Invitation to Comment on Implementation of Title II and Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This is a joint blog post from OCTAE and OSERS.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) invite you to submit comments and recommendations to help us implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed by President Obama on July 22. This new law seeks to maximize opportunities for youth and adults, with and without disabilities, to succeed in postsecondary education and in high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs in the 21st century economy. Specifically, we seek your comments to assist us as we begin the process of implementing the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that were made by Title IV of WIOA and of the new version of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), in Title II of WIOA.

Your input can help us identify issues and concerns that we need to address in order to fulfill the expectations of WIOA, particularly as we develop draft regulations for public comment. While OSERS and OCTAE encourage you to respond to the specific questions that are set out below, we also encourage you to identify other issues that you believe are significant, and to provide your recommendations on how we should address them.

Please submit comments below by Friday, August 29, 2014. Submitting comments is voluntary and subject to ED blog comment policies.

OSERS is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?
     
  2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?
     
  3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
     
  4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?
     
  5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

OCTAE is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

  2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?
     
  3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?

  4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

The comment period has ended.

277 Comments

  1. A group of practitioners in Rhode Island have begun to meet to study the opportunities and challenges presented by this new bill, and would like to offer some initial thoughts and suggestions:
    1. With the emphasis on Career Pathways, develop ways that employers can be incentivized to move towards more stable work-scheduling practices so that entry level workers can pursue education and training to improve their skills and employability.
    2. For lower level learners: Measure ‘Persistence’ as an outcome: time on education and in programs (to counteract the revolving door of “learning just enough English and work readiness skills to land a job, then having to stop attending classes so they can work (see #1 above) until they run into problems that their language skills are inadequate for, landing them back in programs because they are again out of work).
    3. Suggestions for ‘how to effectively serve employers”: education and outreach for employers about the Incumbent Worker Training that adult education now provides through public monies: often without the employer knowing about it. (in RI, about 40% of AE learners are employed- primarily in low-skilled jobs).
    4. We applaud the move to measure ‘wage changes’, as many AE learners improve their own businesses, or move up in their jobs, yet there is presently no way to capture that improvement.
    5. “Measurable Skill Gains” should be proven through Standards-based- assessments, including Performance Based Assessments (allow states to develop rigorous, rubric-based assessments on skill gains, and not rely solely on standardized tests).
    6. Preserve the Survey Option for measuring outcomes- as data matching does not capture gains of learners who: a. do not want to share their SS#, who move or work out of state, who are working under Tax ID #’s, or who work ‘under the table’.
    7. Maintain support of learners who are not directly workforce connected: homemakers, retirees, and disabled play an important role in family care-giving and other “work support” activities.
    8. Include measures for Outcomes for State Employees to keep them Client-focused (possibly require satisfaction surveys of clients and /or providers on responsiveness and on effective technical assistance?)
    9. Encourage “blue-sky” thinking about one-stops: for example, could the seamless services they represent be offered in libraries in distant or under served or rural areas for limited hours/days? Could these services be delivered by multiple providers and not just state workers?

  2. 1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?
    o Requiring collaborations on transition services and the summer and year-round workforce programs AJCs provide for youth
    o Joint guidance to VR, AJC and schools so that they can create environments in which youth are comfortable disclosing their disability and that effectively assist youth with visible and non-apparent disabilities in disclosing
    o Requiring that AJCs/WIBs share/translate Labor Market Information with VR and schools on Career Pathways and high-demand fields
    o Fund technical assistance on the regs and guidance through relevant training and TA centers.

    2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    o Language in the regulations should be clear that customized jobs at the prevailing wage are counted as a successful employment outcome, and encourage the use of customized employment strategies, where appropriate, as a universal strategy for people who face barriers to employment.
    o The regulations also should clarify that, even if someone receives support on the job (e.g., supported employment, job coaching, etc.), if they are working in an integrated setting at a competitive wage, the job should be counted.
    o The minimum income requirement should be revisited for people who may be in a transitional employment situation in which they are unable to work full-time due to health or other limitations.

    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
    o It would be important to require and perhaps incentivize paid work experiences for youth prior to school exit.
    o OSERS and ETA should provide robust technical assistance to Youth Services at AJCs and to VR and schools to support pre-employment and transition services.
    o Standards should include some form of Discovery or another similar assessment process that would assist youth in identifying possibilities to explore and build support networks around youth/families to link youth to work experiences, job exploration, and mentors who can assist in each youth’s career pathway.

    4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?
    o Engage employers, employer groups and trade associations (e.g., Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce, Business Leadership Networks, SHRM, etc.) representing large, medium and small business to develop standards and define the role they need VR and its partners to play.

    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?
    o Ensure and encourage that supported employment is provided prior to graduation to support paid work experiences for afterschool and summer jobs.
    o Require collaboration across systems (schools, VR, WIOA services, etc.) to braid resources wherever possible, which also will ensure a better transition.
    o Require the involvement of community/family/workplace support as well as planning to fade paid supported employment over time as much as possible.

  3. 1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?
    When issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116 of WIOA it is important to take into account not only the personal barriers that our clients face daily, but also the fact that the educational attainment in the Central Valley, particularly for the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers and disadvantaged individuals in the rural areas where Proteus, Inc. students reside is traditionally much lower than the state and national averages. Farmworkers and other socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals exhibit special needs because of the conditions they face such as poverty, language barriers, poor health conditions, low academic attainment, high unemployment, underemployment, etc. creating additional challenges for this population to succeed and achieve their educational and career goals. Although, WIOA section 116 seems to touch on this in regards to considering “measurable skill gain” towards education or training program that leads to a recognized postsecondary credential or employment, additional consideration should be given to those who experience these additional aforementioned factors.

    2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?
    Low educational attainment and limited English translate into severely limited occupational options in which these individuals tend to hold labor intensive, low-wage jobs with neither security nor benefits, as is the case with Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers and other socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals. Adult Education and Literacy programs such as English as a Second Language (ESL), Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), General Educational Diploma (GED), and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) programs provide a foundation to address conditions of dropout, unemployment, poverty, low-academic achievement providing an opportunity for employment advancement, entrance into post-secondary education, and providing a larger pool of skilled, qualified, and competent workers for regional industries and employers.

    3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?
    One of the main issues to consider with the timeline and implementation in supporting the requirement of states in aligning adult education standards to standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 is once again taking into account the barriers of those such as Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers and those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. According to research from the Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Survey (NAWS) about 78% of Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers lack a high school diploma or equivalent and have a 6th grade average education. Given this educational background among other barriers faced such as limited English, high unemployment rates, and extreme poverty conditions, the timeline and implementation should be conscientious and accommodate the needs of this underserved population. For example, although students enroll into ESL, ABE, and GED courses with a determination to succeed and achieve their goals, the unpredictable nature of farm work leading to long work days and intensive harvest seasons conflict with class schedules and affect the students ability to progress in a timely manner. The need to work to provide income for their family and make ends meet can cause the enrolled student to withdraw completely or relocate to another location where they can obtain employment based on the agricultural harvest season.

    4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?
    When designing classroom curriculum that integrates traditional adult education with training and workforce preparation, a holistic approach should be considered. Allowable activities that should be funded to ensure a student receives the instruction needed in order to reach their full potential and become job-ready include the elimination of barriers to success. These activities can include educational and career counseling, job search and placement assistance, civic engagement, soft skills instruction or job readiness and other wrap-around services. Funding for support services should also be considered such as assistance with transportation, childcare, rent, utilities, etc. Inclusion of all of these activities will help students with overcoming barriers as well as goal planning leading towards an educational or career path of their choice.

  4. 1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

    Skill gain should be measured using instruments that are well-researched and appropriate. Standards for skill gain should be realistic; e.g., expectations for gains for adults at the very lowest literacy levels should be set at an achievable level for these individuals. Current score-gain expectations under the National Reporting System can be very challenging for the lowest level learners. Even at higher literacy levels, score gain expectations to move from one NRS level to the next can be daunting, and can be discouraging for learners. A new system should be cognizant and supportive of what represents realistic skill gains for these populations. Employment status and high school diploma status are good measures for the higher-skilled among our population, but WIOA implementation should include strong concern for the lowest-skilled in our communities.

    This is equally relevant to performance measures for OSERS (Question 1 re: Sec 116). Clarification of “measureable skill gains” as it relates to performance measures for Vocational Rehabilitation Services should be more clearly defined. For example, to what extent are measurable skill gains achieved through “pre-employment” activities outlined in Sec. 113 considered gains toward employment/certification and thereby included in employment outcomes.

    2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?

    Adult education and literacy programs would benefit from well-defined information from employers on their needs around basic skills for employees. OCTAE should consider ways in which the workforce system could facilitate the collection of this information. The adult education field in general would benefit greatly from more research into effective practices in this complex area. WIOA eliminates the National Institute for Literacy, which was in any case closed out in 2009. In June, the National Coalition for Literacy wrote in support of WIOA, but included this on the elimination of the National Institute for Literacy in WIOA:
    “In addition, the elimination of the National Institute for Literacy leaves the system with no authorized entity to conduct research on effective programs and practice in adult education. A lack of resources for research in adult education cripples the ability of the system to learn from innovative programs. In particular, there is a critical need for research on the intersection of adult education and English language services and the growing career pathways movement, which is designed to facilitate smooth transitions to education and employment for low-skilled adults.”

    3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?

    Timeline requirements should take into consideration the amount of time and effort required to draft, pilot, implement and evaluate content standards; this is a multi-year project.

    4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

    Integrating basic education and workforce training lessens the amount of time it takes for a lower-skilled individual to gain the skills needed to access family-supporting employment. Lessons learned from the implementation of the IBEST model in Washington, and in other states, should be taken into consideration in providing guidance for these activities. Integrated models can be more costly to implement than traditional models in which basic skills remediation is required before individuals are able to participate in technical skills training. Funding to support these models should ideally both cover the costs of co-instruction and student support services, and support the cost of participation for lower income individuals. In addition, research-based professional development on implementing integrated models should be included in guidance on these new activities.

    In addition, while not in response to these specific questions, several national organizations have expressed concern about levels of funding for adult education given the need. This excerpt from the National Coalition for Literacy expresses this concern well:

    “While we strongly support WIOA, we think the bill could be strengthened further. The recent Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) found the fact that 36 million adults in the U.S. are low-skilled and may benefit from basic skills education. Yet, after years of divestment and resulting enrollment decreases, the adult education system is only able to serve 1.7 million students (or less than five percent of the eligible population). Though the bill authorizes modest increases in funding for adult education from FY15 to FY20, these amounts are still well below the investment needed to dramatically improve the skills and education of our adult workforce.”

  5. 1. When providing vocational rehabilitation services the employment aspect is the end product that will hopefully allow those receiving SSI/SSDI to no longer require goverment assistance. Common performance should consider the length of time associated with the employment services that are provided by a VR program. VR is simply more than just a one stop for employment information. Much planning and time goes into removing barriers to employment that individuals with disabilities face.

    2. I think this is a good change.

    3. The concern here to me is funding. Pre-employment services can be beneficial to students, but the VR program serves all individuals with disabilities that are of working age, so we must be able to secure funding for all groups, or at least strategize methods that will allow VR services to continue equally for all ages and groups of disabilities.

    4. VR programs must be careful not to just consider wage indicators. I believe many factors could come into play such as willingness to consider accessibility needs, and all levles of employment.

    5. I believe the guidance was pretty clear on the supported employment revisions.

    OTACE

    1. I will have to research this a bit. I believe the programs should be ones that will match the needs for employers, and allow clear choices for customers of VR programs.

    2. I think the VR programs need to reach out to employers on a regional basis through it’s developed WIB’s and partnerships with regional Department of Commerce programs. The adult education and literacy programs should focus on the needs of employers.

    3. I need to research this question further.

    4. I need to research this question further

    I would like to address the CSPD issue. I feel it’s of vital importance for State VR Programs to hold the highest standards for all levels of employment. The CRC for counselors is very critical as it shows that a person has achieved a level of competency that is critical to understanding disabilities in realtions to employment aspects. Being a father of a child with a disability it is of upmost importance to me that a skilled competent worker be involved in her development as a working citizen. The most important thing about VR is that everything that happens in the world effects the program. To water down the skill level for counselors would create serious long term setbacks. I have a CRC and I know that to obtain that certification I had to display a competency level that indicated a vast amount of knowledge pertaining to work, counseling, and disability aspects. To simply assume someone wih less experience or competency can do the job as well or better is just plain wrong.

  6. I would like to comment specifically on the importance of VRC’s being CRC eligible. Given the increasingly complex nature of disability, is it vital that consumers with disabilities are served by the most qualified vocational rehabilitation counselors. Continuing to recognize and perhaps different expertise between CORE and now CACREP (for Clinical Rehabilitation Counselors) graduates will continue to professionalize the field while increasing quality of services.

    Regarding Section 113 and pre-transition services: Career development services must to be delineated and measured to ensure that youth with disabilities are receiving quality career counseling that includes a range of experiences and options that help youth identify their strengths, preferences, talents, and interests. Career development services should enable youth to develop strong career decision making skills through interest and value assessment, aptitude and physical capacities, an understanding of the world of work and how to access information about employment and training. All youth should graduate with a career pathway that includes initial employment options through skilled employment options that he/she can pursue throughout their lifespan. This is in direct alignment with self-determination development as well.

