An estimated 3,800 students with disabilities exit school each year, either with a regular education or special education diploma. For a large percentage, the post-school outcomes are not positive. In the 2003-2004 school year, 430 students with disabilities dropped out of high school. Over 1,800 leave high school with a certificate only, leaving them unprepared for post-school activity, such as further education, technical training, or paid employment. Far too many students currently exit schools with these challenges.
The Department of Education and the Division of Exceptional Students (DES) has formed a state transition team to work on these issues, and within the 10 performance outcomes that the state is working on to improve the outcomes of children with disabilities, three are directly related to transition. In addition, the GCDD and DES has formed and run a Statewide Transition Steering Committee that has been meeting on a quarterly basis for three years. This group has been very productive in considering related policy that affects the transitioning student. In addition, there are activities in the State’s Transition Action Plan on which the Statewide Transition Steering Committee has agreed to work.
Most of the groups considering better transition outcomes for students agree that several components are involved.
First, students in high school need constructive transition planning. Planning needs to start prior to the beginning of High School, if students have hopes of completing successfully.
Second, high schools students need to learn the skills needed to be actively engaged in their own planning, to express their wishes, problem solve and self-advocate.
Third, the state’s graduation policies need to accommodate students who cannot complete high schools by traditional routes.
Fourth, members of the teaching and administrative professions could benefit by better and more frequent interaction with the disability community network so they can share ideas, challenges and solutions in an effort to move forward together.
Finally, parents of students with special needs need to be supported in their efforts to advocate for their children, to share information with each other and to learn how to navigate the systems that serve their children.
Therefore, the priority is stated as, “A Georgia where high school students with disabilities experience effective transition planning that includes the practice of self-determination, alternative diploma routes, professional collaboration and positive parent support that leads to better post-school outcomes.”
The Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights and Assistance Act defines education as: Students with developmental disabilities are able to access the appropriate supports and modifications when necessary, to maximize their educational potential, to benefit from life-long educational activities, and to be integrated and included in all facets of student life
GCDD Supported Efforts
Partnerships for Success – Partnerships for Success evolved out of a Project of National Significance. It is being implemented in high schools and some middle schools in sixteen school districts. The program is designed to promote relationships between young people with disabilities and their peers. It includes leadership-building activities, recreational and social activities, and community service. Students are instructed using a self-determination curriculum and they are given opportunities to set their own goals through person centered and futures planning. (www.partnershipsforsuccess.com) Click here to view a video
Academy for Inclusive and Social Growth – Kennesaw State University is piloting a post-secondary on-campus college experience for students with intellectual disabilities who have graduated from high school. They are given the opportunity to take freshman orientation seminars and to audit classes of their choice. Visit http://www.kennesaw.edu/chhs/academy/ for more information or watch an introduction video on the program at,http://www.gcdd.org/news-a-media/videos/viewvideo/28/ksu-academy-for-inclusive-learning-and-social-growth.html
Learn more about Post-Secondary Options from the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Consortium for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities held on Jan 19, 2012 by viewing this PowerPoint by Cate Weir from Think College. Think College! College Options for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Student-Led Individual Education Plans (IEP) – Through their experience with Partnerships for Success, students became more confident and concerned about advocating for themselves. They were given opportunities to lead their own Individual Education Plans. GCDD is working with the Department of Education to expand this practice in other areas of the state. (www.pacer.org/tatra/resources/POD/studentlediep.asp)
Statewide Transition Steering Committee – Pat Nobbie, GCDD Deputy Director, chairs this committee. They focus on policies that impact transitioning students. They have addressed issues such as diploma options, special education funding formulas, employment, and prevention of drop out.
GCDD Public Policy Initiatives
Blind Persons Braille Literacy Rights and Education Act – GCDD signed on to support the Coalition for the Blind to ensure teachers of students who are blind are literate in Braille.
Parent Protection Act – The GCDD supported passage of the Parent Protection Act which provided unpaid leave for parents so they could attend to their children’s school meetings.
Other Partners and Resources
Department of Education (www.doe.k12.ga.us)
Department of Labor – Vocational Rehabilitation (www.vocrehabga.org)
Georgia Advocacy Office (thegao.org)
Parent to Parent of Georgia (p2pga.org)
Parent Mentors (www.parentmentors.org)