Summit 2003
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June 14-15, 2005
Capital Hilton
Washington, DC

National Leadership Summit on Improving Results for Youth

Session Notes

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Friday, September 19, 2003

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. David Johnson, director of the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) at the University of Minnesota, welcomed the National Leadership Summit participants on behalf of NCSET and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education. He introduced OSEP Director Stephanie Smith Lee, who was instrumental in developing the National Leadership Summit.

Ms. Lee commented that the National Leadership Summit was an historic event because it was jointly sponsored by numerous Federal agencies and national organizations, and because representatives from across the nation had come together to improve results for youth with disabilities. She noted the importance of ensuring that children get a positive start from the time of birth and that there is a need to support youth’s self-advocacy and self-determination. “No matter what your disability, it is critically important to make your own decisions and speak up for yourself,” she said.

Forty-two states, including the Pacific Rim entities, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Bureau of Indian Affairs were represented at the Summit, with more than 250 individuals in attendance, Dr. Johnson said. He acknowledged the collaboration of 15 partners in planning and sponsoring the National Leadership Summit, and highlighted the importance of this type of collaboration, particularly in an environment of change within the Federal and State governments. In conclusion, Dr. Johnson noted that the National Leadership Summit would not only help the States and other entities to plan, but also would provide valuable input to NCSET as it works increasingly with State agencies to address issues surrounding positive outcomes for persons with disabilities. He also announced that a follow-up meeting would be held in 2005 to help continue the State planning process and engage participants as they work toward goals.

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Opening Keynote: "Improving Results: Living It"

Jonathan Mooney, Author and Disability Activist

Mr. Mooney began his lively, thought-provoking remarks by noting that discourse about special education usually includes a lot of "big voices," but that the perspectives of youth with disabilities must be heard. He has been diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and his reading level today is at the seventh grade level. While in school, he was labeled one of "those kids" who get into trouble, was afraid to read out loud, and was told that "people like you end up flipping burgers or in jail." However, with support from teachers and others, he was able to graduate from Brown University with a 4.0 grade point average in English literature and is now a published book author and a nationally known speaker.

People often ask him how he "fixed himself," but he contends that he has not fixed himself. Rather, he changed the paradigm in which he saw himself, and institutions changed to fully include him. He then discussed four principles that could help students with disabilities to succeed.

Understand the Socialization of Cognitive and Physical Difference. Mr. Mooney expressed a need to shift the paradigm away from medical model of disability that labels individuals and toward a social constructionist model of disability. Labeling children as stupid/dumb, bad/crazy, or lazy condemns them morally, making them feel that they are "bad kids." Many people, including parents and teachers, misunderstand and pathologize behavior such as not sitting still in the classroom. There is a need to empower teachers to think about what underlies behaviors that deviate from the norm. Words such as "focus" engender shame and ultimately get youth in trouble when they are simply being themselves.

Mr. Mooney also noted that "stupid" is a misconception because there is no single, uniform intelligence-there are numerous ways to be intelligent, but schools have not learned this. Children with disabilities often are labeled and tracked in school as low-achieving, leading them to live up to low expectations. They also are likely to experience public humiliation twice as often as non-disabled, non-labeled students, but these students "deserve respect just for showing up." Children with disabilities also are deemed to be lazy, and this label is reflected in the classroom, on the playground, and at home. Anger develops as a result, and many children become depressed. He emphasized the importance of recognizing that children ask for help in different ways, including through anger and giving up.

Balance a Remediation Ethic with an Empowerment Ethic. Rather than trying to remediate individuals’ deficits, it is important to look for ways to empower children with disabilities-moving away from the service model to the empowerment model. Parents are the experts on their children, but often are disempowered by others who call themselves experts. There is a need to balance parents’ voices with professional discourse. Mr. Mooney recommended that States in which education investments are not working change their systems to ensure that students’ and parents’ voices are heard and respected. In addition, respect for students with disabilities must be cultivated through teacher training and school policies. It is also important for teachers to understand individual students’ learning styles, ways of thinking, and intellectual passions.

