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. Talbot Consulting is an independent, education management consulting practice providing innovative solutions to community-based organizations and Pre-K-12 schools. Much of our recent work has focused on the academic and non-academic needs of off-track youth. For these reasons, we provide the following comments – focused specifically on Sections 116 and 171 – of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). We believe our recommendations, if adopted, would strengthen the educational integrity and accountability of secondary and adult education programs.
    While we applaud the Department for requiring states to align adult education standards with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, we do not believe this provides sufficient guidance to alternative education high schools with career with technical education (CTE) programs, and to adult education programs, like YouthBuild. However, we believe, as proposed the WIOA is still heavily compliance- rather than accountability-focused. The WIOA should yield not just increased numbers of trained participants, but also increased numbers of trained participants with content and skill knowledge required of a 21st century economy for persistent employment to span a lifetime. Therefore, we recommend the following:
    • Require states to hold alternative education high schools with CTE programs and adult education programs to administer Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned assessments to baseline and benchmark content program participants’ content knowledge and skills. There are a number of commercial assessments that are appropriate for this student population. While we do not endorse any one product, for example purposes states may consider the NWEA MAP, Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader and Math assessments, and so forth.
    • To ensure adult education students are receiving rigorous instruction, require states to phase out administration of the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). The TABE is not CCSS-aligned, and does not measure 21st skills required for college and career readiness.
    • “Measurable skill gain” should include at least one grade-level of increased performance within a program cycle based on the state’s department of education-certified CCSS-aligned baseline and benchmark assessment. While we believe job-readiness skills are important, 21st century employers seek highly skilled labor. This means students graduating from CTE and adult education programs must be able to read and write well, and complete algebraic equations.
    • We applaud the Department for emphasizing the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. However, we are disappointed that the department stopped short of issuing competitive sub-grant opportunities for states that create school-to-work pipelines in high growth industries. Current examples include the P-Tech program referenced in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address. We highly recommend that the Department consider the inclusion of similar pipeline programs for young people ages 16-24 to ensure increased numbers of disadvantaged populations have access to college and career leading to a life-long living wage. We believe this will best serve employers and program participants and yield increased numbers of tech-skilled workers.
    • We recognize that the aforementioned recommendation would mean an increase in the duration of the typical adult education program. However, we believe America’s high schools should not be the only provider of CTE or school-to-work programs leading to careers in high-growth industries. There are many youth development and workforce training programs poised to offer these educational services (e.g., YouthBuild, Urban League, National Council of LaRaza, and many others). To do so, they would need funds for capacity-building to increase academic rigor and amend existing higher education and employer partnerships.
    • The aforementioned comment leads to another recommendation: most workforce training and adult education programs hire instructional staff who have not been certified to teach secondary education. As such, many have not received Common Core training. The lack of rigor and academic accountability in too many workforce training and GED programs is directly related to the inadequate pre- and in-service training of their instructional staffs. We believe this will prove to be a significant challenge and drag on the performance of workforce training programs nationwide – particularly as states adopt the new High School Equivalency Exam over the former GED, and 21st century industries require higher skills.
    • We are disappointed that the proposed amendments to the WIOA does not require states to increase the number and quality of CTE, school-to-work and/or workforce training programs within juvenile detention and/or department of corrections (DOC) centers. It is a well-known fact that the majority of incarcerated youth do not have a high school diploma. Talbot Consulting believes the omission of DOC education programs within the WIOA supports recidivism and provides an access barrier to large numbers of off-track youth.
    • We recommend the following timeline for implementing the aforementioned recommendations:
    ˗ Years 1-2: statewide planning for strategies to increase the academic rigor and accountability of adult education and workforce training programs. Planning teams should include representation from LEAs, DOCs, WIBs, community-based organizations, employers, public/private funders, and individuals/organizations with demonstrated experience in evaluating CTE, workforce and/or school-to-work programs. The plan should include strategies for 1) increasing academic rigor; 2) increasing the pre-service preparation, ongoing development and certification requirements of instructional staff; 3) phasing out the TABE and/or similar assessments in favor of adopting CCSS-aligned tests; 4) creating cross-sector public and private agency collaboration to improve the educational and workforce readiness of program participants, and 5) determining how the state and programs will measure success.
    ˗ Years 3-4: begin implementing the state’s strategic plan
    In sum, Talbot Consulting recommends the Department refocus the WIOA to include 1) more requirements for cross-sector agency collaboration; 2) increased regulation for education program rigor, instructional staff, and accountability; 3) the introduction of pilot pipeline programs similar in nature to New York’s P-Tech program, but targeting out-of-school youth and adult education program participants; and 4) provide requirements, timelines and milestones for states to align workforce training programs to states’ departments of education student performance measures.
    For more information or clarification regarding these comments, please contact Talbot Consulting.