  7. The National Association of State Head Injury Administrators (NASHIA) is a member organization representing state agencies administering an array of rehabilitative services and community supports for individuals traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families. Individuals with TBI have poor employment rates, whether it’s being able to return to work after a TBI or becoming employed for the first time. TBI can occur at any age and the severity of injury can range from mild to severe – yet even so called “mild” TBI can result in significant problems preventing a person from returning to work or obtaining employment. In many instances, individuals were successfully employed, self-sufficient, or in college at the time of their injury. Successful employment is not only somewhat determined by the level of severity, but what part of the brain was injured, pre-injury factors (i.e. alcohol or substance user; level of education) and the age of the person at the time of injury.
    Children who are injured at a young age often return to school and are able to perform academically satisfactorily in a structured environment associated with classes in elementary school. The student may not be determined to require special education and related services and the school believes the student has “recovered.” However, once the student begins middle and high school, where classes require higher levels of thinking and initiation (i.e. essay tests, projects that require initiation and organization), as well as adapting to multiple educators and various teaching styles, the student performs poorly academically. Often the student may exhibit behavior problems or drops out of school – only to be viewed as “going through puberty” without anyone even knowing or associating the problems with TBI. Schools need to be better educated about TBI-related disabilities and how they can affect academics and impact the student’s ability to obtain and maintain employment and other activities of daily living post-high school.
    The service delivery for individuals with TBI is significantly underdeveloped and is not commensurate with other systems for individuals with other disabilities. Individuals are often not Medicaid eligible or served by a HCBS Medicaid waiver program – only 21 states administer a separate TBI HCBS Medicaid waiver and many do not serve a significant number of individuals. About half of the states have state funds/resources to assist with the community supports. Thus, it takes resources to pull community and natural supports together to support individuals to return to home and work and live successfully in the community.
    What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?
    Disability specific data should be captured. It would be helpful if state VR programs could capture recidivism rates beyond a year after job placement. Too often a person with a TBI will obtain a job, only to lose the job quickly, for whatever reasons, return to VR and start the cycle again. Having statistics on the rate of recidivism would help determine why the person has difficulty maintaining a job, i.e. change in job expectations, problems with behavior or memory or communications, can’t handle multi-tasking, poor customer service skills, can’t complete the work in a timely fashion or substance use issues. Information is not only important in terms of successful employment, but also to address retention issues.
    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
    While NASHIA is pleased that WIOA requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies to set aside at least 15 percent of their Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Program funds to provide pre-employment transition services to assist students with disabilities, individuals with TBI are often not identified, they are not in special education classes, or should they incur their injury particularly in their junior/senior year, schools are often too anxious to find classes for them to complete for easy credit necessary to obtain a diploma without any thought or plan for helping that person to seek appropriate employment or post-high school education or vocational training.
    Families have often complained that their child does not want to return to school after their TBI due to the stigma or inability to complete the assignments and tests which are expected, even though the child can’t even complete a job application – which seems far more important. Certainly 504 requirements would help, but families and educators often do not understand the use of 504 or TBI-related disabilities that need accommodations. Without identification and appropriate planning, these students will continue to experience failure. They will not be served by transition plans and programs.
    Schools, parents, TBI state and community programs, and vocational rehabilitation entities need to collaborate and work together to ensure that the student with a TBI, first, doesn’t drop out of school, second, has been assessed for eligibility for special education related services, and third, has a plan for post-high school graduation that will accommodate the cognitive, behavioral and other TBI-related disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation counselors need to develop TBI-related resources and help provide schools with the information.
    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with the most significant disabilities?
    Supported employment, using a team approach, has found to be effective in many states for individuals with TBI to be successfully employed. These teams generally are composed of a TBI service coordinator, job coach and other community supports, including support groups, to support the individual in becoming employed, accommodations for TBI-related conditions necessary for maintaining employment. Too often, families and rehabilitation providers have voiced concerns that VR counselors do not want to serve individuals with TBI due to the time it often takes for job training and placement, problems in maintaining employment, and the lack of community supports to assist with employment goals. VR counselors should be encouraged to serve individuals with TBI with the understanding that it may take longer to develop the supports needed for supported employment. They should be trained to work with other community resources to develop those supports when state/Medicaid funding may not be available to the individual for long-term job supports.

  8. TASH is pleased to provide these comments to OSERS as it considers regulations and guidance for the administration of the Workforce Opportunity and Investment Act. TASH recognizes the importance of work in the lives of all people as an element of full participation and inclusion in society. TASH affirms the right of all people with significant disabilities to full participation in community life with supports tailored to individual abilities and needs. Integrated employment is a critical element of community living.

    Despite the fact that individuals with significant disabilities have much to contribute to community workplaces, the vast majority do not have access to integrated jobs due to a variety of factors. In many instances individuals need access to work site supports and yet others need a customized process that allows them to make discrete contributions in relation to employer needs. Most individuals with significant disabilities continue to be isolated and segregated in a day activity centers and sheltered workshops or are unemployed and unserved on waiting lists. Reliance on community participation must not be seen as a substitute for employment. Furthermore, if individuals with significant disabilities are to achieve full participation and inclusion in society, work is the most defining aspect of that status. Employment should be an expected life activity for individuals with significant disabilities and they should not be forced into a decision of whether or not to work as an aspect of self-determination.

    These recommendations are intended to elevate innovative and effective state strategies to national scale. As these solutions have rolled out in some states, previously resistant stakeholders have emerged as champions of change. Our goal is to offer a clear path to ending the status quo. With a thoughtful and deliberate approach, we believe outcomes will be the best possible for the people most directly impacted; people with disabilities. This should be our primary goal.

    1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    TASH recommends that recent revisions in the RSA-911 Reporting Manual are maintained and emphasized, as they have potential to have a very positive impact in terms of employment outcomes for RSA enrollees that have long been underserved. Two important changes are:
    • The addition of reporting data on Customized Employment (Data Elements 181-185), clearly distinguishing this set of strategies as those which include employer negotiation in the process; and
    • Dropping sheltered work as a data element.

    Both of these changes take us a step closer to progressive practices and to integrated employment outcomes. Including Customized Employment strategies as data elements legitimizes this effective set of practices as an important tool for all VR counselors, including those states where integrated employment outcomes for people with significant disabilities has lagged behind the rest of the nation. No longer acknowledging sheltered work as a possible outcome of RSA services sends a clear message to vocational rehabilitation counselors and agency leadership that sheltered work is no longer an acceptable outcome of VR services.

    In addition, we recommend the following change:

    • Disallow other forms of segregated work placement (i.e.: enclaves), including those at minimum wage or above, to be counted as successful employment outcomes.

    These work arrangements are in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s mandate for “most integrated setting” and in conflict with the Olmstead Decision. It should be the intent of the VR system to achieve the desired outcomes of wage equality and integration in society for all VR consumers, and as such, outcome measures should track both of these desired outcomes.

    • To ensure VR systems are administering services in the spirit of “presumption of employability” TASH urges OSERS to track additional data on closures prior to the development of an IPE (such as “unable to benefit” data, etc.) For each type of pre-IPE closure, states should be required to report additional data, such as disability group, type of assessment used (to include Discovery), length and number of work trials, etc.
    • Allow state VR agencies to apply for partial waivers of performance standards if a state VR agency is making sufficient commitment to develop service provider capacity in best and emerging practices (e.g. Customized Employment) and to sharply increase the number of individuals with significant disabilities receiving services through Supported Employment IPEs. A specified portion of these individuals should be those being supported to transition out of sheltered workshops into competitive employment of at least 15 hours per week, with community-based prevocational services (or other community-based HCBS waiver services) provided as wrap-around to this employment when needed.

    1. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    It is laudable and appropriate for VR services to place a focus on securing employment in high-demand fields for people with disabilities. However, TASH urges caution against over-emphasizing high demand fields as it carries significant risk of excluding more people from employment opportunities. The people TASH is most concerned about – those with the most significant impact of disability and most vulnerable to placement in sheltered workshops – are most likely benefited from Customized Employment strategies. We urge OSERS to clarify that an emphasis on placement in high demand fields is NOT in conflict with an expectation that VR use Customized Employment strategies for people with significant impact of disability and complex support needs.

    2. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

    TASH is concerned about the term “pre-employment transition services” as it is akin to “readiness” and other descriptors used for services that permanently segregate people. The groups of students most vulnerable to segregation and to placement in sheltered workshops are those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), autism, and multiple disabilities. Research has demonstrated that these individuals are most likely to achieve employment outcomes when they have work experiences in integrated settings in real jobs. There is no “pre” or “readiness” environment that prepares a person for employment more efficiently or effectively than an actual job in the community. Regulations must make clear that “pre” services must take place in integrated settings with a clear presumption of employability throughout the duration of service.

    TASH recommends that regulations include the following:

    • Assessing youth in facilities that are segregated and pay subminimum wage must be prohibited.
    • Youth must be supported to have several work experiences in integrated settings prior to leaving high school. Work experience in segregated and/or sheltered workshops must be prohibited by regulations.
    • Schools and/or VR agencies must provide an array of potential work experiences to youth. Regulations and/or guidance must make clear that the same rotation of work experiences for each student is not effective in achieving employment outcomes, or in assessing employability of youth. Work experiences must not be used to screen a young person as ineligible for VR services. Each work experience must provide additional clarity toward the development of a career goal.
    • Schools must embrace their responsibility for facilitating employment outcomes. School personnel must not interfere with an employment opportunity extended by an employer to a youth for the sake of maintaining that “slot” for another student.
    • Clarify how resources can be used across agencies to support youth with significant disabilities transitioning into adulthood. VR agencies must be expected to blend and braid funding with schools, and be prohibited from MOUs and other agreements that initiate VR services when IDEA services end.
    • Discovery must be emphasized as an effective assessment process for transition age youth.

    The strategy of Discovery is of critical importance as a tool to substitute for the negative consequences of vocational evaluations. In a manner similar to that of competitive, demand employment, assessments set a threshold of expected performance related to the normative performance of others. Since the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, employment services for job seekers with disabilities have relied on comparative, norm-referenced assessments and evaluations to both assure the potential of benefit by individuals regarding the expenditure of public funds and to guide individuals into jobs that best fit them. In the 1992 Amendments to the Rehab Act, Congress directed VR counselors to basically presume benefit in terms of an employment outcome, but the practice has persisted at the grass-roots level in the years since. While many individuals with disabilities will benefit from a well-administered comparative assessment, job seekers with the most significant impact of disability, especially many with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will be found unlikely to benefit in terms of an employment outcomes. Many of these individuals end up in sheltered workshops, day programs or at home or in institutions, unemployed and poor.

    Discovery is a process based on qualitative research rather than quantitative, comparative research. The fundamental question of Discovery is, “who is this person?” The fundamental value of Discovery is that all people have specific areas of competence and potential contribution. By getting to know job seekers deeply it is possible to translate their life competencies into their conditions for success, interests to certain aspects of the job market and specific contributions to be offered to potential employers. In this way, Discovery provides the foundation for the negotiation of a Customized job for individuals with significant disabilities.

    3. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    TASH recommends that regulations and/or guidance include the following provisions:
    • Discovery must be used as an assessment process for youth vulnerable to closure because of perceived inability to benefit to meet the “clean and convincing evidence” standard.
    • Clarify expectations regarding application of the “presumption of benefit” provisions in existing federal law. In particular, clarification should be provided on “clear and convincing evidence” standards that must be met in order to determine a VR applicant unable to benefit from VR services.
    • Trial work experiences must “be of sufficient variety and over a sufficient length of time” to determine whether the individual is eligible. Regulations should clarify what constitutes a “sufficient variety” (we recommend at least four) and “sufficient length of time” (we suggest at least forty hours for each work trial).
    • Trial work experiences must be established with the intent of identifying a path to employability for each individual, rather than using these services with the intent of proving a person is incapable of benefiting from VR services. In the end, the intent behind authorizing a service is strongly associated with the outcomes resulting from that service.
    • RSA should require every state VR agency to conduct a review of their data on closures of VR applicants/consumers with most significant disabilities before the development of an IPE. A determination of the reasons for these closures should be done and a plan to reduce the number of these closures by 50% within two years should be put into place immediately by each state VR agency. As noted in the DOJ findings in Oregon, state VR agencies are discriminating against individuals with the most significant disabilities when they apply standards for consumer participation that do not take account of level of disability.
    • RSA should clarify that every state VR agency is expected to have effective policies and procedures in place to fully and successfully serve individuals with the most significant disabilities even if they may have access to Medicaid HCBS waiver funding to prepare them for entry into VR services and to sustain the competitive employment outcomes that the state VR agency helps them achieve.
    • RSA should clarify the intent of existing Payer of Last Resort regulations when a VR applicant/consumer is also receiving services through a Medicaid HCBS waiver. Too many state VR agencies are expecting Medicaid HCBS waivers to provide waiver participants with the employment services that VR could otherwise provide. This is in addition to the expectation that Medicaid HCBS waivers provide the employment services VR cannot provide (e.g. community-based prevocational services and long-term employment support services). There is not an equitable sharing of responsibility across state agencies to serve this population, underscoring the need for specific RSA guidance to state VR agencies regarding their role serving individuals also enrolled in Medicaid HCBS waivers.
    • Allow and encourage state VR agencies to utilize innovation and expansion funds to increase supported employment provider capacity by targeting investments to facilitate expansion, of both capacity and geographic regions served, by existing supported employment providers demonstrating best performance to date in providing supported employment services to individuals with the most significant disabilities who would otherwise be placed in sheltered workshops or segregated day programs.

    Through targeted technical assistance, RSA should offer state VR agencies support for updating and strengthening state policies, regulations, service standards, provider standards and rate/reimbursement strategies in order to support and incentivize supported employment services and outcomes for individuals with the most significant disabilities. This should include providing technical guidance (including specific working examples) on permissible methods for blending and braiding VR funding with funding from IDEA and Medicaid in particular. To this point, blending and braiding still remain popular slogans that have not become reality in most places in the country. Existing regulations still caution against these practices we now clearly recognize as essential elements of successfully serving individuals with the most significant disabilities.

  9. In answer to your request (#4) for what guidance should be given to AEFLA as they add new activities new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation I think it is essential to consider the fact that access to educational materials is a fundamental prerequisite to meeting our nation’s commitment to “upskill” more Americans. For adult students who cannot use the same materials as their peers because of a disability, it is essential that those materials be provided in an accessible form. Three areas should be considered in order to allow this to happen:

    1. Awareness of barriers to learning

    Most adults with learning disabilities are undiagnosed, and have failed in previous schooling as a result, often without knowing why. In order for them to have access to services and materials that can help them learn, previously undiagnosed adult students need appropriate screening and testing to determine if they have a qualifying disability. However, there are currently few or no such resources available to adult education students, and getting such tests privately is both a high hurdle and a big expense ($2500 is typical). Addressing this gap could impact a significant population of students.

    2. Access to books and materials required for education and career training:
    To be successful in education and training programs, students will need the specific books and materials required in their classes, in a high quality form, and they need them quickly. Preparing those materials is often an expensive process often involving chopping and scanning print books, and proofreading/correcting the scanned text to ensure the needed quality. Funds for creating accessible materials is important.

    3. Technology, tools and training:
    Finally, in serving students with disabilities of all kinds, leveraging resources that may be available within the education system, whether it be in a Disabled Student Services office at a community college, or contracting with other assistive technology specialists, is extremely useful to make sure that students have a knowledgeable advocate to match their particular needs to devices and tools.

    Thank you for considering these factors.

  10. U.S. Department of Education Invitation to Comment on Implementation of Title II and Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

    On behalf of Disability Rights Texas, we respectfully respond to this invitation to comment and submit this input to assist the U.S. Department of Education (Department) to identify issues and concerns that might need to be addressed in order to fulfill the expectations of the WIOA, particularly in the development of a potential notice of proposed rulemaking.

    Comprehensive System of Personnel Development

    Among other things, the WIOA amends Section 101(a)(7)(B) of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 721(a)(7)(B)) and changes the standards that ensure that personnel are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained. The affected Department regulation is 34 C.F.R. § 361.18. It might be in the best interest of applicants and consumers in the vocational rehabilitation system if the Department, in considering revisions to § 361.18, conduct a careful and complete analysis of the knowledge and understanding of counseling theories, aspects of disabilities, and the employment and labor market that are required and should serve as the standard for service providers. Specifically, state plans and unified plans will now have to set forth policies and procedures relating to the establishment and maintenance of standards that includes personnel education and experience requirements. This will include education and experience requirements for personnel who only have a baccalaureate degree. The Department might consider defining the meaning of terms and phrases in Section 101(a)(7)(B)(ii)(I) of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, (29 U.S.C. § 721(a)(7)(B)(ii)(I)) such as “field of study reasonably related to vocational rehabilitation” and “demonstrated paid or unpaid experience.” On the one hand, this might guide states in setting these education and experience requirements. On the other hand, the Department might wish to allow states the discretion to interpret and determine the meaning of education and experience requirements.