Go Beyond ADA Compliance and Full Inclusion. Mr. Mooney suggested that persons with disabilities need to be accommodated to be fully included, but there is a need to go beyond accommodations and compliance to achieve full inclusion. Educators’ terminology and practices often result in discrimination and should be tackled head on in policy. For example, staff development and school policies must humanize the issue of disability. He also noted that improving employment opportunities for persons with disabilities is intrinsic to successful transition and empowerment. However, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has had a negative impact on preparing students with disabilities for adult life. For example, vocational education leads to validation and meaningful employment for many students with disabilities, but vocational education opportunities have declined.

There is also a need to build bridges among disability groups and to create forums to bring together people who represent the broad spectrum of disabilities. For example, disability support services at universities could work to join together disability groups and students, and to raise disability awareness on campuses.

Universal design and universal instruction are also needed, as are concrete accommodations, such as books on tape, note takers, untimed tests or extended-time tests, individualized instruction in higher education, project-based learning, and portfolio-based assessment. These accommodations, Mr. Mooney said, are "the moral equivalent of building a ramp for someone in a wheelchair."

Problematize the Social Construct of Normalcy. Mr. Mooney closed his remarks by emphasizing the need to tell youth with disabilities that they are not the problem-that normalcy is the problem. "We need to fight against normalcy to liberate people from the myth of normalcy," he said.

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Distinguished Expert Address: "Sharing National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 Data"

Mary Wagner, Principal Investigator, SRI International

Dr. Mary Wagner, principal investigator of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), presented key findings of the study. Sponsored by OSEP, NLTS2 is assessing over a 10-year period the characteristics, experiences, and results of a nationally representative sample of secondary school age youth who were receiving special education services in 2000 and who will transition to young adulthood over the course of the study. The original NLTS study, conducted between 1984 and 1993, helped to shape Federal special education policy for more than a decade.

NLTS2 is the most comprehensive study of its kind. This nationally generalizable study includes more than 11,000 students in 12 special education disability categories who were ages 13 to 16 when the study began in 2001. Data are collected through surveys of parents, youth, general education teachers, and other school staff, as well as from student transcripts. More than 500 school districts and 38 special schools are participating in the study.

Dr. Wagner presented key NLTS2 Wave 1 (2001-02) findings, which are highlighted below.

Secondary School Academic Experiences

  • Education goals: Almost half of all students (47%) planned to go to college. Ten percent of students with mental retardation and 72% of students with visual impairments planned to go to college.
  • Course taking: Nearly all students took language arts and math courses, and 21% took foreign language courses. Science and foreign language course-taking increased 33 percentage points between 1987 to 2001.
  • Difference in taking academic courses in general education settings: Academic course-taking increased 12 percentage points between 1987 and 2001. Large increases were found among students with hearing impairments and orthopedic impairments, but no change was found for students with emotional disturbance.
  • General education academic class level: Among students in general education classes, 78% were in classes at grade level and 21% were in classes below grade level.
  • College entrance exams: Twenty-six percent of 11th and 12th grade students in all disability categories combined took college entrance exams.

Academic Outcomes

  • Reading and math abilities: Reading and math outcomes were virtually identical.
  • Ability to keep up in general education academic classes: Only 14% of students with disabilities were above grade level in reading, and only 16% of students with disabilities were above grade level in math. Eighty-five percent and 32% of students were five or more grade levels behind in reading and math, respectively.
  • Grades: Thirty-two percent of students in special education and 18% of students in general education received mostly As and Bs.
  • Progress toward postsecondary education goals: One-fourth of students with disabilities were making a lot of progress and two-thirds were making at least some progress toward postsecondary education goals.

Vocational Preparation and Work Experience

  • Vocational goals: Forty percent of students with disabilities who had transition plans had a goal of vocationally oriented training, and 53% said they had a goal of competitive employment.
  • Vocational course-taking: More than half of students with disabilities took occupational vocational courses, and 34% of students took prevocational courses. Between 1987 and 2001, there was a 15% decline in students taking vocational education courses.
  • Vocational services and supports for students with disabilities taking high school vocational course: Of students with disabilities who took high school vocational courses, 51% received career-skills assessment and 44% received career counseling.
  • Work-related activities: Fifty-four percent of students had been employed outside of work-study and outside of the home. Half of the students worked at above minimum wage.
  • Paid employment: Fifty-four percent of students with disabilities had had paid work during the past year. The proportion of students who had jobs and earned more than minimum wage increased 9 percentage points between 1987 and 2001.
  • Progress toward vocationally oriented goals: Approximately two-thirds of students were making at least some progress, and one-third were making little or no progress toward vocational goals.