  2. OSERS Quesion #1 Performance Accountibility
    Please consider certain core issues as you establish performance measures. Different people process information in different ways. Therefore I would make sure academic, workforce and postsecondary content is presented to learners from the lowest level to the highest level in ways that promote clarity and retention. The use of adaptive technology and multisensory techniques along with traditional learning should be our “new normal” going forward. Centers, schools colleges and libraries should provide user friendly strategies, instructional technology and game-based learning to help students learn and perform academic and workforce activities at a faster rate. Lower Level learners will need more time, but the end result will still mean success if we are willing to establish revolutionary change in our procedures. According to the Adult Learning Theory, learners want to have a voice in their learning process. I would make sure that are credentialed staff available in each location who are effective in student engagement and higher morale among the adult education, youth and rehabilitative community. If you plan to regulate performance. Please be sure that you put the innovative changes in place the will produce the results you want.

  3. One concern the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) has with one of the WIOA measures is the dissolution of regional training programs for state VR agencies. The direction the new law takes with the Regional Technical Assistance Continuing Education is misguided. States know best the needs and areas of individual state VR programs.

  4. DC Adult & Family Literacy Coalition (DC AFLC) is an alliance of adult learners, educators, advocates, public and private program providers, foundations and individuals from all quadrants of the District of Columbia.

    Our partners would like to submit the following overall comments:

    1.) English Language Learners who need to attain pre-requisite skills and English before they enter job training or post-secondary, should be measured based on progress of Educational Functioning Level.

    Section 116 of the WIOA limits the measurement of a program to employment and post-secondary related measures. This ignores the considerable population of English Language Learners who do not yet have the English language or career skills required to attain a career. A typical adult entering our program’s beginning level has less than six years of formal education in her country of origin. In DC, 90,000 residents read below functional literacy levels (Source: National Assessment of Adult Literacy 2003) and over 50,000 DC residents over 26 do not have a high school diploma (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 American Community Survey).

    2.) Beginning and Intermediate ESL students should be measured on Educational Functioning Level gain. Only Advanced students should be measured on whether they have entered college or career training.

    Only students who attain the pre-requisite level of English skills required for college/career training should be expected to enter post-secondary education or training upon program exit. Currently, the NRS does not follow this logic. Instead, the NRS measures students with a diploma from a foreign country who exit the program on whether they enter post-secondary education or training – regardless of whether they exit the program with the equivalent of an elementary or middle school level of English skills. It is important to recognize that adult students do not typically take a continuous, linear path through adult education. They do not typically enter a program and study continuously from Low-Beginning ESL to college entry. Instead, they improve their skills a semester or a year at a time, exit the program as their family and work responsibilities require, and re-enter at a later date to make further progress toward their career goals. Beginning and Intermediate level ESL students should be measured on whether they made appropriate progress in their pre-requisite English skills. Advanced students should be measured on whether they have entered college or career training.

    3.) Programs should have the option of using learner follow-up surveys to gather employment data.

    If states are required to use the Department of Labor to measure employment outcomes, this would exclude learners who may not have a social security number. Under the current NRS, data on all students is included whether or not social security numbers are available. It is imperative that states continue to have the option of using learner follow-up surveys to ensure that employment data can be captured for all learner populations including any students who may not have social security numbers.

    4.) Family Literacy Programs are critically important for adults and children. Please remember that family literacy is an integral part of the adult education landscape.

    Programs which focus on adult learning opportunities and parent education are desperately needed for families in Washington, DC. According to the State Education Agency’s State of Adult Literacy Report, more than 170,000 people in DC function at the National Adult Literacy Survey’s lowest literacy level. This number is 36% of the city’s population. Nationally, only 21% of the population falls at this level. DC Hispanic adults, who comprise 13% of the population, represent 39% of the residents with severely limited literacy skills.

