Study To Focus on Handicapped Pupils' Transition to Adulthood
Washington--Education Department officials are working on plans for a major longitudinal study of handicapped students that will provide the first nationwide information on their "transition" into adulthood after high school.
The study, required under the 1983 amendments to the Education of the Handicapped Act, will survey 10,500 13- to 21-year-old handicapped students over a five-year period, Susan Thompson-Hoffman, director of longitudinal studies for the office of special-education programs, told state special-education directors meeting here last month.
Students in 8 to 10 local education agencies will be studied this year, Ms. Thompson-Hoffman said. The entire study will involve a minimum of 200 local education agencies, she added.
All the students will be interviewed in the first, third, and fifth years of the study, and 1,000 of the students will be part of a more comprehensive interviewing process that will take place in the second and fourth years, Ms. Thompson-Hoffman said. The students will represent a variety of handicapping conditions as well as geographical settings.
Education Department officials also told the special-education directors that they are "fine-tuning" monitoring guidelines to help states properly implement the federal law that protects the rights of handicapped students.
Under P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, the office of special education and rehabilitative services is required to monitor states' implementation of the federal law. However, at oversight hearings held last summer by the House Subcommittee on Select Education, questions were raised about whether the present monitoring system is comprehensive enough.
Not 'Radical Departure'
"This is not a radical departure," said Joan Standlee, deputy assistant secretary of the department's office of special-education and rehabilita-tion services. "We are fine-tuning and strengthening" the guidelines.
Ms. Standlee said the modifications are now in draft form and should be ready in the next several months. The guidelines emphasize states' responsibility to check on their local education agencies' compliance with federal regulations, and they call for a staggered system of on-site reviews, with Education Department officials visiting one-third of the sites each year.
"We've seen pieces of some of the standards," said Bruce A. Ramirez, assistant director for governmental relations for the Council for Exceptional Children. "From what we've seen, these guidelines are much more comprehensive [than previous ones]."
In a related development, Wendy Cullar, director of osep for the past year, has announced that she will be leaving the Education Department and returning to Florida, where she had been director of the Bureau of Education for Exceptional Children before heading osep.
Ms. Cullar, who declined to comment on the reasons for her departure, was hired to head osep for one year. Patricia Guard, now deputy director of the office, will temporarily take Ms. Cullar's position, a department spokesman said, but no permanent replacement has been named.--at