Social Adjustment

  • Social adjustment goals: Twenty-five percent of students with disabilities had a social adjustment transition goal; the rate was highest among students with autism (57%) and students with multiple disabilities (56%).
  • Social adjustment supports: Thirty-seven percent of students with disabilities received substance-abuse education/treatment services, which usually are schoolwide programs. Twenty percent of students received mental health services; this figure increased by 9 percentage points between 1987 and 2001.
  • Disciplinary actions: One-third of students with disabilities had been involved in disciplinary actions.
  • Arrests: Twelve percent of all students with disabilities had been arrested, and one-third of students with social and emotional disabilities had been arrested.
  • Progress toward social adjustment goals: More than three-fourths of students with disabilities had made progress toward social adjustment goals.

Transition Planning

  • Existence of transition planning: Eighty-nine percent of students with disabilities had a transition plan (some students may have been declassified as having a disability in 11th or 12th grade, or were not disabled in earlier school years).
  • Initiation of transition planning: Transition planning had begun by age 14 for 65% of students who had transition plans.
  • Participants in transition planning: Special education teachers were almost always (97%) participants in transition planning, and parents/guardians and students participated at least 85% of the time. Sixty-four percent of students received explicit instruction in transition planning.


  • Suitability of program to transition goals: Thirty-nine percent of school staff said that students’ instructional programs were very well-suited to their transition goals, and 43% said instructional programs were fairly well-suited to goals.
  • Information about postschool services provided to families: Fifty-seven percent of parents received information about postschool services.
  • Postsecondary contacts made: State vocational rehabilitation agencies were the contacts most commonly made (38%).

In response to a participant’s question about trends among subgroups, Dr. Wagner explained that students with disabilities are less likely to be poor now than in 1987. However, poor students with disabilities still do not do as well as other students. In addition, except in math, Hispanic students with disabilities do better than African-American students in school. African-American students with disabilities also have greater rates of behavior problems and arrests than do other students with disabilities.

Download Mary Wagner's PowerPoint Presentation ( warning: very large file [21.3MB] )

Further information about NLTS2 findings is available at and the NCSET website at

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Select Distinguished Content Session Notes

See also Presentations, a listing of all presentations and some PowerPoint slides.

Implications of NCLB and IDEA Reauthorization Highlighted

During the National Leadership Summit, participants had the opportunity to attend informative presentations by more than 25 renowned experts from across the nation. At one of the Distinguished Content Sessions, Dr. Martha Thurlow, director of the National Center on Education Outcomes, offered insight into the implications of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the impending reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). She noted that NCLB builds on IDEA and that there are links between NCLB and IDEA reauthorization.

Dr. Thurlow first introduced key NCLB provisions: development of grade-level standards and assessments that are aligned to those standards; inclusion of all students, including students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency, in assessment; a State accountability system that defines adequate yearly progress to ensure that all students reach proficiency by target year 2014, and a requirement for school improvement plans and consequences if adequate yearly progress is not evident. She stressed that NCLB does not require student-level accountability, but does require system-level accountability to ensure that all students learn at high levels.

The speaker also highlighted four recommendations for IDEA reauthorization put forth by the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education Recommendations : focus on results, not on process; incorporate universal design in accountability; set high expectations for special education; and hold local education agencies accountable for results, with technical assistance provided.

Many challenges remain for improving secondary education results for students with disabilities, Dr. Thurlow concluded. These challenges include:

  • Many students who have not had the advantages of access to the curriculum and standards-based education are behind and cannot catch up.
  • There is a need to integrate transition skills with NCLB and IDEA academic requirements.
  • Because teachers are unfamiliar with the standards, instructional decisions often are made in the lower grades without regard to standards requirements in the higher grades.
  • Good accommodations decisions and practices are not being made or implemented universally.
  • Universally designed assessments do not exist; training, involvement of special educators in item development, and sensitivity reviews are needed.
  • Increasingly, students with disabilities are held to the same standards as other students; therefore, alternative forms of assessment (e.g., juried portfolio assessments) are needed.
  • Variations in diploma options complicate matters for students with disabilities, and more study of this issue is needed.