    A tremendous barrier that prevents adults nationwide from engaging in educational or workforce programs is a lack of options for steady and secure care for their youngest children. Family literacy programs enable adult students to fully engage in their education secure in the knowledge that their child is next door in a safe and enriching environment. Each component of the family literacy model is designed to improve outcomes for parents and their children. As adult English classes improve parent literacy levels, student outcomes improve in elementary school (Aspen Institute, 2013). Adults increase their academic attainment levels, leading to improved math and literacy outcomes for children entering kindergarten (Magnuson, 2007). As parental educational attainment rises and professional credentials are earned, family economic earning potential increases. Bringing families out of poverty reduces risk factors for children and puts children on a trajectory for school success (Zero to Three, 2010). The parenting classes and Parent and Child Together Time that are centerpieces of the family literacy model cultivate the skills and capacity of adult students to provide nurturing home environments. Early relationships are especially important as strong attachments serve as a buffer against the multiple risk factors our youngest students face (Aber, Jones & Cohen, 2000). Working together at school, the parent-child dyad is enriched through positive social interactions, rich language exposure, and early literacy experiences that prepare a child to enter school with a predisposition and skill set for school success (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).

    In response to OCTAE’s specific 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?

    Low skilled adults need measures that use smaller increments, such as points gained, rather than levels gained. On CASAS, for example, low literacy learners may gain 5-10 points. This increase indicates skill-gain, even though they are not moving to a new level.

    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?

    Many adults in education programs on the lowest levels have held a job or are currently employed, but the wages are low and the tenure is short. Programs should not receive credit for placing adults back into the same jobs that have kept them in poverty.

    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?

    Considering that adult education has been severely underfunded and left to volunteers with no specific changes for so many years, it is unrealistic to expect that programs can change in a 1-5 year time frame. The lack of quality adult education training and certification programs may take years to resolve.

    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?

    Research shows that beginning literacy learners progress more quickly when instruction is focused on literacy. Just as children in K-3 focus on learning to read before they are required to read to learn, adult learners who are beginning to read need to focus exclusively on those skills. Of course, real life material can be used to practice and demonstrate skills, but beginning literacy learners cannot do the “integrated” type of training that learners with 6th grade and higher reading skills are able to do.

    Thank you for your consideration and the opportunity to provide feedback. We look forward to working with you.

  5. As someone who has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for 6 years and has completed the CRC certification I am genuinely concerned about the “okay” to hire someone with a bachelor’s degree in unrelated fields such as business administration. I have been asked why someone needs a Master’s degree to be a rehabilitation counselor. My response has been, “You can do this job with only a bachelor’s degree but with the Master’s degree and CRC certifiction it is incredible how much more effective you are in truly assisting the individuals with their career goals.” There are those with bachelor’s degree in the social sciences that cannot grasp the concepts necessary to help people return to work or to begin their career in their first job. My conclusion is that someone going into business adminsistration will not be developing the skills and desire to assist those with disabilities in going to work. We have a population of citizens that are greatly unemployed or underemployed and in what could be a great initiative to change these numbers we undermine the efforts by substandardizing the help and assistance we should be providing the individuals.

  6. • Adult Education is Title II and a partner in WIOA. There is no need to require local Adult Education applications to be approved by the local WIB. Local requirements are outlined in Section 231. Section 107(d)(11)(B)(i)(1) is not in compliant with Section 232.

    • Integrated Education and Training needs to remain a consideration not a requirement. Adult Education needs to be able to meet the needs of family literacy and ESL students not wanting, needing or able (no work permit) to work out-side the home.

    • “Measurable Skill Gain” needs to continue as a target for Title II. Students enter at different educational levels. Lower level students will require more time and support services than higher level students to become college or career read.

    • The high school equalivancy needs to be an adult education target.

    • NYCCAL WIOA Response

      The New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL http://www.nyccaliteracy.org) appreciates the bipartisan recognition by Congress and the White House of the importance of adult literacy as seen in the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The reauthorization and reorganization of this act is an essential step in ensuring that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to attain a high school equivalency diploma, learn English, and achieve their goals for civic engagement, parental involvement, post-secondary education and training, and employment.

      As WIOA guidelines are developed and refined at the federal and state level over the coming months, NYCCAL would like to make the following observations:

      Resources for Adult Education:

      1. Any discussion about adult education must recognize that programs remain chronically underfunded and overburdened. In New York City, it is estimated that only 5% of residents in need of adult education services have access to an appropriate classroom, resulting in wait lists and thousands of individuals left without the skills needed to enter college, the workforce, or to achieve their civic and family engagement goals.

      2. With only level or reduced funding, adult education providers are increasingly required to comply with intensive data and accountability standards involving persistence tracking, assessment, professional and curricula development, along with alumni post-secondary, training and employment outcomes tracking. These efforts require adequate funding for professionalized and full-time staff with access to sustained, in-service training opportunities.