    Disability Rights Texas is not advocating for or against rulemaking but intends to identify a topic for the Department to consider.

  11. The DLC is a nonprofit organization, designated as the Protection and Advocacy agency for individuals with disabilities in the state. Our mission is to enforce and strengthen laws that protect the opportunities, choices and legal rights of people with disabilities in Utah. We envision a just society where Utahns with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as others, have the right to make choices with respect to their daily routines and major life events, and receive the supports needed to be as independent as possible, as well as active, productive, and contributing members of their communities.

    Utah Employment First Priority legislation, enacted in 2011 and 2012, supports WIOA by requiring the Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD), the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH), the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), and the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) to “…give priority to providing services that assist an eligible recipient in obtaining and retaining meaningful and gainful employment that enables the recipient to earn sufficient income to purchase goods and services, establish self-sufficiency; and exercise economic control of the recipients life.” It also requires these agencies to “arrange sub-minimum wage work or volunteer work only when employment at market rates cannot be obtained.”

    612,551 students are enrolled in Utah’s 1,044 public schools. 75,703 of them qualify for special education services under IDEA. In 2012, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) surveyed students on IEPs who exited school in 2011. 35% responded:

    • 24.9% were pursuing higher education
    • 39.7% were in competitive employment
    • 6.2% were in other postsecondary
    • 10% were in other employment
    • 19.1% were not engaged

    It is likely that the 10% of students in “other employment” and the 19.1% who are “not engaged” in any employment were never considered able to be employed or to seek further education.

    In 2013, the DLC followed up with a survey of the state’s forty-one school districts and ninety-six public charter schools focused on transition. 35% of those surveyed responded

    Hopefully, the findings and recommendations arising from our transition report will shed some light on the situation on the ground in the states and provide useful information on some challenges and promising practices OSERS may want to consider addressing or promoting as it crafts proposed regulations implementing WIOA.

    Exploring job experiences related to strengths, interests, and preferences is crucial to student success. Individuals with or without disabilities are more likely to be productive in work they have an interest in and feel they are good at. Community job sites, tribal employment, county community training, sheltered workshops, supported employment, and job coaching are all options the DLC saw as work experience venues. We are pleased to see the majority of transition programs providing job exploration and experiences. However, a few programs do not offer any work experiences in the post-high school transition program. Still others are directly linked to sheltered workshops into which students are expected to move after transition services are complete. Unfortunately, at most of the sites we toured, it was almost always the case that as the disability became more severe, the options for employment became narrower.

    An interagency cooperative agreement was developed and implemented in January 2013 between the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR), which oversees VR. The agreement will directly impact students’ access to transition-related VR services.

    USOR agreed to:
    • Advise VR counselors to attend any and all transition meetings, as appropriate, when the need for VR services has been identified;
    • Encourage relationship building across all levels of school personnel;
    • Provide orientations, presentations, and information and guidance, as necessary for the schools and districts.
    • Encourage transition students to apply for VR services as appropriate, and as early as 16 years of age; and
    • Provide a designated liaison counselor, with readily available information and documentation needed to promote VR services, to each school and district.

    USOE agreed to:
    • Advise schools and districts to invite, only with written parental consent, the VR counselor assigned to the school to the IEP meeting when the need for VR services is anticipated; this invitation will be extended at least one year prior to anticipated high school completion;
    • Provide schools and districts with a list of VR counselors assigned to identified schools and districts to facilitate contact with the assigned VR counselor.

    Salt Lake City School District has taken the interagency agreement to the local level. VR agreed to be available by phone, during IEP meetings, scheduled appointments and/or email to:

    • Provide consultation, and information about VR services;
    • Provide technical assistance to students, parents, and school personnel;
    • Individualize services for a student transitioning from school to employment; and
    • Provide counseling and guidance to students eligible for VR services.

    In turn, Salt Lake City School District agreed to invite VR counselors to IEP meetings, when they have the written consent of the parent. Additionally, they agreed to provide opportunities for VR counselors to interact with students and to offer an orientation for families. This would facilitate:

    • Support and referrals to VR;
    • Technical assistances and collaboration with the VR transition counselor assigned to the district.

    The DLC asked administrators, faculty, staff, and students about VR. Responses included a VR counselor who joined in the entire DLC visit to a school that had never heard of VR. Many students did not know VR by name, but were clearly familiar with a counselor or the agency.

    The DLC asked administrators, faculty, staff, and students about VR. Responses included a VR counselor who joined in the entire DLC visit to a school that had never heard of VR. Many students did not know VR by name, but were clearly familiar with a counselor or the agency.

    • Ogden School District has an exceptional relationship with the VR transition counselor. She accompanied us on our tour of the district. Teachers and staff working with mild, moderate, and severe students knew the VR counselor, invited her to their classes, and to IEP meetings, with the parent or guardian’s consent. She knew students by name and was available to the school. By working together, Ogden School District and VR are able to provide services prior to graduation, which may lead to a smoother transition to competitive community employment.

    • Davis and Weber School Districts use a stipend for students in the post-high school program who qualify for VR job training. This is a great way to provide students an incentive for job training. The DLC hopes that the job training activities are related to the student’s interests, strengths, preferences and informed choice as it would increase the likelihood of staying with the type of employment they are being trained to do.

    • The Special Education Director at City Academy, has conducted some of her own research on barriers and facilitators to working with VR. She is applying these concepts in her own practice. Her research can be found at the following link:
    http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1294&context=gradreports.

    • One charter school was familiar with the VR counselor and provided students with information about VR services. A second knew what VR was but did not know the counselor assigned to the school. The third had never heard of VR. We discussed this with VR and they committed to making sure charter schools are more fully informed.

    • Of students interviewed, approximately 50% were familiar with VR, and 5 of 53 knew the name of their counselor.

    The consistent message from schools is students receiving Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) services are not expected to move into competitive employment following transition services. This is not surprising when considering the number of DSPD clients in supported or competitive employment declined from 34-27% between 2004-2012. This despite the fact that half of DSPD clients surveyed want or may want a job in the community, and a quarter would like help with employment

    DSPD’s funding and service delivery structure does not foster an integrated and competitive employment approach. Currently, the agency provides no incentive for competitive employment, which leaves recipients with limited alternatives other than day or sheltered work programs. A change in DSPD would significantly impact the ability of school transition services to promote employment to parents.

    DSPD has begun efforts to implement an Employment First strategic plan in conjunction with DWS, VR, DSAMH, and others. While the effort is a good start, the group is looking at the legal requirements as a guideline, not a requirement. The DLC applauds their work, but Department of Human Services and DSPD administrators need to implement both the intent and letter of the law.

    The DLC visited six districts and charter schools in rural areas of the state. Challenges include limited employment opportunities, lack of public transportation, and misunderstandings of state resources.

    • Some rural parts of the state, like Duchesne School District, are familiar with VR and start the application for eligibility at age 16. Other areas knew of VR, but were unclear who the assigned counselor is or believed services could not begin until after graduation.

    Recommendations

    • Agencies responsible for funding people with the most significant disabilities beyond public school need to rethink their clients’ abilities and provide them the opportunity to contribute to their community. Educators also need to provide work experiences for students in transition which are related to their interests, preferences, strengths, and needs, and could lead to employment.

    • Although customizing a work experience based on a student’s interests, preferences, strengths, and needs is more difficult than placing him or her in a pre-set job, it will lead to a more results-oriented outcome and give the student access to a network of people working in his or her field of interest.

    • Early and consistent collaboration between the school/VR/DSPD/DSAMH/DWS to help students find competitive employment in an integrated setting, with consideration for student interests, preferences, strengths, and needs, is more consistent with IDEA.

    • DSPD, DWS, VR, DSAMH, and schools need to promote integrated and competitive employment first for all students, and rethink the presumption that students with significant disabilities cannot succeed in integrated and competitive employment.

    • DSPD services need to be consistent with the legal requirement to give priority to meaningful gainful employment. Also, schools, DSPD staff, and private support coordinators need to work closely in developing post-high school transition plans for students. In addition, DSPD needs to collaborate with schools, VR, and other partners to promote, facilitate, and fund the supports to help students with the most significant disabilities get and keep integrated and competitive employment.

    The DLC also concurs with the following comments submitted by the National Disability Rights Network:

    1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    While we support an accountability system that ensures compliance with the Rehabilitation Act, the regulations should establish a process that is as streamlined as possible to minimize the administrative burden on those providing services to people with disabilities so they can devote as many resources as possible to client services.

    2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    OSERS should clarify that although WIOA specifically mentions a set of advanced degrees—law, medicine, mathematics, business, technology, computer science, engineering and science, the listed degrees are not meant to limit advanced degrees to only those fields. Clients with disabilities who are capable of more challenging work should be able to pursue advanced degrees in other fields, such as social work, rehabilitation counseling, and others, consistent with their abilities, capabilities, etc.

    OSERS should add to the definition of employment outcome criteria that are currently enumerated only in the comments to the 2001 regulations– states must “look beyond options in entry-level employment for VR program participants who are capable of more challenging work.” Additionally, “individuals with disabilities who are currently employed should be able to advance in their careers.” 66 Fed. Reg. 4419. Both of these comments should be added to the new regulations.

    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

    OSERS should make it very clear that, as specified in the definition of pre-employment transition services in Section 113, students will not need to have a finalized employment outcome to receive these services.

    Additionally, OSERS should clarify in the regulations when the VR agency is supposed to get involved in transition and what their role should be in the process. Particularly, the regulations should specify that it is the family and student’s decision about when to apply for VR services during the transition years, which pursuant to the IDEA begin during the school year in which the student turns sixteen. This request is based on the comments to the 2001 regulations, which stress that the VR agency should “participate actively throughout the transition planning process, not just when the student is nearing graduation.” 66 Fed. Reg. 4424. As part of the mandated outreach, the VR agency must inform “students of the purpose of the VR program, the application procedures, the eligibility requirements, and the potential scope of services that may be available … as early as possible during the transition planning process.” Id. The comments also state that early outreach will “enable students with disabilities to make an informed choice on whether to apply for VR services while still in school.” Id.

    The regulations should also make clear that for the transitioning student, the IPE must be in place, at the latest, before the student exits school. The comments to the 2001 regulations stress how important this is–it “is essential toward ensuring a smooth transition process, one in which students do not suffer unnecessary delays in services and can continue the progress toward employment that they began making while in school.” Id. (emphasis added).

    Finally, since the Client Assistant Program (CAP) is given authority to enforce the new Section 113, as part of the VR agency’s outreach activities, their outreach materials must inform students and families about the services offered by CAP. VR agencies are already required to inform applicants of the availability of CAP and the services CAP offers, so this would only require they provide this information to transition aged students and their families before an application is submitted.

    4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?

    As amended, section 109(2)(A) authorizes VR agencies to work with employers to provide opportunities for work-based learning such as internships, apprenticeships and fellowships. The regulations should make clear that even though the employer may be developing these opportunities, the VR agency may also provide support to the individual in these settings as part of the IPE, if necessary to achieve their employment outcome.

    Section 109(3) also authorizes the VR agency to provide technical assistance and supports to employers on workplace accommodations. The regulations must make clear that nothing in these provisions would relieve an employer of their obligations under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. VR agencies should be the providers of last resort for these services.

    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    The regulations need to emphasize, consistent with the statute’s easing of the process to obtain an extension beyond the 24 months, that extensions for supported employment should not be difficult to obtain, when needed. Also the regulations should iterate that a person should not be precluded from receiving supported employment services because there may be a concern that the individual will need services for a longer period but a funding source has not been identified.

    OSERS could pair the provision of services to employers with the provision on supported employment to state that services to employers could include developing natural supports within the employment environment to reduce the need for supported employment services. Similarly, one of the goals of developing customized employment could be to develop employment for the individual that would reduce or minimize the need for supported employment services.

    Other Issues—Section 511

    The regulations need to make a strong statement on Sec 511 (a)(2)(A), that receiving pre-employment transition services under the Rehabilitation Act or transition services under the IDEA is not just a student coming in for one day, providing a few services and then checking off that this requirement has been met. The student needs to receive the full range of pre-employment transition services they need all the way through school, including, as appropriate, individualized work experiences in integrated settings. We do not want the requirements of Section 511 to be simple check-off boxes—the services must be designed to prepare students for competitive integrated employment when they leave school.

    Since CAP has the authority to enforce Section 511 pursuant to Section 421 of WIOA, the regulations should also make clear that CAP has access to sheltered workshops and access to the verification documentation required to be maintained by employers pursuant to Section 511(e)(2). Additionally, the regulations should make it clear that since the authority to enforce Section 511 is added to the general provisions of what CAP enforces by Section 421 of WIOA, everything that is listed in the CAP provisions about the types of actions CAP may undertake may be used to enforce 511. Also, the regulations must make it clear that although CAP is specifically charged with the responsibility of enforcing Section 511, given the broader charge to enforce federal laws provided to all of the P&A programs, they also have the authority to enforce the requirements of Section 511.

    Finally, the regulations should require that the requirements of Section 511 be included in Section 14(c) certificates issued by the Department of Labor. Section 511 provides restrictions upon when an entity can pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage under section 14(c) of the FLSA. Under section 14(c) and the Department of Labor regulations implementing that section, 29 C.F.R. Part 525, an employer cannot pay less than the minimum wage unless it possesses a current and valid 14(c) “special minimum wage certificate” issued by the Department of Labor. DOL regulations provide that the “special minimum wage certificate shall specify the terms and conditions under which it is granted.” 29 C.F.R. § 525.12(a). Wage and Hour Division, Field Operations Handbook, Section 64d00: Introduction to Certificates. Since section 511 imposes additional restrictions and requirements before payment of wages under sections 14(c) is allowed, these conditions need to be included in 14(c) certificates issued by DOL.

  12. Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services Comments

    Performance Measures

    Performance measures for services to employers should include both productivity and outcome measures. Productivity measures might include the number of training activities conducted for employers, the number of technical assistance activities and the number of qualified individuals with disabilities referred for employment. Outcome measures would include the number of individuals achieving an employment outcome at each employer that received training or technical assistance from the state VR agency, as well as the number of individuals achieving a recognized credential as a result of a training or internship experience with an employer that received training or technical assistance from the state VR agency.

    Services to Employers

    Some effort should be made to track services to employers separately for two categories of services. One might be termed general employer awareness relating to disability issues. The other would be specific technical assistance provided in relation to a specific individual receiving VR services, or a group of individuals receiving VR services. While there is some value in the more general promotion of awareness, we would expect that in the latter case there should be a stronger relationship between the services provided to the employer and the eventual employment of individuals with disabilities.

    Pre-Employment Transition Services

    There is a need for clarification as to the breadth of the requirement to provide pre-employment transition services with a proportion of the state’s VR allotment. WIOA requires that states spend a minimum of 15 percent of their VR allotment on pre-employment transition services. However the required activities listed in WIOA are mandated to be provided by the VR agency and local partners to all students with disabilities potentially eligible for the VR program. In Illinois there are more than 90,000 potentially eligible transition students with disabilities, compared to a typical caseload of around 30,000 VR customers. DRS serves about 10,000 transition students each year, meaning that there are around 80,000 potentially eligible transition students who would need to be addressed in some meaningful way in order to provide the WIOA required activities. Providing the range of required activities listed under WIOA to such a large group of students would appear to be very difficult given the limitations of funding.