Experts Focus on Dropout Prevention Intervention Research

During one of the 12 Distinguished Content Sessions, three experts discussed the important issue of dropout among students with disabilities. Dr. Cammy Lehr, research associate at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota, opened the session by noting that one in eight children in the United States does not graduate from high school. According to OSEP, 29 percent of students served under IDEA Part B during 2000-2001 dropped out of school; in one State, the dropout rate for students with disabilities was 70 percent. Addressing the dropout problem is critical, particularly when school accountability and participation of students with disabilities in standards-based systems are expected.

Dr. Lehr stressed the importance of research in informing practice and improving graduation rates. She recommended several strategies: establish procedures to accurately measure rates of school completion; identify students who are at risk of dropout because of multiple variables; implement interventions designed to address alterable variables; ground interventions in a sound conceptual understanding of dropout; identify interventions that show evidence of effectiveness; use current conceptualizations of dropout to inform intervention design and implementation; and identify interventions that show evidence of effectiveness.

Dr. Olatokunbo Fashola, research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools, said that successful dropout prevention interventions are theory-based, outcome-based, and research-driven, and show evidence of success in specific populations. She stressed the need to understand research on dropout interventions before adopting the interventions. For example, she recommended asking questions about the study design-whether experimental or quasi-experimental design was used, whether a control/comparison group was included, how the study sites and sample demographics were selected, and what the study limitations were. She also highlighted several effective, research-based dropout interventions, including programs that target Latino students and first-generation high school students.

Dr. Chad Nye, executive director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Central Florida, closed the session by outlining sources of dropout prevention intervention research evidence. He reiterated that evidence used to select interventions should be of high quality and scientifically based, saying that "the better the evidence, the sounder the decision." Sources of research-based evidence include professional publications, U.S. Department of Education reports, evaluation reports, grant/contract reports, and conference presentations. Such sources can be identified by conducting electronic searches (e.g., using ERIC), reviewing reference lists in published studies and papers, and consulting organizations such as the Campbell Collaboration ( and the What Works Clearinghouse (

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Friday, September 19, 2003

Welcome and Charge for the Day

Dr. Robert Pasternack, Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, welcomed the National Leadership Summit participants. He observed that the National Leadership Summit marked the first time that teams representing most of the States and other entities had convened to discuss the transition of youth with disabilities from school to postschool life. The New Freedom Initiative, he said, demonstrates progress made in improving life for adults with disabilities, but more progress is needed. Fifty-four million adults in the United States have disabilities, and this group is the nation’s largest minority group. Despite unprecedented growth and prosperity in recent years, the 70 percent unemployment rate of persons with disabilities remains "unacceptably high."

The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are working together to make the case that hiring persons with disabilities is a sound business decision. This population of workers has low employment turnover rates, has high work productivity and morale, and is eager to enter the world of work, Dr. Pasternack said. Strategies are needed to link students with disabilities to business communities and to engage businesses in hiring persons with disabilities. There is also a need to eliminate the myths that persons with disabilities cannot do the same work as others and that accommodating persons with disabilities is expensive.

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Youth Panel Discussion: "Youth Success in Achieving Results: Stories from Youth"

Facilitator: Dr. Richard Horne, Supervisory Research Analyst, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor

Dr. Richard Horne moderated a panel discussion by four young people with disabilities who offered their insights into how to help youth achieve positive results. The youth panelists were:

  • Matt Hoie , an Arizona high school sophomore who fully participates in general education classes and plans to work with children and adolescents who, like himself, have autism.
  • Carrie Raabe2, a recent high school graduate from Arizona who is employed in a cooperative training program at a country club, and hopes to provide home- and school-based services to persons with disabilities in the future.
  • Peter Squire, who received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Mary Washington College in Virginia in 2002. A member of the Federally funded National Youth Leadership Network, he works as a scientist at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center.
  • Jamie Watts, a 2002 graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia. She has held internships at ODEP and in the U.S. Department of Defense in the Washington, D.C., area.

