The President's New Freedom Initiative: The 2007 Progress Report
Expanding Educational Opportunities for Children with Disabilities
The President believes that all children, including those with disabilities, deserve to be taught by highly-qualified teachers in environments appropriate to their skills and achievement level. For too long, children with disabilities were forgotten in the system, contributing to a lower high school graduation rate, lower secondary education rates, and lower employment rates. In order to ensure that no child with a disability is left behind in our schools, the President has emphasized the importance of including youth with disabilities in accountability systems under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which ensures these students receive more attention and targeted instruction.
Enhancing the Special Education Service Delivery Structure
On December 3, 2004, the President signed into law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (PL 108-446), which amended IDEA. The new IDEA made several significant changes designed to help redefine how States and schools identify children with disabilities, set assessment standards, strengthen the contents of students’ Individual Education Plans, and adopt NCLB’s highly qualified teacher standards. It also refocused special education programs on student achievement and required States to establish performance plans and implement programs to achieve performance goals.
The Department of Education:
Required supplemental educational services and school transfer options for students with disabilities attending low-performing schools, and required states to offer appropriate assessment accommodations to students with disabilities during the academic assessment process.
Issued final regulations implementing the reauthorized IDEA Part B program, which provides grants to states for special education, on August 3, 2006.
Issued regulations under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as reauthorized by NCLB, to provide additional flexibility to states to more appropriately measure the achievement of certain students with disabilities.
Established the Teacher Assistance Corps to facilitate professional development of special education teachers, ultimately leading to better quality instruction for children with disabilities.
Published the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, increasing the speed at which schools provide instructional materials to students who are blind or vision impaired.
Assembled and released a new “Tool Kit on Teaching and Assessing Students with Disabilities,” published in April 2006 which helps students with disabilities receive a quality education.
Issued the first annual State Determinations under the IDEA in June 2007. The State and Federal reports will provide valuable information to the public on the success of the State’s efforts to educate children with disabilities to high standards.
The Department of Health and Human Services is now expanding assistance to Native American children with disabilities by helping to provide appropriate and coordinated services, resources, and personnel.
The National Science Foundation’s Research in Disabilities Education Program promotes and funds innovations in teacher preparation and training to help students with disabilities access and learn about science, technology and mathematics.
The Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is implementing a comprehensive plan to help states, families, local educators, and administrators implement the IDEA 2004 final regulations, including establishing a one-stop website, http://idea.ed.gov, with a variety of print and electronic resources.
The Department of Education will finalize implementing regulations for the reauthorized IDEA Part C Infants and Toddlers program, which provides state grants for early intervention services for young children.
The Department of Education will finalize implementing regulations for two pilot programs in the reauthorized IDEA. One pilot will focus on reducing the law’s paperwork burden on teachers and administrators. The other will allow parents and school districts the option to develop multi-year Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), which may enhance longer-term educational planning and reduce burdens on teachers and administrators compared to current annual IEPs.
Preparing Children with Disabilities for the Future
The Department of Health and Human Services supports 15 Information, Training, and Resource Centers to serve children and young adults with disabilities.
The Department of Education, through the recently established National Center for Special Education Research, is working to generate solutions to special education challenges in 10 core areas, including both student and teacher-based improvements.
The National Science Foundation’s Research in Disabilities Education Program funds projects that are working with national, state and local educational organizations to make science and math curricula fully accessible to youth with disabilities.
The Department of Health and Human Services will:
Increase the school readiness of children with disabilities from low-income families as part of the Head Start program.
Provide technical assistance to the states that participate in its Young Adult Program, which promotes smooth transition from youth to adulthood for persons with disabilities.
Endeavor to identify children with autism at younger ages and ensure the earliest possible initiation of intervention programs as well as target community and physician awareness of this disorder.
In 2007, NCD will be releasing a report that explores the multitude of issues surrounding youth with disabilities in foster care.
In 2007, NCD’s Youth Advisory Committee will present its findings regarding issues that young people through age 30 face in preparing for their futures.
Enabling Youth with Disabilities to Enter the Workforce or Post-Secondary Education
In order to help provide for a smooth transition for students with disabilities from secondary educational settings either to work or post-secondary education, the Administration has embarked on a series of collaborative partnerships that brought together stakeholders from around the country to address ways to enable students to reach their greatest potential.
The Department of Education:
Supported seven Parent Training Information Centers to enable individuals with disabilities to increase independence through satisfaction of vocational rehabilitation goals.
Established a new five-year National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) in 2005 to help states build their capacity.
Hosted a Capacity-Building Institute in 2007 to assist state education agencies in coordinating four transition-related state performance indicators.
eld the first National Transition Conference in June 2005 to highlight programs and develop strategies to improve overall transition services.
Convened a National Employment Conference on Transition into High Demand Industries in 2006 to promote collaborative relationships between State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and employers.
Launched the Youth to Work Coalition with both public and private partners to promote mentoring and internship opportunities for youth with disabilities.
In conjunction with an independent contractor, conducted an assessment of transition policies and practices among state vocational rehabilitation agencies.
The Department of Labor, through its Responsible Reintegration of Youthful Offenders Initiative, continues to reach out to and serve youth with disabilities who return to their communities after involvement in the criminal justice system.
The Department of Health and Human Services:
Worked to prevent homelessness, criminalization, unemployment, attrition out of high school, and inappropriate and unnecessary institutionalization of young people with disabilities.
Supported efforts to train transitioning youth with disabilities to learn how to solidify career goals, develop interview skills, and become familiar with the qualities employers seek
In September 2004, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) launched the ongoing Youth@Work Initiative, a national outreach and public education effort designed to address discrimination against teens with disabilities, and to increase awareness of their workplace rights and responsibilities.
The Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, NCD, and SSA partnered with the National Youth Leadership Network to select and train young men and women with disabilities to be leaders in their communities.
As the result of the first Transition Conference, the Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration will implement the following recommendations as put forth by event attendees:
Disseminate information for transition coordinators using web-based resources about effective vocational rehabilitation transition practices (listserv for transition coordinators).
Increase the support and use of youth leadership forums.
Host similar national conferences focused on vocational rehabilitation and employment.
Develop tools or strategies for more creative ways to collaborate.
The Department of Education will:
Conduct a competition in 2007 to award 5 year grants to states to demonstrate and evaluate collaborative models for successful transition of students with disabilities into post-secondary education and employment.
Providing Post-Secondary Students with Meaningful Internship Opportunities
The Administration has emphasized the importance of empowering students with disabilities making the transition from secondary education to life at a college, university, vocational/technical school, or an adult education program.
The Department of Labor:
Initiated and continues to support the Public Service Internship Program, helping students with disabilities develop leadership skills and gain valuable work experience in the public sector.
Supported a large-scale domestic and international effort to promote career-oriented mentoring through job shadowing for students with disabilities.
Expanded support for students with disabilities by increasing the number of such individuals participating in Job Corps.
Upholding the Civil Rights of Students in Grade School and in Post-Secondary Education
The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) ensures that students both enjoy the rights to which they are entitled and understand the responsibilities that accompany those rights. The Department has engaged in an aggressive effort to promote voluntary compliance with applicable civil rights laws.
The Department of Education:
Issued a “Dear Colleague” letter, a “Dear Parent” letter, and a guide for high school staff about the legal rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities.
Since January 20, 2001, has addressed more than 10,000 complaints alleging disability-based discrimination using a variety of techniques to resolve complaints.
Initiated more than 130 compliance reviews addressing issues of discrimination on the basis of disability.