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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Education Should Provide Additional Guidance to Help States Smoothly Transition Children to Preschool

GAO-06-26 Published: Dec 14, 2005. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2005.
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Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was established to ensure that infants and toddlers with disabilities, from birth to age 3, and their families receive appropriate early intervention services. Within the Department of Education (Education), the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is responsible for awarding and monitoring grants to states for Part C according to IDEA requirements. To address questions about how states have implemented IDEA Part C, this report provides information on (1) how Part C programs differ in their eligibility criteria and whom they serve, (2) to what extent states differ in their provision of services and funding, and (3) how Education and state lead agencies help support and oversee efforts to implement Part C, such as identifying children for services and transitioning children to follow-on programs, such as IDEA Part B.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education In order to assist states in providing a more seamless transition for children with disabilities from IDEA Part C to Part B, or other preschool programs, the Secretary of Education should provide states with additional guidance on transition planning and services for children with birthdays during the summer, and especially in cases where children are likely to need extended school year services.
Closed – Implemented
The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center includes several items on its Transition Initiative website designed to supports states' capacity to address transition issues, implement improvement activities, and demonstrate progress in meeting the requirements of the State Performance Plan (SPP) and Annual Performance Reports (APR) for the Early Childhood Transition Indicators C8 and B12. The website includes products and information on technical assistance activities. For example, the website includes a framework and tool for states to analyze their transition system infrastructure and systematically identify improvement strategies to improve local implementation of the transition requirements of the IDEA.
Department of Education After Education completes and verifies the results from its ongoing studies relating to transitioning, that information should be used to inform the department's guidance to states on transition planning.
Closed – Implemented
Education reports that preliminary findings from the Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study (PEELS), funded by the National Center for Special Education Research in the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, indicate that gaps between infant and toddler and preschool services have been common, affecting about a third of children, and have averaged slightly less than 5 months in duration. In response to these and other findings, Education is supporting an Early Childhood Transition Initiative to provide technical assistance (TA), to states to ensure young children and their families experience a timely and smooth transition from Part C to Part B services. The Initiative hosts a website that includes planning tools and information about IDEA requirements, and webinars.

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Children with disabilitiesComparative analysisEducation program evaluationEducational grantsEligibility criteriastate relationsGrants to statesPreschool educationSpecial educationState-administered programs