Dr. Horne noted the importance of designing transition programs and policies that tap the experiences of young people with disabilities. Successful youth transition programs share four key design features:

  • Preparatory experiences-Career assessments, employment opportunity awareness, and work readiness skill development.
  • Connecting activities-Academic tutoring, postsecondary and additional learning opportunity exploration; supportive peer and adult mentors; assistive technology, transportation, benefits planning, health maintenance, and other self-sufficiency exploration necessary to make informed choices.
  • Work-based experiences-Job site visits and tours, job shadowing, and paid and unpaid internships.
  • Leadership development experiences-Supportive role models, personal leadership development, and personal leadership opportunities.

Dr. Horne asked the panelists to respond to a series of questions.

What kinds of opportunities were you exposed to that prepared you for your career?

Mr. Squire reflected that his father influenced him the most. He knew he wanted to work in a scientific field and found his niche and passion in computer science. Role models can shape a young person’s hopes and desires, and the more role models youth with disabilities see, the more avenues they will see. "It’s really about finding what you’re passionate about," he said.

What kinds of internship opportunities have you had that have helped you be successful?

Ms. Watts said her first internship was through the Workforce Recruitment Program for college students with disabilities. She worked as an intern at ODEP and "fell in love with the job, the city, and the disability field, and found her passion." She also had an internship with the Computer Electronic Accommodations Program that provides assistive technology to employees of the U.S. Department of Defense and other Federal agencies. The internships gave her the experience she needed.

What have you been involved in that has helped you develop as a leader and a self-advocate?

Ms. Raabe asserted that being an advocate means standing up for your rights and learning to experience how others can help you. In mentoring others, she hopes to help others be treated the way she wishes to be treated, and she wants others to feel comfortable sharing their experiences with her.

Could you share your success story?

Mr. Hoie said he had volunteered at a local summer teen camp, where he had been a camper during three previous years. The year before he volunteered, he became aware of a camper who had severe autism, and he took responsibility for the camper by assisting him on excursions and helping him prepare for a talent show. His volunteer duties also included taking attendance and helping with activities. He asserted that hard work and determination got him to where he is.

What advice do you have for the National Leadership Summit participants?

Mr. Squire suggested that the most important step is to involve young people in planning for their futures and in goal-setting. In high school, young people have an extensive support system, but must learn to make their own decisions about the many choices they face because supports will not always be there for them. He recalled that during school he knew he had a disability, but did not know what specific kind of disability or what it would mean for him. "We really need to make sure we empower youth, and the best way to do that is to involve them in the decision-making process and let them know what’s going on. That is so important," he said.

Ms. Watts said she would like to see youth have mentoring experiences, but the goals of these experiences sometimes differ for the students who are being mentored and their mentors. Many times, students want to meet someone who can help them find directions that will lead to employment, while adults want to fill a job and work with the young person in a job. Both goals are valid, but both people need to communicate what they hope to get out of the relationship. She added that employment programs can be beneficial, but if transportation, personal assistance, and other supports are not available, then the person with a disability will not be able to work.

The youth panelists also fielded questions from the audience.

Which type of services should be the focus of disability support services at colleges-counseling or support services?

Mr. Squire responded that there is "huge variability" among students with disabilities, especially in people with hidden disabilities, so services should depend on the student’s needs. The types of services provided also should depend on what kind of experience the student has. For example, students with ADHD might unknowingly overload themselves with coursework and set themselves up for failure. Adults need to help youth understand who they are, what their disability is, and what they can and cannot do, so they are well-prepared to meet challenges when they go to college or into the work world.

Ms. Watts concurred, recalling that when she was a college freshman, she went to the disability services office, but was not yet attuned to her own disability and needs. Colleges should offer new students "a lot of hand holding," but toward the end of their college careers, students with disabilities should be able to advocate for themselves and others.

How should we work with parents and families who are used to making decisions for their children?

