Meeting of the Board of Regents | May 2009
Coordination with Education Officials: Attachment 4.8(b)(2)
Coordinating services to in-school youth with disabilities is a continuing priority for VESID, which administers both the special education and vocational rehabilitation programs. It is VESID’s policy for vocational rehabilitation counselors to seek school referrals within two years prior to school exit, coordinate vocational rehabilitation with school service planning and use school records to the maximum extent in determining eligibility. This policy reflects the relationship defined in the Joint Agreement Between the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities and the Office Of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education to Improve Transition Planning and Services for Students with Disabilities (1992).
The basic principles of the Agreement are:
- The provision of transition services ensures that students with disabilities are prepared for employment, postsecondary education, or community living when they leave school.
- School districts have the primary planning and programmatic responsibilities for the provision of transition services for their students.
- School districts are financially responsible for transition services mandated for school districts by federal or State laws and regulations.
- VESID (VR) is responsible for providing vocational rehabilitation services that are not otherwise mandated through special education requirements.
- VESID (Special Education) continues to be responsible for the coordination of educational programs and services for students with disabilities in lifelong learning systems, including higher education, adult education and other activities beyond high school.
- Referrals to VESID (VR) will be made on the basis of clearly defined functional criteria and referral procedures. A system will be established to evaluate outcomes and employment success for the in-school referrals made to VESID.
- VESID (VR) district office staff will be informed of students who require transition services and will have the opportunity to participate in the transition planning for such students.
- The Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education (EMSC) and VESID will work in collaboration with school districts and other State agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to the provision of transition services and to eliminate the duplication of assessments, services and reporting.
- VESID (VR) will work in collaboration with Independent Living Centers to enhance their role in working with students with disabilities, their families and educational personnel during the transition planning and service delivery process.
- The student and the student's family are a primary source of information regarding the student's needs, goals and services.
The vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor's role with in-school youth is primarily one of planning for the continuity of career preparation for the student’s years after leaving school. However, if the student needs vocational rehabilitation services to make a smooth transition to permanent employment directly exiting school, the counselor can fund these services. VESID works with schools to ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) is completed before vocational rehabilitation-eligible students receiving special education leave school.
Caseload statistics are monitored to determine the progress of VESID in serving and placing youth, defined as individuals with disabilities who are less than 22 years of age at the point of referral to the vocational rehabilitation program. In FFY 2008, VESID served 38,241 youth. Statewide trend data for the past five years indicate a steady and significant increase in the number of youth on the VESID caseload.
VESID will collaborate in the following activities to improve the transition of youth with disabilities from secondary education to post-school employment outcomes:
VR Transition Policy Improvement
The number of students with disabilities receiving VR services has increased over the last eight years. Additionally, the percent of students with disabilities that make up the State active caseload increased from 24 percent to 37 percent during this same period of time. In order to meet the increased demand for VR services to youth, VESID used a collaborative approach to develop policy based on current research and best practices.
The transition process needs to address a wide array of student skills for learning, working, community living and self-determination. Schools cannot address all of these needs in isolation of community services and programs. In addition to what the student can learn in school, there must be planning for what types of services students will need once they graduate from their programs. VESID VR is one of the key systems to facilitate the transition process from school to postsecondary placements and/or employment.
In 2008, VESID revised its vocational rehabilitation transition policy, establishing an affirmative role for VR Counselors in transition from school to work. Transition from school to work is a critical time for young adults with disabilities. Similar to their non-disabled peers, youth with disabilities benefit from career planning and normative work experiences during young adulthood. This increases the likelihood that they will successfully enter the job market as young adults. To address this need, VESID revised the 421.00 Youth in School - Transition Referral, Planning and Services Policy in August 2008. After gathering public comment, changes to this policy were based on the work of a policy development work team consisting of transition counselors and supervisors from the VESID Vocational Rehabilitation District Offices, VESID’s Office of Special Education and from the State Rehabilitation Council.