    Supported Employment

    The change from 18 months to 24 months in the limit on supported employment services is a useful move that provides an opportunity for individuals requiring additional support to become successful. The allocation of half of the state SE grant for youth with disabilities demonstrates a commitment to serving the youth population, and is consistent with other elements of WIOA in that regard. However the inclusion of long-term extended services for youth with disabilities as an eligible expense from the SE grant may mean that only a limited number of individuals could be served in any year since the commitment to ongoing extended services would use of a significant portion of the grant. Also, it would be helpful to have an understand as to whether the funds used for long-term extended services for youth with disabilities counts toward the 50 percent requirement for spending on that population.

    Counselor Continued Education

    The elimination of the in-service training set-aside for state VR agencies and the plan to discontinue funding continuing education activities is of great concern. These and other challenges have the potential to weaken the ability of rehabilitation professionals to stay current and to continue providing world-class services. The field of rehabilitation is breaking new ground every day. Today, we are assisting people who a very short time ago would have been considered too significantly disabled to have any chance of going to work.

  13. The National Federation of the Blind has concerns related to the new requirements under Section 511. While in its final form, Section 511 is much improved from its original language, we would like to emphasize the importance of the implementing regulations supporting the activities that will result in transitioning youth achieving integrated employment. The days of tracking youth into segregated, subminimum wage jobs is long past, and the regulations should be constructed with this policy objective as their driving force.

    The intent of Section 511 is to require that transitioning youth twenty-four years old and younger must have first completed the steps outlined under Subsections (a)(2)(A) and (B). This is an important requirement, and it must be fully enforced. In developing the implementing regulations, it must be recognized that this important change adds new requirements that will necessitate that state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies direct potentially significant financial resources to its implementation. That does not mean that state VR agencies should not be accountable for the full implementation of Section 511, only that the financial commitment must be recognized as a potentially limiting factor. We believe that the regulations must emphasize the importance of giving transitioning youth meaningful real-world work experience in integrated settings. That is the only way to ensure that transitioning youth will have the information and experience to make truly informed choices about their lives and future employment.

    With integration as the goal, it is important that the regulations bar extended employment providers from making the determination that the requirements of Subsections (a)(2)(A) and (B) have been satisfied. Furthermore, the regulations must not allow extended employment providers to be the entities that provide the “career counseling, and information and referrals to Federal and State programs and other resources in the individual’s geographic area that offer employment-related services and supports designed to enable the individual to explore, discover, experience, and attain competitive integrated employment.” If providers of extended employment continue to be the entities that counsel and advise transitioning youth, nothing will change and the intent of Section 511 will be effectively thwarted.

    Similarly, Section 511 prohibits schools from contracting with entities that pay individuals subminimum wage. This is a very important requirement; however the law is silent on how this requirement will be enforced. State VR agencies do not have enforcement authority over local schools, and it would be unreasonable to place the responsibility for enforcing this provision on state VR agencies. Nevertheless, prohibiting schools from contracting with segregated, subminimum wage providers is important, and the regulations must make this prohibition strong while finding a reasonable means of enforcing it; and the regulations must bar schools from operating their own segregated employment programs and from paying subminimum wages.

    Lastly, we recommend that the implementing regulations specify that individuals with disabilities must be advised of their rights under the Rehabilitation Act (including the provisions of Section 511), Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. We believe that any entity that provides transitioning youth with information about their rights and protections should be objective and should not be an organization that provides services to the individuals, and it most certainly should not be a provider of extended employment services.

    In sum, we believe that Section 511 has the potential to help stem the tide of transitioning youth moving directly from school to subminimum wage, segregated employment. To achieve this goal, the implementing regulations must support practical, achievable ways of providing youth with the opportunity to experience integrated work. The law does not prescribe the length of time transitioning youth must engage in integrated work before a determination can be made to refer them to segregated facilities; it only requires that the time period be reasonable. We suggest that the regulations require a minimum period of thirty-six months in integrated work before a determination can be made that the individual is incapable of achieving an integrated employment outcome. In short, the regulations should make it very, very difficult to give up on transitioning youth.

  14. OSERS is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:
    1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    The RSA measures the effectiveness of state VR programs based on a number of factors, and states are rated based on their successful outcomes. Successful closures are those which result in an individual achieving self-support, which basically means they are receiving more in income than they are getting in benefits. This measure of VR success at times contrasts with the expectation of individuals with significant disabilities who need ongoing supports. For many people with disabilities the idea of “success” is meaningful occupation, affiliation, social participation and community inclusion.
    Performance measures should not rely only on quantitative measures, but they should include qualitative measures. There needs to be a medium ground here. Employment First and VR services should recognize that the search for meaningful employment is part and parcel of a process of community integration and social participation. People need a full range of quality services, supports and employment opportunities. They will need employers to provide workplace flexibility and reasonable accommodations. These factors need to be considered as part of the performance measures.
    State vocational rehabilitation agencies will need to have collaborative relationships with other state agencies, such as the departments of commerce, human services, and education etc. OSERS should consider performance measures of the level of intrastate collaboration by the SVRA.
    2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    OSERS should provide guidance language under Title IV, which prohibits the use of federal public vocational rehabilitation funds for assessments in segregated facility-based programs for assessment activities, and additional language requiring trial work periods in integrated community-based settings.
    The current federal regulations define employment outcome with respect to an individual entering or retaining full-time or, if appropriate, part-time competitive employment, including self-employment, telecommuting, or business ownership, that is consistent with an individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and informed choice. OSER should consider adding to this definition, following informed choice, “and knowledge of labor market demands.”
    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
    OSERS should provide guidance that competitive integrated employment is the intended end goal and outcomes of “pre-employment transition services.” Additionally, in relation to the specific set of services identified as “pre-employment transition services,” work-based learning experiences should not utilize segregated facility-based settings including but not limited to sheltered workshops.

    RSA should consider additional performance measures that take into account or provide credit to state VR agencies for the provision of pre-employment transition services and transition services that are required to be provided to youth in the WIOA. These services, while not leading to immediate employment outcomes, are numerous in nature and will require significant financial and human resources for quality implementation. Giving credit to state VR agency staff for the provision of these services will act as a positive catalyst for their implementation. OSERS should provide clarity on how VR staff should document the provision of pre-employment transition services and transition services to youth with disabilities.
    OSERS should outreach to Centers for Independent Living to provide pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups. CILs teach independent living skills and employment skills. It is much more strategic to have people with disabilities teach these skills and act as role models as they are successfully employed. Employment is not usually going to work if a person does not have IL skills and vice versa!
    Transition services for students with disabilities leaving the public school system into college and/or career is important. However, please keep in mind that adults with disabilities who are “transitioning” from the nursing homes, and those who lose their jobs due to a disability, are equally important and they often have no other resources available to them.

    4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?

    OSERS should consider incorporating measures into the performance indicator/s that focus on the number and types of partnerships and related outcomes developed with business/employers, the collection of data on where VR consumers are going to work, and customer satisfaction for both the individual and the business. There also should be enforcement of the requirement to have business representatives on the State Rehabilitation Councils (SRCs).
    Section 116 in Title 1 of the WIOA requires that prior to the second full program year after the date of enactment of this Act, the creation of one or more primary indicators of performance that indicate the effectiveness of the core programs, of which VR is one, in serving employers. OSERS should provide a clear acknowledgment of the dual customer approach in business services to assure there is an understanding of the equal importance of services to the consumer and to the business partner. When VR staff understand employment needs and have relationships with business they are better able to support the career goals of the individual.
    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    Subtitle G in the WIOA reserves one-half (1/2) of a state’s Supported Employment (SE) allotment to be used for the payment of extended services for youth with the most significant disabilities. RSA should provide guidance in the federal regulations to support that the availability of SE funds for the payment of extended services is intended to supplement and not supplant funds that states receive from other sources for the payment of these services. RSA should also clarify in the federal regulations that the matching funds required for supported employment only apply to 1/2 of the funds that are reserved for extended services and that no match is required for the other 1/2 of SE funds.
    The state plan must also provide a description of how the state will use the funds reserved in Subtitle G to leverage other public and private resources for extended services and expand supported employment opportunities for youth with the most significant disabilities. OSERS should consider providing some examples of other public and private funds that could be leveraged clarifying that funding sources are not limited to those listed as examples.
    OCTAE is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

    1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

    Job driven measures in high demand fields should require VR to evaluate the retention rate of individuals pursuing college training and the direct outcome of that training.
    OSERS should consider whether or not employers are actually hiring VR program participants. Once hired, do the employer and/or employees require additional training and if so, what kinds of training? Do disabled employees retain their jobs over time? Do they advance in their jobs?

    2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?

    OSERS guidance should require integrated learning because students with disabilities should learn and work alongside students who do not have disabilities.
    Partnerships with employers remain the key to preparing a skilled workforce and measures should evaluate how states use this information for training, placement, and outcomes. States who do this would have the ability to show this partnership quite easily in reporting. It is a matter of thoughtful planning and collaboration.

    3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?

    No comment.

    4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

    Many adult education students with disabilities experience a range of learning problems which were not well addressed in the public school system. Deaf and hard of hearing people, for example, face language and cultural differences not requiring “special education” but rather appropriate education and cultural awareness training on the part of the teacher. Like those who need English as a Second Language, deaf and hard of hearing people face problems with English grammar and vocabulary. There are few if any programs available to teach basic literacy to deaf and hard of hearing people anywhere in the country. OSERS and OCTAE should ensure the development of a quality model program and adequate funding as well.
    The independent living approach recognizes the value of peer support and peer counseling for people with disabilities. Similarly, one-on-one peer tutoring should be provided to all adult students with disabilities. OSERS and OCTAE should consider the development of programming in which disabled people become adult education instructors. Canada, for example, practices an innovative model in which deaf adults instruct basic literacy to small groups of deaf and hard of hearing adults.

  15. Dear Commissioner LaBreck:

    The National Rehabilitation Association is pleased to submit comments on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with particular attention to issues effecting the preparation of rehabilitation professionals.

    Section 412(a)(4)(B) provides that states may hire rehabilitation counselors who hold a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field and expands the fields of study to now include degrees in business administration and human resources. In the past the Act had a more specific standard for qualified rehabilitation personnel, essentially a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. We are concerned that this change could result in a diminution of the level of skill and competence of rehabilitation personnel to assist people with disabilities, particularly those with the most significant disabilities, to prepare for meaningful employment. If not implemented carefully, this change could result in the weakening of the standards for qualified rehabilitation personnel.

    At present, state vocational rehabilitation agencies must hire rehabilitation counselors who meet the highest academic standard for rehabilitation counselors in the state. In practical terms, that means individuals who hold a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

    Throughout the Rehabilitation Act’s history, the program has continuously worked to serve individuals with more and more significant disabilities. For example prior to the 1992 amendments, counselors had to make an affirmative determination that an individual’s disability was not so severe as to render the individual incapable of work. In 1992 the Act was changed to a presumption that the individual, regardless of the significance of his or her disability, was able to prepare for and secure gainful employment. The effect was to encourage the vocational rehabilitation program to work with people with increasingly significant levels of disability. At the same time, the Congress made other changes to the Rehabilitation Act making clear that the purpose of the vocational rehabilitation program is to serve people with disabilities, with priority given to serving individuals with the most significant, complex disabilities.

    From 1973 to 1992, vocational rehabilitation agencies were required to develop and Order of Selection policy that would give priority to serving individuals with severe disabilities when funds were limited. The 1992 amendments required that priority not just be given to individuals with severe disabilities but to individuals with the Most Severe Disabilities. As the vocational rehabilitation program continues to seek new and innovative ways to assist individuals with the most complex disabilities, the importance of professional preparation expands as well.

    In nontechnical terms, state vocational rehabilitation agencies presently have the flexibility to hire below the standard, provided they establish a plan to bring counselors up to the master’s degree level. For example states often have difficulty hiring counselors who are bilingual or have other specialized skills. States can hire below the standard, provided they have in place a plan to assist the counselor to bring his or her training up to the master’s level.

    WIOA broadens the standard and specifically expands the list of qualified rehabilitation personnel to individuals with bachelor’s degrees in business and human resources. While there is no legislative history accompanying WIOA, Senators Harkin and Alexander have publicly stated that their intent was to broaden the potential pool of individuals who can work as rehabilitation counselors, thereby giving states greater flexibility. The unintended consequence is that states (particularly those experiencing funding limitations) may hire at the bachelor’s level, not because they have made a strategic decision that these individuals will meet an important need, but because they can be employed at a lower salary.

    As the Rehabilitation Services Administration develops implementing regulations, we believe it is essential that it be made clear that the intent of the change in qualifications for qualified rehabilitation personnel is to give states added flexibility and not to weaken the level of training or expertise of rehabilitation counselors. Specifically, we believe that decisions about hiring rehabilitation counselors should be made with the overall health of the program in mind and not simply to reduce cost or to make recruiting easier. From the public statements of Senators Harkin and Alexander (and their staffs) we believe that the increased flexibility is intended to give state vocational rehabilitation directors greater authority in hiring but is not intended to diminish the importance of counselors possessing the specialized knowledge and skills to assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for and secure employment.

    We recognize that the world of work is changing, and directors of state vocational rehabilitation programs may need to seek out individuals for specific assignments who have skills beyond those that have traditionally been required. Nevertheless, we firmly believe that the regulations must make clear that personnel providing direct vocational rehabilitation counseling must hold a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Individuals with degrees in business may be used to work with the business community to identify employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, but they must not supplant the role of the master’s level rehabilitation counselor. We believe that the Congress takes seriously the importance of individuals with disabilities having access to skilled professionals who possess the training and experience to provide the highest quality of rehabilitation services. This change allows states to draw from a broader range of disciplines within the context of seeking personnel who have skills directly relevant to the needs of people with disabilities.

    We do not want the change in personnel standards to signal a lack of concern for the employment training needs of people with disabilities. On the contrary, we believe that states are expected to hire staff that has the best possible preparation to provide high quality rehabilitation services. While the change allows states to hire staff that has nontraditional training, we do not believe the Congress intended the change to be a retreat from high personnel standards. People with disabilities deserve the best possible opportunity to go to work in challenging careers. That means they must have access to personnel with the most relevant training. The regulations must not allow states to abandon the master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling; and they must make clear that RSA expects that the change will be used sparingly and only to meet specific programmatic needs.

    Qualified rehabilitation counselors, in both the public and private sectors, are highly-skilled professionals who have devoted their lives to the rehabilitation profession, earning degrees in the rehabilitation field, and have been successfully providing individualized services and supports to eligible Americans with disabilities, especially those with significant disabilities, for years.

    The Van Houtte study, conducted in 2013 in New Jersey, followed the cases of 3,180 clients from 14 students/counselors who attended a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling Program while employed by the New Jersey Division of Rehabilitation Services in New Jersey. This study, which may serve as an important basis for a larger body of empirical research, provides evidence that a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling benefits not only those receiving services, but also the efficacy of the fiscal health of the entire rehabilitation system. The Van Houtte study was also published in the National Council of Rehabilitation Education’s (NCRE) Journal in 2013 in Volume 27(4).

