The Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act, also known as Act 26, in May of 2016. The purpose of Act 26 is to increase the number of students with disabilities ages 14-21 who are obtaining Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) during high school and entering competitive employment upon graduation. CIE is secured when students with disabilities earn at least minimum wage and work alongside their non-disabled peers.
In order to achieve this purpose, the Act directs OVR to collaborate with school districts and other educational entities, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), in several ways. For example, “when possible, OVR shall attend individual education plan meetings in person or by alternative means.” These meetings should include school district personnel, an individual student, and his or her family members. The purpose of these meetings is to create goals that will lead to the student securing competitive employment.
OVR must also collaborate with PDE in the collection and sharing of data on students with disabilities ages 14-21 across six metrics. The Act requires OVR to publish this data in a report on its website within 45 days of the end of each calendar quarter. These reports are potentially powerful tools for advocates seeking to hold OVR accountable.
As of November 1, 2018, OVR has issued six reports. All of the reports were either published late or did not have data for the entire reporting period. OVR has offered no public explanation for these failings. More importantly, the reports reveal two troubling findings:
- The numbers for all the categories are extremely low; and,
- The reports lack sufficient data for stakeholders to fully assess the impact of Act 26.
We completed a full analysis of the first six reports, covering two school years, focusing on both of these findings and delivering recommendations to both increase the provision of transition services and improve the quality of data from OVR and other sources. Read the full report here.
Summary of Findings
Percentage of eligible students receiving services statewide
|Act 26 Metric||School Year
|Staff Attended IEP Meeting||1,478||1.4 %||2,774||3.0%|
|Job Referrals Made||1,238||1.2%||4,476||4.3%|
|Students Worked PT/Summer Jobs||832||Less than 1%||1,888||1.8%|
|Students Received Job Coaching||76||Less than 1%||30||Less than 1%|
|Students Entered CIE w/in 3 mos of Graduation||19||Less than 1%||58||Less than 1%|
While these OVR Reports demonstrate that Pennsylvania has significant work to do to increase the number of students with disabilities who are obtaining CIE, these reports are an important first step in improving outcomes for high school students with disabilities because they shed light on the gaps in services and provide information for advocates.
The legislature and advocates need to press OVR to increase its services because thousands of students with disabilities are not getting the services they need so that they can become contributing members of our society. The legislature should also amend Act 26 to require OVR to provide sufficient data so that parents and advocates can actually understand which students are receiving appropriate services.
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