      Performance Indicators:

      1. The most reliable measures of a quality adult education program are its student completion and persistence rates, indicating student satisfaction, and its educational proficiency level gains, indicating increased skill levels achieved in language or math through quality instruction. Provisions should be made to recognize quality programs within the states that consistently exceed these targets

      2. It should be recognized that in the current National Reporting System (NRS), a skills gap often exists between the highest levels of adult education proficiency permitted to enroll and the actual skill levels needed to succeed in post-secondary education, training programs, or the 21st century workforce. NYCCAL supports the expansion of adult education bridge and integrated I-BEST programs that enable students even at or above NRS 7 to succeed in the next steps of their education or training.

      3. Performance measures should respect the diversity of student goals in adult education programs, which may include parents getting more involved in their children’s education, elder immigrants wanting to learn English to communicate with their neighbors, and incumbent workers seeking a high school equivalency diploma in order to retain their current jobs.

      Connecting Adult Learners to the Workforce System:

      1. In order for WIOA to succeed and for adult education students to achieve their employment-related goals, incentives and targets should be made for the Workforce One Stops system to enhance its orientation, job readiness, and job placement services for unemployed or under-employed clients at the lower levels of NRS proficiency who are often excluded from such opportunities.

      2. Incentives and targets should be made for the Workforce One Stops system to connect English language learners and adult basic education clients with local employers who are willing to hire them at family-sustaining wages.

      3. In order to facilitate joint referrals and optimal services to clients, adult education providers from a variety of sectors (public libraries, non-profit agencies, community colleges, et al) should be active members of local and state workforce investment boards.

      Implementing Adult Education Content Standards:

      1. In order to implement appropriate college and career readiness standards into adult education classrooms, ESOL and adult basic education instructors must be provided with sustained professional development opportunities and with quality instructional resources.

      2. Recognition must be made of the challenges facing providers with part-time instructional staff where the time and budget allocations to implement sustained professional development may be lacking in current systems.

      Integrating Adult Education with Training/ Workforce Preparation:

      1. For students with employment-related goals, curricula that integrate sector-based workforce themes or certifications with ESOL or basic skills materials can represent an essential opportunity for adult education students to access and explore career pathways. Efforts should be made to ensure that students at lower levels of proficiency can also access these programs.

      2. Funding levels for integrated, I-BEST-type programs should reflect the need for team-teaching models where both basic skills and vocational instructors are present in the same classroom.

      ———
      The New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL) is comprised of adult literacy professionals and allies from community -based organizations, City University of New York campuses, public libraries and advocacy organizations across New York City.

      NYCCAL advocates for an adult literacy system that provides quality, comprehensive and accessible educational services to the over 3.9 million adults in the city who need them. NYCCAL believes that being able to read and write, learn English, obtain a high school equivalency diploma, and enter training and post-secondary education are the rights of every New Yorker, and the cornerstone to an equitable and just society.

  7. Performance measures for “measurable skills gains” should include measures for low-level learners who are not yet able to focus on high school equivalency or career and college readiness.

    The impact of education on limited English proficient adults and their communities is far-reaching. These students need to be able to speak and read English in order to get jobs, but they need it for many other reasons as well. They need to help their children with homework, speak to their teachers, go to the doctor, understand their medications, use public transportation, learn to drive, go shopping, read warning signs and labels, communicate with landlords, find housing, participate in their communities, navigate social services, vote, know and obey the law, and do many other things that can only be done with English and literacy skills. In short, they need these skills to ensure basic health, safety and quality of life.

    Measuring only test scores or employment status places the emphasis on only these two outcomes, and misses many of the other equally important results. They are difficult to measure, but essential when considering the impact of adult education for limited English speakers.

    I work with adults of all ages. Many have never attended a day of school in their lives. They have never learned to read or write in any language. Some cannot write their own names. These learners need education to better their own quality of life, and the quality of their larger communities. They need to be able to function in this society, and they need to be able to help their children succeed. It is in everyone’s best interest to help them learn, but placing too much emphasis on achieving goals that they are not yet ready for risks leaving them behind. The needs of these very lowest level learners must be represented as we develop new activities related to workforce training and preparation, and the impact of their education must be recognized to extend far beyond the great value produced by gaining employment, to include the incredible value of gaining healthier and more productive parents, grandparents, neighbors and citizens.