    In sum, we believe that professional preparation matters; it matters to our consumers who deserve access to well-trained, experienced professionals to assist them in overcoming the functional and attitudinal barriers that unjustly deny them full integration. In crafting implementing regulations, we hope you will take steps to uphold the value of professional preparation.

    We appreciate having the opportunity to offer our comments and suggestions. If we can provide additional details on our comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Respectfully yours,

    Executive Director
    National Rehabilitation Association

  16. Comments regarding the Regulations and/or guidance for specific areas of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act focus primarily on the Rehabilitation Act.

    1. Transition Services, including Section 113 provisions. The focus on transition-age students with disabilities and the 15% requirement provides the allowance for serving these students so that they will not experience gaps in service, which can cause long-lasting problems for their future education, career participation and employment. Experience and evidence tell us that earlier transition planning with the involvement of the VR counselor who can authorize such services in “pre-employment” as

    a. comprehensive transition and vocational assessment, some of this assessment necessarily differs from the typical assessment and evaluation VR has provided (though assessment for transition services have been required for over a decade—“to identify the interests, preferences, strengths, and needs” of the individual by IDEA, special educators continue to struggle with this process. If VR can collaborate in this process, students will “win”
    b. career exploration activities which includes on-going assessment and work experience (a good example is the Career Investigations for Transitioning Youth program being implemented in Washington, DC)
    c. well-structured work experiences during students’ last 2-3 years of secondary school (e.g., Start on Success program)
    d. continued self-determination, youth development and youth leadership training
    e. experiences in community integration
    f. experiences that emphasize work behaviors and performances that are expected to maintain employment
    g. transportation fiscal support for the above activities, especially in rural areas
    h. pre-postsecondary orientation and preparation activities to help students make a successful transition to postsecondary education (many effective models are being implemented around the country, but they have limited resources)
    i. collaborative activities for parents (and family members) which could be supported by both special education and rehabilitation in vocational as well as areas like independent living (there are several effective models in the country—some initiated by individual states and others promoted and supported by the IDEA Partnership (of the National Association of State Administrators of Special Education—NASDSE)
    j. collaborative initiatives for the multiple stakeholders required to support successful transition.

    Participation in these activities should occur in settings that are as integrated as possible; in other words, students who are not in special education, but may be receiving services under Section 504, could be included in small group career counseling or exploration classes that could be conducted by a VR counselor and a school transition specialist. This means that general education students may be involved as well, because the need to have students with disabilities in as integrated settings as possible is paramount to helping them integrate into the community-at-large. These are examples that are not exhaustive of the many possibilities.

    2. VR personnel could be dedicated to transition caseloads so that they become familiar and effective working with multiple stakeholders, such as health care professionals, Assistive Technology specialists, parents and families, juvenile justice services, special educators, general and CTE educators, postsecondary personnel (especially in Disability Support Services), community youth groups, and, of course, employers, to name a few.

    3. To provide effective services, systemic change needs to occur, first by guiding states to loosen their interpretations of transition so they will include integrated learning and work settings and in order for the “seamless” transition process to start on the VR side as early as possible. Naturally, resources will be limited and VR continues to have an obligation to prepare adults to employment, but in keeping with the goals of the Department of Education and rehabilitation (as opposed to quick, short-term low or entry level skill activities that are provided by labor programs), transition planning and preparation should be ensconced within career development and career pathways frameworks. Supporting students for the long-term (by formulating IPEs for careers, not just quick jobs) will help them seek more education, non-traditional careers (such as STEM and avoiding the low-skill, dead-end jobs in which many have been directed historically), and more satisfying employment with career ladders and lattices where they can advance. VR should not assume that all states provide the same level or content of special education or transition services at the secondary level.

    4. To prepare VR personnel (administrators, counselors, job developers, vocational evaluators, employment representatives/job coaches, etc.) to implement high quality services, transition planning and service provision should be included in all aspects of personnel development. Because transition service preparation has been provided, though minimally, through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), collaboration at the federal level between RSA and OSEP as well as OCTAE to develop a comprehensive personnel preparation structure would be ideal. There is a massive need for well-trained transition personnel both at the secondary education and adult service levels, but very few opportunities are available unless the U.S. Department of Education invests more resources for expansion.

    At the very least, transition personnel preparation should be written into every state VR plan and CSPD requirements should include them as well. The Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) has a preferred list of transition competencies that could inform any federal or state effort.

    5. Recommended content for transition personnel preparation could vary depending on the local or state needs, but in general and at a minimum, the following should be included in transition curriculum for providing and improving transition skills and competencies:

    a. Collaboration skills for interdisciplinary service coordination
    b. Introduction to transition services, including investigation of
    c. Assessment (developmental, transition, career, and vocational) and translating of assessment results into viable transition planning
    d. Understanding the importance of Universal Design for Learning in all settings so that all can participate and succeed
    e. Basics of career development concepts and career pathways, including understanding the value of Career Technical Education
    f. Basics of job/employment development and placement
    g. Understanding how to facilitate and support self-determination, self-advocacy along with youth development and leadership strategies
    h. Understanding how to work with parents and family members to support transitioning youth (this includes knowing something about the foster care system, and guardianship, college acclimation, etc.), and finally,
    i. Knowing policy and legal requirements for special education, especially as they relate to and support transition.

    6. Regarding the annual assessment of physical and programmatic access of
    One-Stop Centers for people with disabilities, the assessment could and should include concrete guidance regarding both Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning—this will improve meaning for clients and lead to improved outcomes for training programs for all. I have often observed non-English speakers seeking assistance in One-Stops who are directed to complete forms on their own and use computer programs without assistance—this does not make an accessible program. Implementation of both UD and UDL will require professional development (on-going and mandatory for all new hires) in this area.

    7. Regarding p. 242, Sec. 435—Research and other covered activities: in Sec. 204 (B) (III), in addition to noting Universal Design, the guidance should mention Universal Design for Learning, which makes programs, assessment, curriculum, training programs, etc. accessible to everyone.

  17. Question 1: Accountability – WIOA streamlines the accountability process by creating six core indicators that are common across programs. Indicators include the percentage of participants in unsubsidized employment during second and fourth quarters after exit, median earnings for those participants, as well as tracking of progress and attainment of a postsecondary credential, diploma or equivalent.

    MSSC Response:
    • Participating industry certification bodies should be required to and be expected to collect data to support these core indicators directly from their certified individuals. This requirement would strengthen and add to the data collected by government agencies and participating educational institutions.

    • Given the emphasis on career pathways and stackable credentials in WIOA, it would be helpful to add a metric about whether those who received industry-recognized certifications, built upon those credentials to continue their education in the relevant field to secure added certifications or to conclude studies needed to secure a degree in the relevant field. Either of the latter should be considered another success measure.

    Question 2: WIOA strengthens the alignment between adult education, postsecondary education and employers.

    MSSC Response:
    A. Use Common Language Based on Industry-defined Skill Standards. The use of a common language between industry and education will offer a more efficient and cost-effective way of preparing individuals with the higher skills needed by industry. As states begin to develop their statewide plans, we encourage them first to use the common language developed by national industry standards-setting organizations. In the fields of manufacturing and logistics, for example, Using MSSC national standards as the starting point for defining industry skill requirements will make the process for defining needs far more efficient. Second, community colleges and high schools should embed the subject matter of the standards into for-credit courses at both the secondary and postsecondary levels and build credit articulation agreements between high schools and community colleges. MSSC standards provide a national, industry-defined “common language” for all stakeholders to use in preparing individuals for higher skilled entry-level work for the nation’s 12 million frontline production and closely related material handling-distribution occupations.
    B. Leverage WIOA Focus on Industry-recognized Certifications. Another tool for strengthening this alignment is to encourage schools to prepare substantially more students with industry-recognized certifications. In its definition of “postsecondary credentials,” WIOA gives top priority to these industry credentials. WIOA provides an opportunity to bring greater quality control and integrity into the use of these credentials, which are now proliferating in a totally unregulated market place. While not choosing between specific industry certifications, WIOA regulations can define criteria for determining those that achieve the highest levels of quality, industry recognition, and legal defensibility. For that purpose, MSSC suggests quality control criteria for the use of industry-recognized certifications and certificates along the following lines:
    • Give priority to those certifications accredited by independent, well-established and highly respected accreditation bodies such as the American National Standards Institute (the U.S. office of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)), or the National Commission for Certification Agencies (NCCA).
    • Represent an entire industry or industry sector
    • Be based on skill standards defined and nationally validated by that industry or industry sector
    • Be well-established national certification organizations
    • Follow rigorous, legally defensible processes to ensure impartiality, security, fairness and objectivity in the certification process
    • Provide authoritative instructional materials, based upon industry standards, to help individuals prepare for certification assessments.

    Question 3: WIOA encourages establishment of a high-quality local education delivery system.

    MSSC Response:
    We encourage some reduction in the current Common Core academic standards to provide greater space in secondary and postsecondary education for the Common Technical core standards developed by Career-tech Ed organizations such as the National Association of State Directors of Career-technical education (NASDCTE). Increased accountability measures for Common Technical Core should align with those used in the current No Child Left Behind legislation.

    Question 4: WIOA supports innovative models to enhance adult education programs and promotes activities to improve the quality of adult education programs.

    MSSC Response:
    We recommend that the attainment of industry-recognized certifications be added to current adult basic education programs. Use of these industry credentials in adult education would serve several purposes:
    • The use of well-established national industry certifications can be added to ABE training to increase employment rates. Traditional “remedial” education and/or GED training by themselves are costly and often do not translate into higher employment rates. For example, Indiana shifted responsibility for ABE from the Department of Education to the Department of Workforce Development and embedded MSSC as one of the industry certification options. In another example, the Illinois Department of Economic Development has also added MSSC Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification attainment as one of its ways to add greater employability to its ABE training. MSSC is strongly supported in IL by the 4000-member IL Manufacturers Association.

  18. The Florida General VR Program would like to express deep concern over the watering down of the CSPD requirements in the recently-passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Advances in medicine and technology, coupled with the specialization and sophistication of the labor market require counselors who are skilled at interpreting and understanding reports, implications, options, and the requirements of the labor market, while working in partnership with their customers to achieve an appropriate vocational outcome that meets their needs and desires. Counseling skills are also required to assist eligible individuals in coping with the life changes related to sudden onset of a disability or helping someone with a congenital disability see that the limitations others have imposed on them all their life need not be the standard by which they view their own potential. Individuals with minimal, or even worse, no education and training in Rehabilitation Counseling or a closely related field are simply not equipped to provide these services and it would be a grave disservice to our customers for them to do so. While an individual with a Bachelor’s degree in Business may be an asset in understanding the labor market, that is useless without the requisite skills to appropriately assist the customer in preparing to enter the labor market.

    One could stop a random individual on the street and ask, “If you were to suddenly have a significant disability, would you want to be served by a business major or a rehabilitation counseling major?” They would consider that question ludicrous because the answer is so obvious. If an individual on the street would know that rehabilitation counseling services should not be provided by a business major, why are individuals well-versed in the field even considering such an option? Please act decisively to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive services from individuals who are qualified to provide them. It would be a travesty if the entity charged with ensuring appropriate services to individuals with disabilities took the lead in implementing options that do just the opposite.

  19. 1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    While we support an accountability system that ensures compliance with the Rehabilitation Act, the regulations should establish a process that is as streamlined as possible to minimize the administrative burden on those providing services to people with disabilities so they can devout as many resources as possible to client services.

    2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    OSERS should clarify that although WIOA specifically mentions a set of advanced degrees—law, medicine, mathematics, business, technology, computer science, engineering and science, the listed degrees are not meant to limit advanced degrees to only those fields. Clients with disabilities who are capable of more challenging work should be able to pursue advanced degrees in other fields, such as social work, rehabilitation counseling, and others, consistent with their abilities, capabilities, etc.
    OSERS should add to the definition of employment outcome criteria that are currently enumerated only in the comments to the 2001 regulations– states must “look beyond options in entry-level employment for VR program participants who are capable of more challenging work.” Additionally, “individuals with disabilities who are currently employed should be able to advance in their careers.” 66 Fed. Reg. 4419. Both of these comments should be added to the new regulations.

    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

    OSERS should make it very clear that, as specified in the definition of pre-employment transition services in Section 113, students will not need to have a finalized employment outcome to receive these services.
    Additionally, OSERS should clarify in the regulations when the VR agency is supposed to get involved in transition and what their role should be in the process. Particularly, the regulations should specify that it is the family and student’s decision about when to apply for VR services during the transition years, which pursuant to the IDEA begin during the school year in which the student turns sixteen. This request is based on the comments to the 2001 regulations, which stress that the VR agency should “participate actively throughout the transition planning process, not just when the student is nearing graduation.” 66 Fed. Reg. 4424. Additionally, as part of the mandated outreach, the VR agency must inform “students of the purpose of the VR program, the application procedures, the eligibility requirements, and the potential scope of services that may be available … as early as possible during the transition planning process.” Id. The comments also state that early outreach will “enable students with disabilities to make an informed choice on whether to apply for VR services while still in school.” Id.
    The regulations should also make clear that for the transitioning student, the IPE must be in place, at the latest, before the student exits school. The comments to the 2001 regulations stress how important this is–it “is essential toward ensuring a smooth transition process, one in which students do not suffer unnecessary delays in services and can continue the progress toward employment that they began making while in school.” Id. (emphasis added).

    Finally, since the Client Assistant Program (CAP) is given authority to enforce the new Section 113, as part of the VR agency’s outreach activities, their outreach materials must inform students and families about the services offered by CAP. VR agencies are already required to inform applicants of the availability of CAP and the services CAP offers, so this would only require they provide this information to transition aged students and their families before an application is submitted.

    4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?

    As amended, section 109(2)(A) authorizes VR agencies to work with employers to provide opportunities for work-based learning such as internships, apprenticeships and fellowships. The regulations should make clear that even though the employer may be developing these opportunities, the VR agency may also provide support to the individual in these settings as part of the IPE, if necessary to achieve their employment outcome.

    Section 109(3) also authorizes the VR agency to provide technical assistance and supports to employers on workplace accommodations. The regulations must make clear that nothing in these provisions would relieve an employer of their obligations under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. VR agencies should be the providers of last resort for these services.

    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    The regulations need to emphasize, consistent with the statute’s easing of the process to obtain an extension beyond the 24 months, that extensions for supported employment should not be difficult to obtain, when needed. Also the regulations should iterate that a person should not be precluded from receiving supported employment services because there may be a concern that the individual will need services for a longer period but a funding source has not been identified.

    OSERS could pair the provision of services to employers with the provision on supported employment to state that services to employers could include developing natural supports within the employment environment to reduce the need for supported employment services. Similarly, one of the goals of developing customized employment could be to develop employment for the individual that would reduce or minimize the need for supported employment services.