Mr. Hoie recommended letting parents tell teachers about the characteristics of the child and suggest ways to make the child’s education successful, easier, and more enjoyable. His mother added that for parents there is a "wonderful tension between the nurturing, guidance, and protection, and letting go. It’s a life’s work." When the parent sees the child’s initiative emerge, the parent’s role should be to step back and be the cheerleader, she said.

What helped you get through the rough road to become successful?

Mr. Squire reflected that the hardest times for him were during his high school years, when he did not have a sense of direction and his disability was "in full force." His teachers gave him the greatest amount of support, and his special education teacher saw that he had a gift and always pushed him to do his work, but in the style that accommodated him in that current timeframe. "That is absolutely vital. If I’d not had an individual who understood that, I don’t know where I would have gone," he said.

Mr. Hoie responded that it is important to focus on one’s own strengths. "Everyone feels like they are in the dark ages now and then, and feels disappointed about themselves. You can either sit around and not do anything, or you can think about your strong points, not your weaknesses."

Ms. Watts agreed that a positive attitude is important. She viewed college as a time to strike out on her own and to decide how to live her life and what kind of supports she would need. During college, she also found a core group of friends on whom she could rely.

Ms. Raabe said it is important to have a vision and to learn that other people can inspire you. In addition, she relied on quotes from the Bible and on her mother, who has always been supportive and someone she could look up to when she has needed help.

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Developing a State Strategic Action Plan: A Case Example

Throughout the two-day National Leadership Summit, 42 State teams met in three dialogue sessions to develop strategic action plans for improved outcomes for youth with disabilities in their States. One of the State teams-which included two State education administrators, a parent/advocate, a workforce development professional, and a vocational rehabilitation representative-began the strategic planning process by discussing priorities, including to:

  • Provide information to parents early in a student’s school career to encourage parent involvement, self-advocacy, and self-determination at an earlier age
  • Initiate transition planning earlier
  • Increase access for persons with disabilities to employment and training systems, such as One-Stop Career Centers
  • Promote, develop, and support alternative learning, such as work-based learning and internships

The team emphasized that expectations should be high and early transition planning should be required for all youth, not just youth with disabilities, and that their State’s existing continuous transition improvement plan must be strengthened and implemented more effectively. However, in the current environment, schools’ emphasis on academic requirements eclipses the importance of career and transition planning. The team members expressed frustration with this environment and the conflicting expectations of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) . One team member commented that "We’re taking the 'I' out of IEP. NCLB is putting us in a difficult situation because schools can’t help kids create a vision and explore, or have programs that truly meet kids’ needs."

After identifying priorities, the State team began to set goals and develop action steps. One goal identified is to increase access to the State’s employment and training services system for individuals with disabilities, including youth. Among the action steps proposed are to convene State agencies to discuss replication of model disability services available at one of the State’s One-Stop Career Centers, convening a Statewide One-Stop disability support task force, and seeking funding to ensure that needed supports are available at all of the State’s One-Stops.

A second goal identified is to increase awareness among families, students, and educators about transition planning and strategies to enhance transition programs and planning throughout students’ middle school and high school years. Action steps proposed include repackaging existing transition materials to make them appropriate for different audiences (e.g., parents, students, and educators) and to enhance outreach to parents at critical time points in their children’s secondary education.

As part of the strategic planning process, the State team also began to identify lead agencies, technical assistance needs, critical partners, and evaluation elements for the action steps proposed.

The strategic planning process was expected to be continued by each State team following the National Leadership Summit.

State Action Planning Materials

(Note: These Microsoft Word documents will download onto your computer if you click on them. To access the document(s), locate and open them on your hard drive in a word processing program.)

The following action planning materials were used at the National Leadership Summit:

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Presentation of Team Priority Issues

At the conclusion of the team dialogue sessions, priority issues and strategies for improving outcomes for youth with disabilities were summarized by region. Below are the priority issues identified by the teams in each region.

Northeast Region:

  • Interagency collaboration, including collaborative funding.
  • Making links between NCLB and the transition requirements in IDEA, and guidance in maintaining standards-based education without losing the individualized ability to affect transition planning.
  • Stronger linkages among workforce development, mental health, and school-based/adult systems, which are essential for successful transition to occur.