The policy reinforces VESID’s commitment to begin working with students with disabilities two years prior to the student’s expected school exit. It outlines the role of the vocational rehabilitation counselor as an active participant in the transition planning process. The policy clarifies what documentation can be obtained from school districts to assist the VR counselor to determine the students’ eligibility for VR services and to expedite post-school services.
Two years prior to expected school exit, the VESID VR counselor works with the school district to identify in-school youth who are likely to be eligible for VESID VR services. The VESID counselor assists students with disabilities to obtain employment consistent with their strengths, abilities, career interests and informed choice.
While local school districts are responsible for providing education and transition services to students with disabilities who are still in high school, the VESID VR counselor can provide transition services that involve preparing for the student’s future employment. The VESID VR counselor, together with the student and the student’s family, and working with the school district, coordinates VR services for students with disabilities.
As an active participant in the transition planning process, the VESID VR counselor:
- Informs students, parents and school staff about VESID VR services related to employment;
- Works with the school district to identify students who may benefit from VR services and determines eligibility for VR services;
- Counsels students and their parents about career planning and employment related to the individualized education program (IEP) and engages students in assessing post-school options;
- Advises students, parents and school staff during the transition planning regarding current labor market information, community resources and other community-based services, such as independent living centers;
- Contributes to the transition planning by communicating with school-based staff so that students, parents and school district staff can avail themselves of the VESID VR counselors' expertise in post-school options;
- Develops the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) prior to school exit which outlines the student’s employment goal and the services necessary to achieve the employment goal;
- Provides transition services if they are beyond the scope of special education and within the scope of VR services; and
- Provides employment-related services.
The policy is intended to ensure that students with disabilities have clear post-school plans and are engaged in postsecondary activities leading to employment.
State Plan Priorities and Goals
VESID will include youth as part of its priority in achieving an increase in high quality employment outcomes and has established separate goals for youth in its annual goals and priorities.
Services to Groups for Consultative and Technical Assistance to Educational Agencies
VESID can provide VR services to groups under 34 CFR 361.49 (a) (7) for consultative and technical assistance services for planning the transition of students to post-school employment activities. Federal regulations required VESID to develop written parameters as described in 34 CFR 361.49 (b) for these services. VESID is planning to use services to group funds for contracts with the regional transition coordination sites, transition projects with school districts as a result of a pending request for proposals (RFP) procurement process and for projects through selected Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) in several regions. Contracts will contain clearly defined services and measures for ensuring that the services to groups are actually carried out.
VESID implemented the following projects:
Model Transition Program (MTP)
Starting in June 2007, the Model Transition Program (MTP) put many aspects of the revised VR Transition Policy into practice: specifically, the role of VR counselors, referral timeline, and eligibility and VR services. In addition, close coordination between the school districts, community partners and the local VESID office have been enhanced with the MTP. The MTP provides funding for 60 projects that include more than 180 private and public high schools to develop school-wide plans, activities and programs to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities to postsecondary placements. These placements include college, vocational training programs and competitive employment with and without supports. The primary goal of the MTP is to facilitate future employment opportunities for students with disabilities.
Due to shifting budgetary demands, the MTP projects will conclude November 30, 2009. VESID will complete an evaluation of the program and will continue coordination with school districts to sustain the gains achieved during the project. Using data provided by the projects, Cornell University is working with VESID’s vocational rehabilitation administration to identify critical elements of the data collection, analysis and reporting processes. Successful transition strategies will be identified and shared with high schools throughout the State.
The CUNY Linking Employment, Academics, and Disability Services (LEADS) project incorporates many aspects of the VR College and University Training Policy. Through this MOU, VESID and CUNY are collaborating to provide employment-related services such as assessment, eligibility determination, financial assistance, academic support, career counseling and job placement, to students with disabilities enrolled on designated CUNY campuses. To date, over 1,000 referrals have been made to VESID.