    Other Issues—Section 511
    The regulations need to make a strong statement on Sec 511 (a)(2)(A), that receiving pre-employment transition services under the Rehabilitation Act or transition services under the IDEA is not just a student coming in for one day, providing a few services and then checking off that this requirement has been met. The student needs to receive the full range of pre-employment transition services they need all the way through school, including, as appropriate, individualized work experiences in integrated settings. We do not want the requirements of Section 511 to be simple check-off boxes—the services must be designed to prepare students for competitive integrated employment when they leave school.

    This is especially important in the State of Michigan due to the fact that qualified individuals can remain in the educational system through age 26. Given this fact, we believe that there could be a situation wherein a person is older than 24 but has not been given the opportunity to fully appreciate the pre-employment transition services that are entitled in Michigan and therefore should not be allowed to enter into sub minimum wage employment. We do not want the requirements of Section 511 to be simple check-off boxes—the services must be designed to prepare students for competitive integrated employment when they leave school.

    Since CAP has the authority to enforce Section 511 pursuant to Section 421 of WIOA, the regulations should also make clear that CAP has access to sheltered workshops and access to the verification documentation required to be maintained by employers pursuant to Section 511(e)(2). Additionally, the regulations should make it clear that since the authority to enforce Section 511 is added to the general provisions of what CAP enforces by Section 421 of WIOA, everything that is listed in the CAP provisions about the types of actions CAP may undertake may be used to enforce 511. Also, the regulations must make it clear that although CAP is specifically charged with the responsibility of enforcing Section 511, given the broader charge to enforce federal laws provided to all of the P&A programs, they also have the authority to enforce the requirements of Section 511.

    Finally, the regulations should require that the requirements of Section 511 be included in Section 14(c) certificates issued by the Department of Labor. Section 511 provides restrictions upon when an entity can pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage under section 14(c) of the FLSA. Under section 14(c) and the Department of Labor regulations implementing that section, 29 C.F.R. Part 525, an employer cannot pay less than the minimum wage unless it possesses a current and valid 14(c) “special minimum wage certificate” issued by the Department of Labor. DOL regulations provide that the “special minimum wage certificate shall specify the terms and conditions under which it is granted.” 29 C.F.R. § 525.12(a). Wage and Hour Division, Field Operations Handbook, Section 64d00: Introduction to Certificates. Since section 511 imposes additional restrictions and requirements before payment of wages under sections 14(c) is allowed, these conditions need to be included in 14(c) certificates issued by DOL.

  20. I am one of those individuals who became a VR counselor already in possession of a Masters degree and CRC. That was in the 1980’s, before either became a requirement under the Rehab. Act.
    I recall that, while in my graduate program, I was asked to write a position paper on rehabilitation counseling as a distinct profession. I did research on the characteristics of a profession. Although this was about 30 years ago, I recall that these characteristics included common preparation, certification, affinity organizations, and codes of ethics.
    Let me begin with preparation. A Masters Degree program in rehabilitation counseling differs from other social service professions in that the programs include training about medical and social aspects of disability, vocational assessment, and working with customers with disabilities on the development and implementation of plans for employment. Other programs may have aspects of some of these topics, but the programs do not focus on these as primary building blocks of the profession.
    Certified Rehabilitation Counselor is the readily acknowledged standard of certification within the profession of rehabilitation counseling. The certification process includes required preparation and experience prior to an practitioner to be allowed to sit for the examination. For those individuals who meet the examination requirements, the exam itself is challenging.
    There are several affinity organizations in the field of rehabilitation counseling. These include the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, the National Rehabilitation Association, and, under the National Rehabilitation Association, the Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Association.
    Lastly, the field of rehabilitation counseling has codes of ethics. The one which many rehabilitation counselors, certified or not, follow is the code for Certified Rehabilitation Counselors. The code governs the behavior of rehabilitation counselors and their interactions with individuals with disabilities, each other, other professions, and data/information. Following a code of ethics ensures standards of acceptable behavior within the profession.
    Watering down and changing the requirements for rehabilitation counselors does a disservice to the people that are served by the State VR system. Following the amendments to the Rehab. Act in 1992 and 1998 which strengthened the educational requirements for rehabilitation counselors, the weakening of the CSPD requirements in WIOA constitutes a step backward. By maintaining high standards of preparation, perhaps adding an educational component on labor market information to the CORE requirements, individuals with disabilities will continue to receive the services that are needed to achieve employment, self-sufficiency, and independence from dedicated rehabilitation counselors for whom the provision of these services was the intent of their education and their passion.

    • I agree with the need for preparation and self-sufficiency. I will make this brief since I may have entered it too late in the day. I am uncertain why the new WOIA changed the text of the old Workforce Investment Act of 1998: it seems it was done to add new language on a state plan and consumer standards: most sections are the same on performance accountability and related food stamps programs. On OCTAE Question 2 on “connecting job seekers”, effective links occur with direct links between classes and a set of job openings with social introductions like D.C. City Councilmember Orange has in a plan with the City Center hotel. I favor use of supported employment if someone has 2 years of zero income even if they are not disabled and internships help in job training programs. I am uncertain about your revised language on the homeless since it is too limited for women in domestic violence situations and children: adult homeless men are only covered in HUD Programs. I should only answer those specific earlier questions today and go over my Georgetown WIA program at another time since you may care on my selection of a next program. Thanks.

  21. There are many concerns as we begin to implement the WIOA. Students will need to have specific training in areas they are planning to obtain employment. Currently the supports including schools, agencies, career and technical education centers, community colleges and other training centers do not understand their roles within this new legislation. There is much confusion as each party involved continually asks questions. We have continually raised the bar in the career and tech programs at all levels as students attain industry certification in a variety of fields. Many students with disabilities, even with accommodations will not be able to reach the level of industry certification in the field of their choice.
    We continually talk about a student’s unique IEP as we build and plan what is needed for a specific student to be trained to work in paid competitive employment. But it looks like the WIOA addresses a “one size fits all approach” to the work environment. All students in the adult world will be in paid minimum wage or above regardless of their output of work. The caveat that addresses that students cannot attend a workshop placement until they have failed at paid competitive employment at or above minimum wage is yet another hit on the students self worth to talk about failure before something else can happen. I thought employment was a building process. Don’t you not think many of our students have realized failure before and they should not have to look at it again and again. They are valuable citizens and need to be able to do the work that brings them success not continued failure. Has anyone taken into consideration the factors of behavior and the need for a behavior specialist working side by side with a student for their success in supported employment. Who will be funding these needed services? Will it be the Agency for Persons with Disabilities with its 10 year wait list? Will it be VR with its wait list and time limited services. Since the school system works with students to develop proper work skills until the students are 22 years of age; it does not mean the student has the cognitive ability to be able to work independently once they leave school.
    There are many programs that have been developed to help students transition into the supported employment. Training does not always produce independent workers within a certain time frame and some students/adults never get to a level of independence.
    Has anyone thought about the medically fragile. When students/adults have self care and medical needs who would be providing those services? If these students could work independently then we would work to make that happen. Employers do not have time or staff to provide support to our students who have extensive needs for supported in the work place and require an employee to be a one on one support for an employee with a disability.
    In order to implement WIOA a team with a line of open communication including all parties involved in the employment process from schools to post secondary training and employers as well as agencies must be talking the same language. If this level of communication and planning does not happen many of the students will once again be left out and will be sitting at home with a grim future.
    Employers still have a choice in the hiring process. We cannot mandate them to employ the people we tell them to hire.

  22. OSERS is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:
    1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    While all the CORE programs will be evaluated by the same standards, consideration should be given to subset tracking based on categories of significance of disability served. What measures will be in place to account for types of employment outcomes not captured by UI Wage data?

    2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    Clarify what constitutes the number of hours for part-time employment? Will full-time employment remain at 36 hours a week for the VR program? Define if the high demand fields are based on state-level or community-level need? How will informed choice be considered for VR clients? Guidance that assists agencies in determining if self-employment wages are comparable to others working in self-employment who are not persons with a disability (what will be acceptable sources of information to establish this criteria?). Guidance to clarify if customized employment is available to all VR consumers or just those categorized as SD and MSD?

    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

    Regulations that identify the activities allowed with state education officials, LEAs, state agencies to provide pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities in schools. Clear guidance on what constitutes pre-employment activities under the law and regulations. Provide guidance on interpreting the definition of “pre-employment activities for all students with a disability” and parameters for implementing and documenting the activities. What type of record keeping will be required in order to meet this requirement if being done prior to determining eligibility?

    4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?

    Clear guidance on who is the primary client/customer for the VR agency and types of activities that will be considered acceptable. How will this activity be documented by the state agency to ensure compliance with expenditure of time and resources?

    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    Regulations or guidance should assist agencies determine criteria to establish an acceptable time frame and/or when to consider if an extension for SE services is needed beyond 4 years. Clear guidance as to whether Title 1 funds can be expended for extended services under Subtitle G.

    • The National Association of State Head Injury Administrators (NASHIA) is a member organization representing state agencies administering an array of rehabilitative services and community supports for individuals traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families. Individuals with TBI have poor employment rates, whether it’s being able to return to work after a TBI or becoming employed for the first time. TBI can occur at any age and the severity of injury can range from mild to severe – yet even so called “mild” TBI can result in significant problems preventing a person from returning to work or obtaining/maintaining employment. In many instances, individuals were successfully employed, self-sufficient, or in college at the time of their injury. Successful employment is not only somewhat determined by the level of severity, but what part of the brain was injured, pre-injury factors (i.e. alcohol or substance use; level of education) and the age of the person at the time of injury.

      Children who are injured at a young age often return to school and are able to perform academically satisfactorily in a structured environment associated with classes in elementary school. The student may not be determined to require special education and related services and the school believes the student has “recovered.” However, once the student begins middle and high school, where classes require higher levels of thinking and initiation (i.e. essay tests, projects that require initiation and organization), as well as adapting to multiple teachers and their various teaching styles, the student performs poorly academically. Often the student may exhibit behavior problems or drops out of school – only to be viewed as “going through puberty” without anyone even knowing or associating the problems with TBI. Schools need to be better educated about TBI-related disabilities and how they can affect academics and impact the student’s ability to obtain and maintain employment and other activities of daily living post-high school.

      The service delivery for individuals with TBI is significantly underdeveloped and is not commensurate with other systems for individuals with other disabilities. Individuals are often not Medicaid eligible or served by a HCBS Medicaid waiver program – only 21 states administer a separate TBI HCBS Medicaid waiver and many do not serve a significant number of individuals. About half of the states have state funds/resources to assist with the community supports. Thus, it takes resources to pull community and natural supports together to support individuals to return to home and work and live successfully in the community.

      NASHIA believes that both DOL/RSA should reach out to national organizations, TBI professionals, and other federal agencies to help coordinate resources and best practices, and disseminate the information and provide assistance to public schools, state/community providers to better understand the employment and job training needs of individuals with TBI. NASHIA would be happy to help through webinars, conferences, materials or other means for helping with this issue.

      1)What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

      Disability specific data should be captured. It would be helpful if state VR programs could capture recidivism rates beyond a year after job placement. Too often a person with a TBI will obtain a job, only to lose the job quickly, for whatever reasons, return to VR and start the cycle again. Having statistics on the rate of recidivism would help determine why the person has difficulty maintaining a job, i.e. change in job expectations, problems with behavior or memory or communications, can’t hand multi-tasking, poor customer service skills, can’t complete the work in a timely fashion or substance use issues. Information is not only important in terms of successful employment, but also to address retention issues.

      2. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

      While NASHIA is pleased that WIOA requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies to set aside at least 15 percent of their Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Program funds to provide pre-employment transition services to assist students with disabilities, individuals with TBI are often not identified or receiving special education/related services. Should they incur their injury particularly in their junior/senior year, schools are often too anxious to find classes for them to complete for easy credit necessary to obtain a diploma without any thought or plan for helping that person to seek appropriate employment or post-high school education or vocational training.

      Families have often complained that their child does not want to return to school after their TBI due to the stigma or inability to complete the assignments and tests which are expected, even though the child can’t even complete a job application – which seems far more important. Certainly 504 requirements would help, but families and educators often do not understand the use of 504 or TBI-related disabilities that need accommodations. Without identification and appropriate planning, these students will continue to experience failure. They will not be served by transition plans and programs.

      Schools, parents, TBI state and community programs, and vocational rehabilitation entities need to collaborate and work together to ensure that the student with a TBI, first, doesn’t drop out of school, second, has been assessed for eligibility for special education related services, and third, has a plan for post-high school graduation that will accommodate the cognitive, behavioral and other TBI-related disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation could be at the forefront in developing TBI-related resources and providing schools, individuals with TBI, and parents with the information.
      3. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with the most significant disabilities?

      Supported employment, using a team approach, has found to be effective in many states for individuals with TBI to be successfully employed. These teams generally are composed of a TBI service coordinator, job coach and other community supports, including support groups, to support the individual in becoming employed, accommodations for TBI-related conditions necessary for maintaining employment. Too often, families and rehabilitation providers have voiced concerns that VR counselors do not want to serve individuals with TBI due to the time it often takes for job training and placement, problems in maintaining employment, and the lack of community supports to assist with employment goals. VR counselors should be encouraged to serve individuals with TBI with the understanding that it may take longer to develop the supports needed for supported employment. They should be trained to work with other community resources to develop those supports when state/Medicaid funding may not be available to the individual for long-term job supports.

  23. The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) is a membership organization of 22 of California’s Independent Living Centers (known in Federal statutes and regulations as the “Centers for Independent Living” or CILs). We supported the enactment of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), particularly as they call for the establishment of an Administration for Community Living (ACL) and other changes relating to Subchapter C of the Act. However, we wish to comment to highlight some specific concerns and recommendations:

    Transfer of New and Existing Funding for the Delivery of the New Community Transitions Core Service: One of the key unresolved questions in the implementation of the WIOA is when and how program funding responsibilities currently within the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Education (DOE) will be transferred to the new ACL. We support that transfer because it promises to improve the delivery of those programs and services for people with disabilities and youth with disabilities.

    However, WIOA added a new fifth core service that will require CILS to: (1) facilitate the transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based residences with requisite services and supports; (2) provide assistance to individuals with significant disabilities who are at risk of institutionalization to remain in community-based settings; and (3) facilitate the transition of youth (including students) who are individuals with significant disabilities who were eligible for individualized education programs under Federal law and who have completed their secondary education or otherwise left school to postsecondary life, including employment. Although the WIOA authorizes the addition of this new core service, there are no existing appropriations that would support these activities, which means that CILs will be required to absorb such additional costs within their current funding allocations.

    Although CILs currently facilitate transitions from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based settings, most do not specialize in facilitating transitions for youth with disabilities, including students. CFILC believes that it would be difficult for many CILs to help make those transitions for youth without an adequate source of new or redirected funding. Thus, during the transition process from DOE to the ACL, we believe that it is critically important for RSA to coordinate and perhaps phase-in the transfer of funding from DOE to the ACL. Similarly, strategies must be developed to urge Congress to make necessary additional appropriations to support the new core service.

    In addition, to the extent that states or CILs may continue to be eligible for vocational rehabilitation or program funding that will remain within DOE, those discussions should clearly identify the eligibility criteria for those funds. CFILC believes that CILs can play an important role in fulfilling the goal of increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities and youth with disabilities under programs administered in WIOA.