Northeast Region:

  • Expanded transition-related training and technical assistance for youth, families, professionals, and paraprofessionals.
  • Increased resources for teachers to meet transition requirements.
  • Enhanced pre-service training.

The Great Lakes Region also emphasized the importance of in-depth data collection, collaboration and commitment, mechanisms for articulating information to all parties surrounding transition efforts, continuing the work of the National Leadership Summit, and expanding funding for transition.

Mid-South Region:

  • Closing the achievement gap.
  • Reduction of the dropout rate.
  • Stronger and expanded career, employment, and postsecondary options.
  • Collection of postschool outcome data.
  • Increased access to resources and services for students who are transitioning.
  • Coordination of services to prevent duplication.
  • Identification of stakeholders and education of stakeholders about their roles.

Mountain Plains Region:

  • Transition plans for all youth with formalized, consistent structures-policy alignment, procedures, processes, materials availability, awareness of the importance of transition for all students.
  • Interagency collaboration-having data to show where energy should be focused and a system (including technical assistance) to allow systems to share data efficiently and effectively.
  • Examination of postsecondary outcomes for all students-including knowing what is effective, having and analyzing postschool data, being able to compare data for disabled and non-disabled students, and knowing which agencies have made the greatest difference.

Western Region:

  • Seeking Federal and State support to develop mechanisms for data sharing and improving data collection systems and mechanisms for all purposes.
  • Helping families, schools, and adult providers to understand, teach, and promote self-determination.
  • Renewing secondary education and giving a seamless education to all students.
  • Strengthened linkages with the Workforce Investment Act system through improved education and communication.

Southeast Region:

  • Building collaboration in transition systems, including through enforceable interagency agreements, that leads to successful outcomes for youth.
  • Data collection for all agencies to support accurate information on postsecondary outcomes, leading to resource realignment, shared accountability, etc.
  • Person-centered planning and family involvement to support dignity and high expectations for all individuals.

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National Response Panel

Moderator: Sue Swenson, Assistant Executive Director, The Arc of the United States, and Executive Director, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation

Ms. Swenson asked a panel of nationally known experts to comment on the priorities identified by the State teams and to respond to three questions:

  • What is your agency currently doing?
  • How does your agency currently communicate with States and interact with States about policy and program funding opportunities?
  • What is the best way for States and persons with disabilities to participate in the strategic planning process within the agency?

Below are highlights of the panel members’ comments.

Christa Bucks Camacho, Youth and Transition Coordinator, Office of Program Development and Research, Social Security Administration:

  • Youth served by the Social Security Administration (SSA) represent many different cultures, disability types, and economic levels.
  • SSA recognizes that many young Social Security beneficiaries will stay on the Social Security rolls for their lifetimes. SSA policies and programs to change this situation include partnering with local agencies to offer benefits planning to young people with disabilities.
  • SSA is looking at the ways in which comprehensive work incentive programs can be used to help students with disabilities or graduates build on their skills and move into the workforce. For example, SSA is addressing transition issues through research demonstration projects in seven communities nationwide.

Dr. Richard Horne, Supervisory Research Analyst for Research and Education, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor:

  • It is important for people in the field to comment on research agendas and other Federal Government activities when requested through the Federal Register or other vehicles.
  • Input from States helps ODEP to plan for and strategize employment and training programs for persons with disabilities.
  • Various agencies seek to improve systems, but the Office of Management and Budget has sign-off authority.
  • Training is important but receives less focus than employment.
  • It is important to adopt employer-focused strategies (those that consider employers’ needs, collaboration with employers, and high-growth employment fields), rather than focusing only on the supply side (i.e., "getting Johnny a job").
  • ODEP must look more closely at collaboration in systems change and research.

Stephanie Smith Lee, Director, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education:

  • Meaningful policy development must begin at the local level. Self-determination and person-centered planning, improved collaboration, reducing the dropout rate, and reducing the achievement gap are important policy goals.
  • The Bush Administration firmly supports accountability for results, which means that effective data collection systems must be in place. OSEP is looking at improved data collection and will announce in the near future a new research center focused on developing early childhood indicators.
  • In developing postsecondary outcomes indicators, it is important to identify desired outcomes and changes needed in schools to achieve them.
  • Since 1997, the monitoring system has evolved dramatically to become a continuous improvement focused monitoring system. Today, States are analyzing data, developing State improvement plans to address problems, and seeking ways to move research results into the classroom.
  • OSEP has been working closely with other offices to build awareness of special education concerns in light of NCLB, IDEA, and standards-based reform.
  • Assessment issues must be resolved to ensure accountability.
  • Universal design for instruction, instructional materials, and assessment is critically important.

