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N.Y. To Ease Transition From Special Ed.

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The New York State Board of Regents has approved a wide-ranging set of policies to help disabled students bridge the gap between school and work or further study.

Proponents say the package is the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation. It calls on educators to work with vocational-rehabilitation counselors, higher-education officials, employers, and operators of independent-living centers in developing plans to assist disabled students finish high school and lead self-sufficient lives.

The state board's action comes as the first generation of students to grow up with the benefits of universal, federally mandated special education are beginning to leave school. As a result, a number of state and federal policymakers are devoting more attention to the question of how children fare after special education.

A national study last year indicated that, one year after leaving4school, fewer than 30 percent of handicapped students are employed and fewer than 15 percent are enrolled in postsecondary education. (See Education Week, May 3, 1989.)

"As these sons and daughters are leaving school, they're asking what's next," said Lawrence C. Gloeckler, deputy commissioner of the state education department's office of vocational and educational services for individuals with disabilities. His office was created last year to link such services for the handicapped.

"These people have received special education and now they feel they should be able to get a job or attend school, if that's what they want to do," he said.

State Directives

The new rules direct state education officials to:

  • Conduct a vocational assessment for virtually all disabled secondary-school students.
  • Include vocational planning invice- and inservice-training programs for all professionals working with such students.
  • Make "transitional planning" a component of the individualized education plans that special educators are required to complete each year for special-education students.
  • Create a database for tracking individuals with disabilities.
  • Encourage local school officials, whenever possible, to include vocational-rehabilitation counselors and others outside of education in individualized-education-plan meetings for disabled students.

Mr. Gloeckler said the rules were based on the recommendations of a task force formed last fall to examine the problems handicapped children face as they enter adulthood.

The group's hearings were attended by nearly 6,000 disabled students, parents, educators, rehabilitation specialists, and employers from around the state.--dv

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