    We are also pleased that WIOA also requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies to set aside at least 15 percent of their Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Program funds to provide pre-employment transition services to assist students with disabilities make the transition from secondary school to postsecondary education programs and competitive integrated employment. It is our expectation that CILs will be able to apply for competitive grants or contracts to support these activities.

    Contracts for Employment and Pre-Employment Services: Increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and youth with disabilities requires the development of working relationships between CILs and local branch offices of state vocational rehabilitation programs. However, an informal survey of CFILC’s members indicated that while a few ILCs have such relationships with local branches of California’s designated Vocational Rehabilitation agency, most others do not. CILs are among the largest employers of people with disabilities, but we rarely receive job referrals from branch offices for those seeking employment inside or outside an ILC.

    In an effort to find salutations to this problem, CFILC believes that state vocational rehabilitation agencies should be required to enter into contractual relationships with CILs for the delivery of employment and pre-employment services for people with disabilities and youth with disabilities. Moreover, because delivering employment and pre-employment services to youth with disabilities is a fairly specialized field, DOE and the ACL should collaborate to find ways to provide necessary training and supportive services to CILs and to seek new appropriations in support of these activities.

    The Potential Loss of Social Security Benefits is a Major Impediment for Disabled Youth Seeking Employment: It has been our experience that many youth with disabilities lack incentives to apply for jobs because of concerns as to how this may impact the retention of their Social Security benefits. CFILC believes that the ACL should begin addressing this impediment to maximizing employment opportunities for youth with disabilities. The ACL must work with Congress and the Social Security Administration to finds ways to overcome this barrier.

  24. I think it is a mistake to weaken the standards for rehabilitation counselors. One of the most important tasks we do is review medical records and interview and observe consumers to determine the nature of their disabilities and the impact the disability has on their daily functioning. The ability to do this effectively has a great impact on the type of services that we provide and the safety and well-being of the consumer. I have personally observed that counselors I supervise who have bachelors’s degrees in rehabilitation counseling and related fields do not have the knowledge and experience to do this. The scope of knowledge and expertise required is very great because the scope and complexity of disabilities is so great. It is not something that can be taught on the job in a short period of time. By having a cookie-cutter approach to providing services by unqualified, insufficiently-trained staff, we risk doing great harm to consumers.

  25. 1. Section 116, Performance Measure regs. for VR – consider disability-specific and underserved population outcome measures. The current measures for the generic workforce system do not address the unique nature of VR services. While there are outcome measures for youth programs, how will you address performance measures for youth served in the VR program?

    2. Definition of competitive integrated employment – clarify individuals with disabilities are supervised by the employer, not an outside provider.

    3. Section 113 – pre-employment transition services – establishing a local pre-employment transition coordinator to collaborate and coordinate with schools and workforce boards should be more clearly defined. Based upon the literature and current practice, local transition coordinating councils and/or communities of practice are effective strategies to promote shared responsibility and collaboration to support transitioning youth and their families. Without a higher expectation of structure, the legislation may have little to no impact on systems coordination. In the development of the state plan to outline implementation strategies to provide pre-employment services, require input from youth-serving agencies and schools to ensure effective coordination and to avoid duplication of services. Encourage state VR agencies to develop cross-systems strategies and practices to implement pre-employment services. In the MOU with the education system, address mechanisms by which both VR and schools (along with other agencies) will systematically provide pre-employment services using a career development framework. Provide states with technical assistance about predictors of post-school outcomes, research, and promising practices focused on systematic career development services. Ensure these services are provided in integrated settings.

    4. Section 113 – ensure services to groups is provided in integrated settings. Previous federal interpretation of legislation/regulation prohibited VR counselors from working with groups where non-VR youth participated. While there is an understanding that VR dollars must only be used for applicants and eligible VR consumers, it creates barriers to youth being served in inclusive, integrated settings.

    5. Section 109 – measures of services to employers – clarification of “services”, as there are many variables that could be considered that may be outside the control of the VR agency staff (e.g. job coaching services).

    6. Supported employment – With the increase of job coaching services extended from 18 to 24 months, require VR agencies to include language in the MOU with the Medicaid agencies to ensure Medicaid is utilized to fund job coaching services. Also, ensure there is an agreement/commitment by the Medicaid agencies to provide long-term follow-along services. Even though the state VR agencies will be required to spend half of the supported employment funds for youth receiving extended services (up to 4 years) – those with the most significant disabilities may need a longer period of support, which should be addressed by the Medicaid agency.

    7. Qualifications of VR counselors – the requirement for a CRC-eligible counselor is important to the quality of VR services. However, with the increased focus on transitioning youth, additional training/education in the area of secondary transition is essential. Topics such as authentic youth engagement, youth development, career development, vocational assessment, interagency collaboration, and family engagement are needed to better equip VR staff to provide quality services. Consider funding long-term training grants for certificates or master’s in secondary transition services.

  26. Of the 15% set aside for transition services, what will be used to factor this amount? Will it strictly be direct services to transition and youth with disabilities, or can staff and administrative costs be factored in?

    With regards to the 90 days from eligibility determination to an IPE being developed, do agencies have the flexibility to write policy that has an earlier time frame, such as, 60 days or 75 days? Would we be out of compliance with federal regulations or the spirit of WIOA?

  27. Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc. (please pay particular attention to the comments regarding sec. 511 as they are Michigan specific)

    1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    While we support an accountability system that ensures compliance with the Rehabilitation Act, the regulations should establish a process that is as streamlined as possible to minimize the administrative burden on those providing services to people with disabilities so they can devout as many resources as possible to client services.

    2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    OSERS should clarify that although WIOA specifically mentions a set of advanced degrees—law, medicine, mathematics, business, technology, computer science, engineering and science, the listed degrees are not meant to limit advanced degrees to only those fields. Clients with disabilities who are capable of more challenging work should be able to pursue advanced degrees in other fields, such as social work, rehabilitation counseling, and others, consistent with their abilities, capabilities, etc.

    OSERS should add to the definition of employment outcome criteria that are currently enumerated only in the comments to the 2001 regulations– states must “look beyond options in entry-level employment for VR program participants who are capable of more challenging work.” Additionally, “individuals with disabilities who are currently employed should be able to advance in their careers.” 66 Fed. Reg. 4419. Both of these comments should be added to the new regulations.

    3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

    OSERS should make it very clear that, as specified in the definition of pre-employment transition services in Section 113, students will not need to have a finalized employment outcome to receive these services.
    Additionally, OSERS should clarify in the regulations when the VR agency is supposed to get involved in transition and what their role should be in the process. Particularly, the regulations should specify that it is the family and student’s decision about when to apply for VR services during the transition years, which pursuant to the IDEA begin during the school year in which the student turns sixteen. This request is based on the comments to the 2001 regulations, which stress that the VR agency should “participate actively throughout the transition planning process, not just when the student is nearing graduation.” 66 Fed. Reg. 4424. Additionally, as part of the mandated outreach, the VR agency must inform “students of the purpose of the VR program, the application procedures, the eligibility requirements, and the potential scope of services that may be available … as early as possible during the transition planning process.” Id. The comments also state that early outreach will “enable students with disabilities to make an informed choice on whether to apply for VR services while still in school.” Id.
    The regulations should also make clear that for the transitioning student, the IPE must be in place, at the latest, before the student exits school. The comments to the 2001 regulations stress how important this is–it “is essential toward ensuring a smooth transition process, one in which students do not suffer unnecessary delays in services and can continue the progress toward employment that they began making while in school.” Id. (emphasis added).

    Finally, since the Client Assistant Program (CAP) is given authority to enforce the new Section 113, as part of the VR agency’s outreach activities, their outreach materials must inform students and families about the services offered by CAP. VR agencies are already required to inform applicants of the availability of CAP and the services CAP offers, so this would only require they provide this information to transition aged students and their families before an application is submitted.

    4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?

    As amended, section 109(2)(A) authorizes VR agencies to work with employers to provide opportunities for work-based learning such as internships, apprenticeships and fellowships. The regulations should make clear that even though the employer may be developing these opportunities, the VR agency may also provide support to the individual in these settings as part of the IPE, if necessary to achieve their employment outcome.

    Section 109(3) also authorizes the VR agency to provide technical assistance and supports to employers on workplace accommodations. The regulations must make clear that nothing in these provisions would relieve an employer of their obligations under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. VR agencies should be the providers of last resort for these services.

    5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    The regulations need to emphasize, consistent with the statute’s easing of the process to obtain an extension beyond the 24 months, that extensions for supported employment should not be difficult to obtain, when needed. Also the regulations should iterate that a person should not be precluded from receiving supported employment services because there may be a concern that the individual will need services for a longer period but a funding source has not been identified.
    OSERS could pair the provision of services to employers with the provision on supported employment to state that services to employers could include developing natural supports within the employment environment to reduce the need for supported employment services. Similarly, one of the goals of developing customized employment could be to develop employment for the individual that would reduce or minimize the need for supported employment services.

    Other Issues—Section 511

    The regulations need to make a strong statement on Sec 511 (a)(2)(A), that receiving pre-employment transition services under the Rehabilitation Act or transition services under the IDEA is not just a student coming in for one day, providing a few services and then checking off that this requirement has been met. The student needs to receive the full range of pre-employment transition services they need all the way through school, including, as appropriate, individualized work experiences in integrated settings. This is especially important in the State of Michigan due to the fact that qualified individuals can remain in the educational system through age 26. Given this fact, we believe that there could be a situation wherein a person is older than 24 but has not been given the opportunity to fully appreciate the pre-employment transition services that are entitled in Michigan and therefore should not be allowed to enter into sub minimum wage employment. We do not want the requirements of Section 511 to be simple check-off boxes—the services must be designed to prepare students for competitive integrated employment when they leave school.

    Since CAP has the authority to enforce Section 511 pursuant to Section 421 of WIOA, the regulations should also make clear that CAP has access to sheltered workshops and access to the verification documentation required to be maintained by employers pursuant to Section 511(e)(2). Additionally, the regulations should make it clear that since the authority to enforce Section 511 is added to the general provisions of what CAP enforces by Section 421 of WIOA, everything that is listed in the CAP provisions about the types of actions CAP may undertake may be used to enforce 511. Also, the regulations must make it clear that although CAP is specifically charged with the responsibility of enforcing Section 511, given the broader charge to enforce federal laws provided to all of the P&A programs, they also have the authority to enforce the requirements of Section 511.

    Finally, the regulations should require that the requirements of Section 511 be included in Section 14(c) certificates issued by the Department of Labor. Section 511 provides restrictions upon when an entity can pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage under section 14(c) of the FLSA. Under section 14(c) and the Department of Labor regulations implementing that section, 29 C.F.R. Part 525, an employer cannot pay less than the minimum wage unless it possesses a current and valid 14(c) “special minimum wage certificate” issued by the Department of Labor. DOL regulations provide that the “special minimum wage certificate shall specify the terms and conditions under which it is granted.” 29 C.F.R. § 525.12(a). Wage and Hour Division, Field Operations Handbook, Section 64d00: Introduction to Certificates. Since section 511 imposes additional restrictions and requirements before payment of wages under sections 14(c) is allowed, these conditions need to be included in 14(c) certificates issued by DOL.

  28. 1. Performance Indicators:

    RSA should consider benchmarking performance for youth with disabilities separate from adults with disabilities, similar to how the workforce system separates these out.

    Given the increased follow along required under WIOA, states will likely be increasingly reilant on wage verification records. RSA should consider revising guidance to make it mandatory that individuals provide their SSN as a condition of services.

    States will need as much notice as possible about changes in specific reporting requirements (data elements, definitions and reporting mechanisms) so that the IT systems can be built to report performance.

    3. Transition

    Guidance in regards to how to appropriately braid or blend funding for services to transition youth is essential. Where does the responsiblity of the education system leave off and what then can the VR program appropriately support.

    5. Supported Employment

    Guidance about the differentiation between supported employment services provided by VR and the extended services that are prohibited to be provided by VR would be useful. Once the individual has achieved job stabilization with supports can/should the VR program continue to support the long term supports when other funding sources are available. What does it mean to say that VR can pay for extended services for transition youth? Specifically when would that be appropriate?

  29. In terms of adhering to the common core and career readiness standards as outlined by the Department of Education, consideration should be given to allow sufficient time and planning to prepare for programmatic changes. This is especially hard in more rural settings where instructors have to wear all of the proverbial hats. Data entry and analysis, intake, enrollment, orientation, pre-assessment, post-assessment and informal assessment pieces, instruction, counseling and referring clients to community partners falls on the shoulders of one individual. It is my premise that rural settings with large distances to more urban areas and assistance programs may need a slightly more involved portion of the funding formula in order to accomplish implementation in a real and meaningful way.

    Crucial thinking skills are expected of learners in the workplace and within the walls of our postsecondary institutions. Small sites have teachers who lack experience in some key areas. These instructors need additional training to acquire skills and improve delivery of these skill sets to learners. Having sufficient funding to accomplish comprehensive training for AEL staff is imperative for student success. Teachers must balance teaching domain specific content with much targeted cognitive operations explicitly explained and modeled, plus; instructional staff has to allow for the role creativity plays in student achievement. Very small rural sites have less of the resources needed to ensure the development of the kind of comprehensive plan needed to develop all of the proficiencies.

  30. There are several issues that are essential to consider. The College and Career Readiness Standards require adult education programs to raise the bar, so that we can support adult learners with their college and career goals. This is a good thing; however, to this point there is little guidance on what this means for English learners in our programs.

    Many immigrants and refugees have limited or no education in their primary language. Consideration must be given to this reality. To hold these learners to the same standards will require much time and support.

    One of the most vexing challenges we face is the misalignment of the assessment tools we currently use with the new instructional and programming mandates. The tools we currently have are not aligned with the Standards. Moreover, we do not have tools to appropriately assess emergent readers and pre literate learners. There is also a need to develop tools to assess higher level English learners who test out of the ESL assessments that are currently in place.

    Resources are needed to address the increasing numbers of skilled immigrants who are finding their way to our programs. These learners present wonderful challenges to programs as we seek to help them avoid the brain waste associated with working low-wage jobs for years. We need to provide the support and English instruction these highly motivated people need to move as quickly as possible along a pathway toward their goals.

    Professional development is needed in all of these areas to ensure practitioners have the resources and skills to effectively support adult English learners with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their important goals.

  31. AEFLA adds integrated education, training and workforce preparation. AEL Staff assists students in finding the right fit for training and education beyond AEL programs and within preparatory classes. Consumer Credit Counseling, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) fire classes, Emergency Medical Training classes, Cardio Pulmonary Recessitation classes, First Aide classes, Certified Nursing Assistant classes, Medication Aide training, as well as, additional community offerings to students that allow for stackable credentialing to be accomplished be inclusionary in programs. Further, it is imperative programs be allowed to count success in these areas. In the past, the language regarding reconciliations for the National Reporting System allowed for postsecondary education and training to be counted after students completed or exited classrooms. It is of utmost importance for the data to allow student participation while enrolled in the programs offered by AELFLA.

