Laws that Promote Participation in Postsecondary School for Students With Disabilities (page 2)
Despite the challenges of entering a “different world” of postsecondary education, recent laws have greatly improved access and support of youth with disabilities. Most postsecondary institutions are responding to the mandates and are developing greater capacity to recruit and include students with disabilities.
How Does IDEA 2004 Promote Collaboration for Postsecondary Participation?
Collaboration and the Summary of Performance.
The IDEA 2004 included a new requirement to assist students to make the transition from high school to postsecondary education or employment. Under IDEA 2004 local, educational agencies must provide a students with a summary of the child’s academic achievement and functional performance (summary of performance or SOP), which includes recommendations on how to assist the child in meeting their postsecondary goals (IDEA, 2004, Section 300.305 (e) (3)). The SOP also provides documentation of disability which is necessary, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, to help establish a student’s eligibility for reasonable accommodations and supports in postsecondary settings. It is also helpful in the vocational rehabilitation comprehensive assessment process to determine eligibility for VR services. Developing the SOP may be the responsibility of the special educator or school psychologist, but coordination and participation of teachers, counselors, and related services professionals is essential to gathering and summarizing relevant information on the student.
Postsecondary educational institutions do not typically accept an individualized education program (IEP) from a high school as documentation of a disability or an academic accommodation (HEATH, 2006). However, colleges may use high school testing results, documented in the summary of performance if the information is current and disability specific. For example, after consultation with the college, a student with a learning disability might submit the psycho-educational evaluation from 11th grade as documentation of the learning disability. It is very important that students collect and maintain their high school records and their summary of performance for the purposes of disability documentation (Hart, Zafft, & Zimbrich, 2001; Kochhar-Bryant & Vreeburg, 2006; Shaw, 2006; Shaw & Dukes, 2001).
Collaboration at the Age of Majority.
Age of majority refers to the age at which a young person acquires all the rights and responsibilities of being an adult. In most states, the age is 18. IDEA outlined a procedure for the transfer of parental rights to the student when he or she reaches the age of majority. Collaboration and communication between school professionals and parents is essential. Schools must now notify the student and both parents about the student’s rights when he or she reaches the age of majority. One year before the student reaches the age of majority under state law, the IEP must include a statement that he or she has been informed of the rights that transfer to the students once she reaches the age of majority. This transfer of rights is an enormous step toward the student’s independence and participation in the decision making for further education and future planning (Bremer, Kachgal, & Schoeller, 2003; Eisenman & Chamberlin, 2001).
Collaboration and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act
The 1998 Rehabilitation Amendments (P.L. 102–569) strengthened the collaboration and coordination among secondary schools, postsecondary schools, and rehabilitation agencies to support transition to employment or postsecondary settings. For students eligible for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, state interagency agreements transferred responsibility for transitioning students from the state education agency to the state unit providing VR services. This provision links the IEP and the individual written rehabilitation plan (IWRP) in accomplishing rehabilitation goals prior to high school graduation.
Vocational rehabilitation provides funds for eligible students with disabilities to attend postsecondary education or technical education programs. VR assists persons with cognitive, sensory, physical, or emotional disabilities to attain employment, postsecondary education, and increased independence. Students with disabilities are entitled to accommodations to help them succeed in the postsecondary program, but students are responsible for disclosing their disabilities and asking for the accommodations they need. VR services typically last for a limited period of time and are based on an individual’s rehabilitation plan.
The 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act also require rehabilitation agencies to make information about services and providers available to students in their final 2 years of high school. Rehabilitation services such as early assessment for eligibility for services, vocational assessments, and counseling in work behaviors are now available to students in their final years of high school and after graduation. Close collaboration between secondary personnel and rehabilitation counselors after the student reaches age 16 is vital to linking the student with VR services and engaging parents in planning.
Collaboration and the Higher Education Act
The Higher Education Act of 1998 (HEA, P.L. 105–244) is designed to assist individuals to participate in postsecondary education, including students with disabilities. HEA encourages collaborative partnerships between institutions of higher education (IHEs) and secondary schools, particularly those that serve low-income and disadvantaged students. HEA encourages collaboration among IHEs, businesses, labor organizations, community-based organizations, and private and civic organizations to improve accessibility and support in higher education. The act also promotes collaboration between IHEs, schools, and other community agencies for outreach to students with disabilities for the purposes of reducing barriers that prevent participation of individuals with disabilities within their community. The HEA aims to improve college retention and graduation rates for low-income and first-generation college students with disabilities and to encourage programs that counsel students about financial aid and support services.
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