  8. Any effort to weaken educational requirements for professional rehabilitation counselors is misguided. Rehabilitation counseling requires extensive training and graduate education if it is to be done correctly. In order to achieve success in counseling and placement into “real” jobs it is imperative that we the highest possible qualified counselors working with people who have disabilities. My thirty four years’s experience taught me many things and at the top of the list is “you get what you pay for.” Experts are needed to do the job right. Don’t make people with disabilities second class citizens.

  9. CPSD is writing to provide comments to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) as you begin the process of implementing the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that were made by Title IV of the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA). Our comments intend to support the young adults with disabilities whom we know struggle to receive appropriate transition services under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and whose quality of life and employment may be directly impacted by WIOA as they transition out of high school into adulthood.

    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?

    In terms of the performance measures, under section 116, it appears the intent is to replace the current 7 Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services program performance measures, with the 6 common measures. In developing regulations and guidance, the following should be considerations:
    a) Clarifying the status of the current 7 VR performance measures.
    b) Allowing for the Secretary of Education to develop additional performance measures specific to the VR program.
    c) Include in additional measures the “significant disability rate” that is part of the current VR performance measures. This measure is critical to avoid “creaming” and ensuring those with the most significant disabilities are being served via the VR program.
    d) Include in additional measures the percent of individuals who are in competitive integrated employment as defined under WIOA.
    e) Guidance that clearly states that development of performance measures for the VR program must not conflict with the presumption of eligibility for VR services in WIOA, or serve as a deterrent for serving individuals with the most significant disabilities.
    f) The effectiveness in serving employers must include indicators that factor in employer hiring of people with disabilities, potentially tying this in with assisting employers with compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
    g) It is not clear whether the “Primary Indicators for Eligible Youth” apply to the public VR program. This needs to be clarified.

    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?

    There are a number of areas that OSERS should consider in terms of pre-employment transition services:
    a) The term “pre-employment” is in itself potentially of concern, as the focus of transition should be on individuals gaining work experience in the general workforce in typical after-school and summer jobs, ideally starting at age 16. When these services are characterized as “pre-employment”, this could be interpreted as focusing on activities primarily preparing individuals for employment in the future. Guidance and regulations should clearly emphasize the primary objective of individuals gaining paid work experience in the general workforce while in school.
    b) “Work-based learning experiences” needs to be very clearly defined with an emphasis on settings that are fully integrated within the community, typical of employment settings for students without disabilities, and aligning with the definition of “competitive integrated employment”. Guidance should also state: a) Work-based learning experiences should be based on an individual’s interests and preference; b) Use of in-school work experiences, particularly those that emphasize stereotypical roles (e.g., cleaning cafeteria tables), should be limited. c) Use of segregated facilities (e.g., sheltered workshops) for work-based learning experiences is absolutely not permitted.
    c) “Workplace readiness training” needs to be very clearly defined in terms of permitted activities. Given the research that clearly shows that individuals with significant disabilities (like most individuals) best learn through actual on-the-job experience, there is concern that this “workplace readiness training” will result in activities that are of limited benefit, and result in “readiness criteria” that students must comply with before becoming employed, which is at odds with the situational nature of job readiness in general. As such, “workplace readiness training” should emphasize experiential activities, and avoid “readiness training” as a gateway to employment. Finally, guidance and regulations should absolutely prohibit use of segregated facilities (e.g., sheltered workshops) for “workplace readiness training.”
    d) Performance measurement for “pre-employment transition services” will be critical. Such measurements should include the percentage of students with disabilities receiving these services, demographic information regarding type of disability, etc., actual paid working experience resulting from these services, whether students enter/maintain employment after leaving school, and post-secondary education experience and outcomes.
    e) WIOA is silent on the issue of what entity will fund “pre-employment transition services” and what entity will provide these services (public VR or the LEA). This is a major concern, as extensive time and resources could end up being utilized in making these determinations at the local level, likely resulting in inconsistent or non-implementation. It is critical that regulations and guidance clarify this issue, with simply expecting/requiring public VR and LEAs to develop an agreement at the local level as insufficient. Guidance and regulations should specify the requirements for a clear agreement between each state’s department of education and the state’s public VR system regarding the specifics of the role of VR and schools in provision of transition services. Clear responsibilities for payment and delivery of service between VR and LEAs must be defined.
    f) Related to the previous item, guidance and regulations must clarify in general that individuals are eligible for VR services prior to leaving school, and specify the types of services that VR may pay for while an individual is still enrolled in school. Too often there is still a belief that individuals are not eligible for VR services until they leave school. The inconsistency and lack of capacity of school systems to do effective job placement is a major issue, and stronger roles and partnerships with VR and schools are critical in addressing this.
    g) The language on transition places a good deal of emphasis specifically on meeting the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Within the implementing regulations and guidance, similar specific emphasis should also be placed on meeting the needs of young people with mental health and emotional disabilities, as well as significant learning disabilities.
    h) Implementing regulations and guidance should emphasize the importance of coordination with Youth Services authorized under Subtitle B, Chapter 2 of WIOA, to ensure leveraging of services and expertise. Youth with disabilities are highly eligible for such services and coordination with public VR in supporting young people in using these services would be of major mutual benefit.
    i) Many states are already spending 15% of their VR funds on transition age youth. Implementing regulations and guidance should emphasize the changed role and expectations of VR in terms of transition, beyond simply dedicating at least 15% of their budget to transition.

