$3.5 million grant funds new national center at the University of Oregon


Mission: improve success of young adults with disabilities after they leave school

Jane Falls, coordinator, and Michael Bullis, director, of the new National Post-School Outcomes Center (NPSO) based at the University of Oregon College of Education. Photo credit: Lillian Winkler-Rios.

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EUGENE, Ore. -- About 10 percent of American children and youth in schools have disabilities, and experts at the University of Oregon College of Education are providing a new resource to help states track how well these students are prepared for the transition from school to adult life.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), has awarded a $3.5 million grant to the university to establish the National Post-School Outcomes Center (NPSO).

Research conducted at the center will identify how each of the 50 states and 10 federal jurisdictions is currently serving high school students with disabilities and provides technical assistance aimed at encouraging and implementing best practices. UO Professor of Special Education Michael Bullis will direct the center, which is located in the Riverfront Research Park near the UO campus.

Caroline Moore, principal investigator for the OSEP grant, says the center's mission is to help states put systems in place that will, for the first time, provide a national overview of how young adults with disabilities fare after they leave school.

"States are now required to collect and use data to track the postsecondary education and employment of young adults with disabilities," says Moore, director of Technical Assistance and Consulting Services (TACS) at the UO College of Education. "While some states have such systems in place, others do not and are seeking guidance."

Collecting information is the first step, but providing technical assistance for interpreting the new data is crucial in order to make informed decisions about how to improve programs for students with special needs, says Jane Falls, program coordinator for the new center.

"We need to get a picture of what is happening with these young adults after they leave school so we can identify the services and programs that best prepare them for success," says Falls, a national expert on the transition of youth with disabilities from high school to adult life.

The seven purple states are those that presented at the 2003 Forum on Post-School outcomes, hosted by the Western Regional Resource Center at the University of Oregon. Since the forum, the yellow states have contributed related links and documents. The collection continues to grow. For clickable links to each state, and the most up-to-date version of this map, please visit the website of the National Post-School Outcomes Center (NPSO) at the University of Oregon: http://psocenter.org/state_profiles.html.

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Currently, about 40 percent of the states collect some form of data on students after they leave school, but there's no uniform standard for what data to collect or how to report it.

"Many factors affect the employment prospects for these youth," Falls explains. "By determining how many actually find employment, identifying the services they have received, and examining how community conditions affect their progress, states will be able to improve supports and educational opportunities provided to transition-aged youth."

Moore describes the new center as "a unique marriage" of the UO College of Education's top-rated researchers in special education and the college's technical assistance team.

"From a research standpoint," Bullis says, "the goal is to zero in on the connection between what happens in school and what happens immediately afterward."

The center partners with the OSEP, the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities, the State University of New York at Potsdam, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and the Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers.

The 2006 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools" ranks the UO special education program as third in the nation for the sixth straight year. Overall, U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks the UO College of Education comfortably among the top 10 among public graduate institutions of education nationally.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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