Stephanie Powers, Executive Director, National Association of Workforce Boards:

  • Education linkages to the workforce investment system are important. Workforce Investment Boards are governing boards at the local and State levels. Local boards are very autonomous and not accountable to State boards, and they reflect the authority of local elected officials. Greater alignment of State and local boards is important, however.
  • Workforce boards are led by business people, not bureaucrats. Educators must "talk their talk" and understand the culture of the boards.
  • One-Stop Career Centers are chartered by Workforce Development Boards. Therefore, communication should target the boards, not the directors of One-Stop centers.
  • The workforce is the primary focus of economic development. It is important for those involved in preparing or transitioning workers to understand which cutting-edge skills are needed in the workforce and to align curricula and programs to reflect those skills.

Madeleine Will, Chair, President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities:

  • The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities is an advisory body that reports to the President. The Committee comprises 21 public members and 13 ex officio members. Its charge is to prepare recommendations to the President regarding improving the lives of persons with intellectual disabilities, 92 percent of whom are not employed.
  • The New Freedom Initiative was launched in February 2001 to bring greater personal freedom and independence to persons with disabilities.
  • Roundtable discussions have focused on public awareness regarding persons with intellectual disabilities and on postsecondary outcomes and employment.
  • A recent study indicated deep resistance to including people with intellectual disabilities in education and other arenas.
  • The States and National Leadership Summit participants should insist that data about postschool outcomes drive policy in the Federal government.
  • Self-determination is an important focus.
  • In-service and pre-service teacher training to improve outcomes for students with disabilities is important.
  • Collaboration is important, but is often capricious and random. In contrast, alignment would involve creating a mechanism across government that would support creation of needed programs and service delivery.

Joanne Wilson, Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education:

  • The rehabilitation services system and all systems should promote high expectations for persons with disabilities.
  • A Rehabilitation Services Administration initiative is directing funding to State rehabilitation agencies to work with consumer-controlled organizations of persons with disabilities in developing transition services.
  • Rehabilitation services programs are currently strained, so new partners and expertise are needed to make a difference.
  • Mentoring grants targeting transition-age youth with disabilities have been awarded to provide mentoring and role modeling by others with disabilities, and to give young people high expectations for themselves.

J. Michael Zelley, Board Member, National Association of Workforce Boards:

  • The workforce investment system is comprised of more than 600 Workforce Investment Boards nationwide.
  • Workforce Investment Boards want educators’ involvement, and it is possible to get access to the boards by engaging them and "being at the table." This involvement will benefit all students, not just those with disabilities.
  • In Michigan, funds for transition services have been leveraged through a Work Incentive Act cash match with other agencies. A cash match program involving a local One-Stop Career Center, local Chamber of Commerce, Vocational Rehabilitation, employment services, and local Center for Independent Living has been also been established for career counseling.
  • From the business perspective, a high school graduate’s skills are more important than the type of diploma the student has.

Ms. Swenson concluded the panel discussion by listing four steps to collaboration: communicate, coordinate work and share leadership on projects, cooperate by sharing a mission, and be willing to change. She also encouraged the National Leadership Summit participants to make use of NCSET’s many resources and services.

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Concluding Remarks

Dr. Bonnie Jones of OSEP thanked the National Response Panel, State teams, Dr. Kelli Crane, and the NCSET staff for their participation in and their contributions to the National Leadership Summit. Dr. Johnson encouraged the participants to continue the momentum and energy built during the two-day National Leadership Summit. He commented that the meeting involved more parents, youth, workforce development representatives, and general educators than have participated in past meetings on the topic of transition. Dr. Johnson also thanked the participants, staff, and panelists for their contributions.

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Findings & Outcomes   •   Agenda  •   Session Notes   •   Presenter Bios

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