    3. 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?

    The emphasis in the Rehabilitation Act is actually on in-demand fields as defined in WIOA, not high-demand. That is a distinction that is important to recognize. Current regulations define employment outcome as follows: “Employment outcome means, with respect to an individual, entering or retaining full-time or, if appropriate, part-time competitive employment, as defined in Sec.361.5(b)(11), in the integrated labor market, supported employment, or any other type of employment in an integrated setting, including self-employment, telecommuting, or business ownership, that is consistent with an individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.” The core of this definition, particularly the emphasis on integration should remain and be expanded on, and any attempts to change this definition to allow for non-integrated settings as was permitted prior to 2001, should be avoided at all costs. Changes in the definition of employment outcome need to integrate the definition of “competitive integrated employment”, particular the features of integrated setting within that definition as well as wages/benefits. However, in creating this language, there must be clear guidance that the emphasis on competitive integrated employment in in-demand fields does not preclude the obligation of public VR to serve individuals with the most significant disabilities, and that is the job of public VR to develop strategies that will enable individuals with the most significant disabilities to become successfully employed in competitive integrated employment within in-demand fields.

    CPSD urges OSERS to provide guidance to states that will ensure the following:

    • Regulations are issued for highly qualified job developers/ transition specialists and customized professional development [services] and service providers.

    • For all students eligible for IDEA transition services — require that the state designed college and career ready standards apply fully to students with disabilities and intentionally target students with disabilities and include the following key components of high school services:
    o Supports for education in the least restrictive environment with peers without disabilities
    o Universal design for learning
    o On the job training (array of field-based work experience in real jobs)
    o Summer focused planning early in the second semester to ensure summer employment
    o Intentional sequencing of content instruction toward grade level academics and the other knowledge and skills that lead to the attainment of integrated paid employment and/or participation in college
    o The same job/career support and job fairs provided to for peers without disabilities, including access to informed guidance counselors
    o The same job/career information for families provided for peers without disabilities.

    • For students 18 and older (age for exiting IDEA varies by state) ensure that:
    o Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for that age group equals dual enrollment in college and/or integrated paid employment, with transportation
    o Require descriptions for LRE as it pertains to early childhood, K-12 and transition/postsecondary education.

    While CPSD understands the vision, leadership and initiative undertaken to update WIOA, our ongoing concern for the youth and young adults with disabilities who by virtue of the complexity and severity of their disability may be challenging to serve under WIOA, is that many of them may still end up in subminimum wage jobs in the sheltered work settings this practice creates. CPSD believes that just as students with disabilities must have an opportunity equal to that of their peers without disabilities to become college or career-ready; once employed, all workers – including those with disabilities – must be paid fair wages for fair labor. We understand that subminimum wage is permitted under 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and will continue our work through the appropriate avenues for policy change.

    CPSD especially hopes OSERS will seek to distinctly support and complement the work underway at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to aggressively pursue discrimination claims related to failure to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. We are encouraged by the recent work of the DOJ, who is initiating investigations and/or litigation in more than 20 states to assert the rights under Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (2006), as interpreted by Olmstead v. L.C. by Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999), to ensure that services, programs, and activities provided by public entities, including States, be delivered in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of persons with disabilities. Olmstead is particularly relevant to transition-age youth with significant disabilities who are preparing to exit special education settings and access adult services and participate more fully in the community.

