northeast, Mid-South



• Improve graduation rate and decrease dropout rate


Mountain Plains, Southeast, Mid-South, Northeast

Workforce Development and Employment


• Improved career options and employment outcomes
• Business/education partnerships; engage employers
• Preparation for employment
• Increase postsecondary employment options through resource alignment
• Collaboration with WIA programs


Western, Mid-South, Mountain Plains


Person-Centered and Transition-Driven Planning


• Self-determination and advocacy for students and families
• Improved transition services and planning
• Move transition to middle school years
• Transition planning for ALL students
• Person-centered planning
• Youth participation in IEPs and transition planning
• Student-focused outcomes
• Increased independent living


Mountain Plains, Western, Southeast, Great Lakes

Family Education and Involvement


• Training and Technical Assistance for students, families
• Family involvement and person-centered planning beyond the IEP
• Increased youth and family involvement
• Parental involvement, acceptance, and knowledge



Finally, the technical assistance (TA) needs identified in the state plans were synthesized and categorized into 15 cross-state technical assistance content areas. These TA needs were then aligned with the previously identified priority content areas (see Table 2).

Table 2. Technical Assistance Needs Identified by State Leadership Teams at the National Leadership Summit

Technical Assistance Content Areas

Identifying "best practices" and federal directives for efficient data design, collection, sharing, analysis, and confidentiality

Providing materials/guidance on teaching self-determination/advocacy

Building interagency teams and developing interagency agreements

Bridging and aligning standards-based education and transition services/planning

Examining graduation and diploma options, and dropout issues

Engaging employers and employer organizations to improve student employability through school/business partnerships and WIA-funded programs

Facilitating the resource mapping process

Developing materials and delivering training on transition and disability awareness to administrators, general and special educators, and employers

Providing guidance on state leadership activities (funding, improvement plans, leadership teams)

Improving professional development of teachers (pre-service and in-service) on several topics (SSI, testing accommodations, TIEP development, universal design for learning, career awareness curricula, and research-based practices)

Developing and implementing effective cross-agency training

Examining "best practices" in informing and involving families through training activities and family/educator partnerships

Providing information regarding effective mentoring program implementation

Increasing postsecondary enrollment/options

Developing databases and outcomes surveys (follow-along and follow-up)

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The priority issues that emerged from states in attendance at the National Leadership Summit are consistent with those identified in various national sources. States continue to stress the importance of developing collaborative relationships and aligning special programs with broader education and workforce reforms so that all youth have the opportunity to achieve successful academic, occupational, and social outcomes. These priorities also revealed strong concerns from state leaders about collecting, reporting, and using outcome data to improve services and programs. Moreover, the education and involvement of youth and families in the transition planning process remains a critical need. The priorities identified during the Summit will continue to challenge NCSET and other national technical assistance providers to work directly with states to focus on developing more effective results-driven systems.

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Next Steps

In supporting state improvement efforts identified in state action plans from the National Leadership Summit, the technical assistance needs have been aligned with the technical assistance delivery efforts supported by NCSET. The intention is to use the information gathered at the Summit to determine the content, scope, and delivery methods of the technical assistance provided by the Center. NCSET will draw upon several existing and new technical assistance strategies including, but not limited to: NCSET's Web site, publications (including Essential Tools), capacity-building institutes, and national teleconferences. Additionally, efforts are underway to develop new overarching technical assistance strategies to complement and play a critical role in NCSET's overall state improvement approach. The following four broad strategies, currently being developed, are essential to NCSET's technical assistance plan to support state improvement.


National Alliance on Secondary Education and Transition (NASET). A national voluntary coalition, the National Alliance on Secondary Education and Transition (NASET), is currently being formed. NCSET's role will be to support NASET's initial formation and facilitate plans and actions NASET members deem important to address. One of the first tasks NASET will tackle is the development of a set of principles, standards, and/or criteria to serve as a conceptual framework and model to guide policy development and professional practice in secondary education and transition. Such a framework will also help to support NCSET's overall technical assistance approach in relation to state improvement and other efforts.


Technical Assistance Communities of Practice. The Technical Assistance Communities of Practice (TA Communities) are groups of state and local education staff and other key stakeholders facing similar program improvement challenges who have decided to band together to share expertise, issues, and solutions. NCSET envisions the establishment of several TA Communities over the next year. The action plans developed by states at the National Leadership Summit will serve as the basis for determining the need for additional TA Communities.


Technical Assistance to Individual States. Through collaboration with other OSEP TA &D Centers and Partners NCSET will work in partnership with OSEP and several other national technical assistance and research centers to help resolve complex and persistent special education issues in individual states. The intent is to draw upon the combined expertise of several technical assistance entities.


National Leadership Summit II. NCSET will conduct a second National Leadership Summit in Spring 2005. State action plans from the first Summit have been analyzed to identify technical assistance needs common across several states and/or regions, and those needs which appear to be specific to individual states. The purpose of the second National Leadership Summit will be to assess the progress states have made in addressing their state priorities identified at the first National Leadership Summit and continue to scale up federal and state secondary education and transition policies, practices, and systems.

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The National Leadership Summit was pivotal as it introduced a new way for NCSET to work with states in focusing on developing more results-driven systems. The 42 states represented at the Summit developed a strategic action plan for improved postschool results for youth with disabilities in their states. The action plans were analyzed to determine priority issues and technical assistance needs by state and regions. This initial analysis demonstrated three overarching themes and ten priority issues consistent with national research. NCSET, along with the U.S. Department of Education, the Regional Resource Centers, and other national technical assistance centers, will respond to multi-state and individual state needs based on the plans developed at the initial Summit.

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Findings & Outcomes   •   Agenda  •   Session Notes   •   Presenter Bios

Presentations   •   State Contacts   •   Partners   •   Related Sites   •   Photos


The National Leadership Summit Web page is part of the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition Web site.

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