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 the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to collaborate with school districts and other educational entities in several ways. For example, “when possible, OVR shall attend individual education plan meetings in person or by alternative means.” OVR is required to publish quarterly reports on their progress helping students with disabilities achieve CIE upon high school graduation, tracking data across six metrics. As of February 8, 2019, they have published seven of these reports.
OVR has fallen short in each category they track, failing to provide services for a significant portion of eligible students with disabilities preparing to leave high school and enter the workforce.
To hold the state and OVR accountable for providing the services that students with disabilities need to successfully make the transition to life after school, we have analyzed each of OVR’s quarterly reviews, and will continue to analyze each published report. We published a comprehensive review of the first six reports in October 2018, and a review of the first quarterly report of the 2018-2019 school year in February 2019. Taken as a whole, 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.
Summary of Findings
As shown in the chart below, since the passage of Act 26, OVR has fallen short in each category they track, failing to provide services for a significant portion of eligible students with disabilities preparing to leave high school and enter the workforce.
Number of students with disabilities served and percentage of eligible students receiving services statewide
|Act 26 Metric||School Year
|Staff Attended IEP Meeting||1,478; 1.4 %||2,744; 3.0%||3,982; 3.1%|
|Job Referrals Made||1,238; 1.2%||4,476; 4.3%||5,887; 4.5%|
|Students Worked PT/Summer Jobs||832; Less than 1%||1,888; 1.8%||3,956; 3.0%|
|Students Received Job Coaching||76; Less than 1%||30; Less than 1%||2,594; 2.0%|
|Students Entered CIE w/in 3 mos of Graduation||19; Less than 1%||58; Less than 1%||36; Less than 1%|
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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