    Recently, in June, 2013, DOJ sued the State of Rhode Island and City of Providence (including the Providence Public School Department), asserting that the use of segregated sheltered workshops violates the ADA. The Complaint alleged that the defendants discriminated against individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“I/DD”) by unnecessarily segregating them or by placing them at risk of segregation in violation of Title II of the ADA. Specifically, they had “placed approximately 85 public school students with I/DD from the Providence Public School Department at risk of unnecessary segregation by placing them in a sheltered workshop and segregated day program. United States of America v. State of Rhode Island, et al., Compl. at p.1. On January 6, 2014, DOJ issued a letter finding that Rhode Island’s system of providing vocational, employment and day services to individuals with I/DD violated Title II. The arguments in the Complaint and the conclusions in the findings letter prove powerful tools in obtaining appropriate transition services for individuals with disabilities. Please help us reinforce that every federal law should work together to help every individual with a disability, regardless of perceived severity, to achieve an independent, community-centered and quality life.

    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? 

    The challenge of this provision is ensuring that these employer services are having an impact. The concern is that the emphasis will be on generic “disability awareness” with limited or no impact, rather than a more sophisticated approaches that result in true businesses partnerships, with mutual leveraging of VR and business strengths and needs. It is highly recommended that within implementing regulations and guidance that the language within Section 109 be expanded to specify the types of employer services that can be provided that will be impactful. These employer services should also be connected with the requirements of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The emphasis with employer services, should be focusing on in-demand fields and occupations, and ensuring outreach to the full range of businesses that are fully reflective of the local labor market. There also should be clear measurement in terms of impact of these employer services, in terms of connecting the services provided to specific employers with employment outcomes for individuals served by VR. Regulations and guidance must also emphasize working in partnership with state and local workforce development system, to ensure a coordinated integrated approach in the delivery of employer services, leveraging of the mutual employer connections (including engaging private sector members of state and local workforce boards). Finally, regulations and guidance on Section 109 should specifically note that employer services should include working with public sector employers at the federal, state, and local level, and not just the private sector.

    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?

    There is going to be a need for a clear definition of “most significant disabilities,” and it is recommended that the current definition of “individual with a significant disability” be used as a starting point (29 USCS 705(21)A [Title 29. Labor; Chapter 16. Vocational Rehabilitation and Other Rehabilitation Services; General Provisions]). A concern regarding this provision is that the allowance for up to 4 years of extended services for youth with the most significant disabilities could result in a major reduction in the number of individuals being served through the supported employment (SE) state grants (i.e., fewer individuals getting a much higher level of service). In the implementing regulations and guidance, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that the SE state funds are to be used for extended employment only in cases where other funding services are not available. The guidance should specifically note other potential sources of funding for extended services, including but not limited to Medicaid, Social Security Work Incentives, etc. Coordination with entities administering other funding sources for extended services should be emphasized for reference back to the cooperative agreements required in the state plan. Implementing regulations should also provide a clear definition for extended services, with an emphasis on services that maximize integration and inclusion in the workplace, and use of natural supports supplemented only as necessary with paid supports. There is concern that with the emphasis on youth with the most significant disabilities, that older adults will have limited access to supported employment services. Regulations and implementing guidance should therefore re-emphasize that supported employment services for individuals of any age can be funded via Title I VR funds. Lastly, there is a need for clarifying the definition of supported employment in terms of “employment in an integrated work setting in which individuals are working on a short-term basis toward competitive integrated employment”. The specific meaning of what “working on a short-term basis towards competitive integrated employment” needs to be clarified and specified. This includes having implementing regulations state that individuals “working on a short-term basis towards competitive employment” must be paid at least minimum wage.

    6. Additional comments:
    Need for greater emphasis on coordination with state mental health agencies: Under Section 412, regarding State Plans, there is language that states the need for a cooperative agreement regarding individuals eligible for home and community based waivers. An agreement with the state agency with primary responsibility for providing services and supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities is specified. Within the implementing regulations, an agreement with the state mental health agency should also be specified, given the high level of need in terms of employment supports for individuals served by mental health agencies.