  32. OCTAE Questions 1-2 Jobseekers, Employers,Adult Education and Literacy
    SCANS skills (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) is a core document that I introduce to my students on the first day of class. Informal self-assesments of Basic Skills, People Skills, Personal Skills and Thinking Skills are completed. I work with very low learners, high learners and first year college students. Through use of multisensory techniques, technology and student engagement the students and I partner together to raise their academic and workforce standards through hands- on activities in class and on computers.

    If we want better outcomes and services for students and employers, students must regularly and creatively come in contact with with the information and practices that will result in exceptional job readiness.

    I want to note that the “Personal Skills” area of SCANS is challenging to most students because they struggle with self management: time management, stress management and positive financial literacy habits. If we can conduct interactive wokshops that help students strengthen these areas they may make better plans and set better goals for their workforce and academic future. Financial literacy may give some level of freedom to students who are so worried about money that they find it hard to focus on excellent academic and workforce development that would satisfy employers.

  33. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) submit the below comments. Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into this process. The below comments are focused on the two common performance metrics— “indicators for effectively serving employers” and “measurable skills” gains— as they are beginning to be more fully developed by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education.

    1.) In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

    Our organizations commend WIOA’s focus on competency-oriented outcomes for program participants as this fosters a more results-driven system—something that benefits individual program participants and prospective employers.

    As you more fully develop this particular measure, we encourage you to identify and build upon best practices in existing training programs that include multiple entry and exit points for participants. These entry and exit points can translate into measurable, stackable credentials or postsecondary credit allowing participants who exit a program prematurely to demonstrate some degree of competency to an employer and to be able to re-enter the program at a later date without losing progress toward attainment of a credential.

    These stackable credentials would provide greater flexibility for adult education participants and other non-traditional participants whose availability for a training program depends on a variety of factors out of the control of the training provider, including childcare, transportation and part-time employment. Additionally, incentivizing entry and exit points throughout programs may also have the desirable side effect of fostering stronger partnerships between employers and training providers to ensure each exit point has labor market value to the both the employer and the program participant.

    2.) WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?

    Our organizations believe that workforce development programs should always seek to closely align and be responsive to the education and skill needs of the state, regional and local economy. As such, we applaud WIOA’s strong emphasis on labor market and program alignment. One of the best methods for ensuring this linkage is for employers to have a clearly defined role and stake in state and local plan development for the programs and activities authorized under WIOA.

    WIOA’s new requirement that states be held accountable on programs’ “indicators of effectiveness at serving employers” will be challenging to implement in a fair, objective and consistent way. As the Departments develop a metric for this, we urge you to bear in mind that the relationship between programs and employers is interconnected— one that requires a sincere effort from both parties. As such, any metric seeking to assess this area must take into account genuine efforts on the part of programs to engage with employers, as well as the responsiveness of employers themselves.

    Prior to the passage of WIOA, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 contained a similar “customer satisfaction” measure, which sought to determine the level of satisfaction on the part of both employers and program participants. However, this metric consisted primarily of post-program surveys following program exit or in the following program year. The results of these surveys were often highly subjective and contingent on many variables that, in some instances, were out of a program’s ability to directly control. Moreover, the validity of data collected via post-program opinion-based surveys remains uncertain.

    As a remedy, we strongly recommend using the time allowed under the new Act as an opportunity to develop valid, objective measures of employer engagement over time that can be incorporated into reliable longitudinal data systems. Building the capacity of these state systems would also enable WIOA’s performance accountability system to more effectively assess the nature of a particular employer-program relationship and evaluate the longevity, depth, and scope of such engagement and its impact on participant employment outcomes, among other added benefits.

    As you work to more fully develop a specific indicator or set of indicators to gauge this measure, we encourage that consideration be given to objective criteria such as documented attempts to engage employers or the number of active partnerships with employers in lieu of a more subjective measure of employer satisfaction. Other criteria for this metric could include a measurement for how often and to what extent information and/or materials related to a specific program or the broader workforce system are provided directly to employers. Measuring the degree of information disseminated could facilitate greater levels of employer engagement with the workforce system by increasing employer awareness of the system and foster more opportunities for employers to utilize the services authorized under WIOA.

    There may well be conditions unrelated to the training program that may impact employer’s satisfaction. For example, the status of a state or region’s economic conditions may or may not influence an employer’s overall satisfaction with the labor market pool and candidate qualifications. This measure should be clearly and narrowly crafted to focus on a particular program’s performance and not the overall state of the region’s economy and labor market supply.

    Lastly, for any metric intended to gauge employer satisfaction with the workforce system, NASDCTEc and ACTE strongly recommend that the information collected is limited to only those employers directly engaged with the workforce system in a given state or local area in the most current program year. In this way, the measures will assess a program’s effectiveness in serving those employers who are most invested in maintaining a robust and effective system rather than those who may not be engaged to the same degree.

  34. The agency is concerned with the section of WIOA regarding the establishment and maintenance of education and experience of personnel that provide VR counseling and guidance service. Working as a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor requires a vast knowledge base to assist the eligible individual in developing and implementing an individualized plan for employment that assists the individual in obtaining competitive, integrated work. The regulations should include a requirement that VR counselors entering employment with a bachelor degree complete graduate level course work to gain knowledge of medical and psychological aspects of disability, vocational assessment strategies, utilization of labor market information, and skills in counseling and guidance.

  35. Please be realistic when considering employment outcomes. Not everyone in ABE and ESL are in need of employment. Also, if we are made accountable for providing employment numbers, we have no choice but to neglect those who may not be able to achieve that status.

  36. OSERS Questions 2-4 General Comment about Rehabilitative Services
    Technology is critical if you want to raise student performance. Students at every location should have access to technology and how to use it to advance their education, workforce knowledge and careers. Students should be regularly and consistently introduced to the libraries and how to use them to gain workforce and educational knowledge through research of books and technology. Adaptive Technology tools should be accessed in libraries, schools and workforce locations. Staff and students should receive exceptinal training on tools and resources available to help adults gain skills to transition into the workforce and meet employers needs. Outcomes can dramatically improve through student engagement and technological advancement. Model : Take a look at “Blind Industries” and the workforce training and resources available to train the blind and visually impaired for employment.

  37. To: U.S. Department of Education

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s implementation of Title IV and Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Easter Seals is a leading non-profit organization committed to helping individuals with disabilities and others reach their potential by accessing local services and supports. We strongly supported WIOA and our affiliate network of community-based service providers welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Department of Education and state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to help implement the new and expanded service provisions included in the law. Below are Easter Seals comments on the following questions:

    What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?

    Easter Seals understands the importance of data and analytics to help evaluate program performance. However, we also recognize that data collection can often consume staff time thus limiting the time vocational rehabilitation professionals can spend working directly with individuals with disabilities enrolled in employment services. Easter Seals urges that the Department of Education work to streamline the collection process so that the primary focus of vocational rehabilitation professionals is with program participants and not in program data management. In addition, Easter Seals urges the Department of Education to identify areas of discrepancy between new performance indicators and the current data collection (ie: program year versus fiscal year; 90 day exit versus 1-year exit tracking) and develop workable solutions.

    In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?

    Easter Seals commends WIOA for ensuring employment training is job-driven and meets the employment needs within a region. WIOA amended “Vocational Rehabilitation Services” (Section 414) to place an emphasis on advanced training in high-demand fields “in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (including computer science) field, medicine, law, or business.” Easter Seals recognizes that “high-demand” fields vary from region to region and year to year based on local employment needs. The WIOA-identified fields of “science, technology, engineering or mathematics” may not be the only or highest demand fields for a given region. In addition, the level of training for in-demand fields may vary based on each in-demand occupation. Recognizing these variables, states and localities must play a prominent role in accessing high-demand occupations and tailoring training to meet those localized employment needs.

    What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?

    Easter Seals urges the Department of Education to place a strong emphasis on transportation education and travel instruction within pre-employment transition services. Transportation, including adequate training in the use of public transportation vehicles and systems, is an authorized VR activity yet from our experience transportation is often overlooked and not included in the development of employment strategies. Several studies have highlighted the important role of transportation and travel training on the employment of people with disabilities, including a 2012 report (Simonsen/Neubert) that found mobility education and training was a strong predictor of post-school outcomes for students with intellectual disabilities to secure competitive integrated employment.

    Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

    Easter Seals fully supports the WIOA change that extended Supported Employment Services from up to 18 months to up to 24 months (with the option to extend again in order to achieve an individual’s employment outcome). The Department of Education and State VR agencies should increase use of Supported Employment Services to help increase successful employment outcomes for individuals with significant disabilities who may need additional supports to secure and maintain a competitive job in their community. Easter Seals also supports the WIOA “Supported Employment” and “Supported Employment Services” definitions and urges the Department of Education to ensure that Supported Employment Services are consistent with the strengths, abilities, interests and informed choice of individuals, as outlined in the WIOA definitions, and that the services are provided in integrated settings consistent with the WIOA definition for “Competitive Integrated Employment.” This definition describes an integrated setting as being a location where the employee interacts with other persons who are not individuals with disabilities (not including supervisory personnel or individuals who are providing services to such employee) to the same extent that individuals who are not individuals with disabilities and who are in comparable positions interact with other persons. In addition, Easter Seals urges the Department of Education to fully fund the Supported Employment State Grant program in its annual budget requests to Congress and not propose to eliminate funding for this critical program as it has the past few fiscal years.

    Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments.

    Easter Seals, Inc.

  38. I would like to comment on the youth transition services. One of the most positive aspects of this new law is the beginning of services at the beginning of high school. Anyone who has children or grandchildren in high school realizes that assistance can not wait until the youth is a junior or senior. Getting involved early, evaluating assistance needed, and implementing a plan are the real assurance that youth with disabilities will have the necessary skills to be successful in post secondary venues. As a grandparent of a child who has a disability and who operates under a 504 plan, which often gets ignored, having VR services will help lead credibility to our goal to follow and enhance her 504 plan.

  39. A PDF version of our comments is available here:
    You may find our detailed comments on the implementation of Title II of WIOA here: http://www.clasp.org/documents/Comments-on-Title-II-implementation-WIOA-CLASP.pdf.

    Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the implementation of Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), also known as the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA). We are pleased to see that the new law focuses the purpose of federal adult education funding on preparation for postsecondary transitions and career advancement. Thoughtful regulations and guidance will be critical in ensuring that the implementation of the bill fully realizes the vision of WIOA, while maintaining critical services for the some of the most vulnerable and low-income individuals in the U.S.

    While WIOA serves as a strong foundation, forthcoming Title II regulations and guidance should lead states and local providers toward the use of evidence-based models and practices that increase the rate at which adult learners earn postsecondary credentials and obtain employment. At the same time, it should ensure that states and providers maintain flexibility to serve a wide range of adult learners—including those with very low basic skills and English language learners with limited education in their native country.

    The following are some initial comments on questions #1 and #4 posted on the Office of Career Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) blog on August 12.

    1) In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

    CLASP strongly supports the use of common measures of accountability across the four core programs in WIOA, particularly the interim measure of progress that captures measurable skill gains for participants who are taking steps toward the receipt of a postsecondary credential or employment. The inclusion of this measure in the final bill is recognition that such outcomes may be several years away for participants at very low levels of literacy or English language skills. It should be utilized to ensure that AEFLA funds continue to be used for participants with low levels of literacy and English language skills, including through the use of two-generation strategies that improve the education and economic outcomes for parents and their children.

    In developing regulations and guidance for the performance indicators under Section 116, the Department should consider how the definition of such a measure could facilitate the ability of programs to serve adults with a multiple-year pathway to a postsecondary credential or employment. The use of the interim measure of progress can best support services to low-skilled and English language learners if the measure (or set of measures) recognizes the diverse paths one can take to a postsecondary credential or employment and is evidence-based. Predictive “milestones” can draw from existing and emerging research on metrics that are predictive of success in meeting postsecondary goals, particularly for low-income and low-skilled students. Skill gains related to employment should use benchmarks that are relevant to labor market demand and the skills desired by employers.

    In addition to the interim measure of progress, CLASP is also concerned about the potential impact of the measure related to the attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent. As you know, the law limits the attainment of this measure to participants who have obtained or retained employment or are in an education or training program leading to a recognized postsecondary credential within one year after exit from the program. While we strongly support the goal of more closely connecting AEFLA programs to postsecondary enrollment, we are concerned that this requirement, if interpreted too narrowly, could discourage services to lower-skilled high-school equivalency students. The Department may wish to consider including enrollment in integrated education and training and other career pathway programs that lead to a postsecondary credential as meeting this requirement, even if the enrollment occurs in the adult education setting, rather than in the postsecondary credit setting.

    Future CLASP comments and publications will provide a more in-depth analysis of the various issues relating to establishing an appropriate interim measure of progress for adult education students, as well as other aspects of the performance accountability system as they pertain to adult education. The following issues will be explored further:

    • The impact of the measures on the provision of services to English language learners with limited education in their home country, who may be currently unprepared for a high school equivalency or postsecondary program;
    • Data issues related to tracking participants across multiple educational settings and funding sources;
    • Appropriateness of disaggregating data based on participant characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, sex, employment status, and income;
    • Challenges associated with small programs serving at-risk participants. The Section 116 measures require tracking the percentage of recipients meeting such goals. For smaller programs, a participant that does not meet a goal could reduce the “success” rate of that program, and thus serve as a disincentive for programs to serve them; and
    • The feasibility and appropriateness of granting exemptions for at-risk participants in the performance measures.

    4) AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

    The explicit inclusion of two new educational activities to AEFLA is a tremendous opportunity for states to encourage providers to use innovative and effective models that have been shown to increase the rate at which adult learners earn postsecondary credentials and improve their basic skills.

    Over the past several years, CLASP has worked with state education and training systems to design cross-system career pathways and bridge programs (also known as integrated education and training) designed to facilitate seamless transitions from basic skills education to postsecondary credential and employment. Forthcoming comments will explore how the lessons learned from state initiatives, such as Shifting Gears and the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, can be used to inform regulations or guidance on these new activities. In our future expanded comments, we will address the following topics:

    • The extent to which IET programs funded through WIOA should be expected to connect to longer-term career pathways;
    • How regulations and guidance for sections of WIOA related to cross-system alignment (e.g. the requirement to develop a unified plan or combined plan) can be used to support the development of cross-system partnerships in which IET programming can flourish. CLASP’s research and experience with successful career pathways programs in several states indicates that important factors in career pathway partnerships include partners sharing a vision of the career pathways and system, a shared strategy, clearly documented roles and responsibilities, a sustained commitment to the partnership itself, and adequate and knowledgeable staff who understand career pathways and the fund sources well enough to braid them.

    In addition, while it is outside the scope of regulations or guidance related to Title II of WIOA, the following Department of Education activities would also be valuable in ensuring that adult education participants have access to IET and career pathway programs:
    • Clarifying that Pell grants and other student financial aid can be used for aid-eligible career pathway programs, including IET;
    • Guidance on how Perkins funds can be used to support career pathways and IET programs; and
    • Regulations that allow the use of Pell grants for shorter-term certificate programs, which are common among IET programs.

    CLASP looks forward to working with you in the coming months to craft regulations and guidance that create new opportunities for adult learners to advance their economic potential, while maintaining the emphasis on serving the full spectrum of low-skilled adults and English language learners. If you have any questions about these comments, please contact CLASP.

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