    Inclusion of definition of Employment First: OSERS should consider inserting a definition of Employment First in developing regulation or guidance for implementing WIOA. The term “Employment First” means—
    (A) a delivery model of publicly financed supports for individuals with disabilities, including individuals with significant disabilities and individuals with the most significant disabilities, that effectuates on a systemic basis the presumption of competitive integrated employment as the intended employment outcome for such individuals; and
    (B) includes policies, practices, and procedures promulgated through Federal and State governmental entities, including policies, practices, and procedures requiring that public systems have a statutory responsibility to provide services that align their priorities, funding and reimbursement practices, and policies and guidance to promote, encourage, incentivize, and prioritize services and supports that lead to competitive integrated employment outcomes;
    Prohibit use of facility-based services for assessments: 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 in terms of employment preferences and skills, as well as for determining eligibility for VR services.
    Section 511 issues: There are numerous issues with Section 511 – Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage that need to be addressed via implementing regulations and guidance. These include the following:
    a. The intent of this provision appears to be that all individuals 24 and younger, before being placed in a sub-minimum wage position, must have gone through the full series of steps outlined under (a)(2)(A) and (B). This needs to be clarified, and while this would be potentially a positive development in terms of limiting the use of sub-minimum wage, the ability of public VR to take on this additional responsibility is of concern. There are also concerns that individuals with more significant disabilities will continue to be shuttled into sub-minimum wage employment as a matter of course after a pro-forma “checklist” approach regarding the requirements of Section 511. The implementing regulations must contain strong language and requirements that ensure this will not be the case, and that there is true integrity in terms of compliance with the requirements of Section 511.
    b. The role of public VR overseeing the processes outlined in Section 511 is unclear, although that appears to be the intent. This needs to be clarified, and if public VR is fully responsible for the administration and processes within Section 511, then consideration must be given to how public VR will have sufficient resources to properly manage the provisions of Section 511.
    c. There is great concern that entities that employ individuals at sub-minimum wage will be allowed to determine whether the steps outlined under (a)(2)(A) and (B) have been complied with, or that such entities will actually provide the required “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.” In no way should this be permitted as this is an inherent conflict of interest, and implementing regulations should ensure this is not allowable.
    d. Section 511 contains a number of provisions that are required during employment at sub-minimum wage to allow for exploration of alternatives. There is concern that such processes will be essentially “pro-forma” without any substance, particularly if they are managed by the provider of sub-minimum wage employment. Within the implementing regulations, the requirements for these processes should be strengthened to ensure they are substantive, and that there is strong documentation and external monitoring of such processes to ensure they are complied fully within the spirit and intent of Section 511.
    e. Section 511 appears to prohibit schools from contracting with entities that pay individuals sub-minimum wage. The inclusion of this language is a positive development. However, it is not clear how this provision will be enforced, and it certainly cannot be the role of public VR to oversee and enforce this provision. The implementing regulations should reinforce this prohibition on schools contracting with entities that pay sub-minimum wage in terms of detailing the requirements under this provision, and clarifying how this provision will be enforced. If it is possible within the parameters of Section 511, it is recommended that this provision be expanded to no longer allow school systems themselves to pay sub-minimum wage (there are currently 270 14(c) certificates held by school districts nationally). While this provision does not prohibit schools from contracting with non-employment facility-based segregated programs (e.g., day habilitation providers), if at all possible, the implementing regulations should expand this provision to prohibit schools from contracting with any segregated facility-based service (employment or non-employment).
    f. implementing regulations for Section 511 should emphasize the requirements of Section 14(c) of the FLSA in terms of an individual’s rights, including regular review of a decision to pay an individual sub-minimum, the rights of an individual to appeal a decision for payment of sub-minimum wage, and that payment of sub-minimum wage for a specific job does not presume that an individual cannot work in another position at above minimum wage.
    g. Implementing regulations should add a requirement that implementation of Section 511 will be monitored by the state’s Protection and Advocacy Organization, to ensure compliance monitoring and enforcement by an outside entity.
    h. The implementing regulations should clearly specify that individuals with disabilities are to have the provisions of Section 511, and their overall rights under Section 14(c) fully and properly explained to them by an entity other than the service provider, and that this information must be provided in a manner that enables the individual and their parent/guardian as appropriate, to fully understand the process and their rights, and to act on the information being provided. The regulations should also specify documentation requirements for explanation of these rights. Suggested language in regards to rights under 14(c) includes the following:
    Procedures will be put in place for ensuring that each individual with a disability served under this title who has achieved employment under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 214(c)), is fully and completely aware of their rights under the laws and regulations governing the special certificate provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, that includes —
    (i) Steps that will be taken to inform them of their rights in addition to posting the “Notice to Workers with Disabilities/Special Minimum Wage Poster”
    (ii) Mechanisms for interactive communication with each individual and their parent or guardian as appropriate, in a way that ensures full comprehension and understanding of their rights, and fully accommodates the individual’s disability;
    (iii) a review of specific rights including, but not limited to:
    i. the Employee’s right to petition under Section 214 (c) (5) to appeal a decision for payment of sub-minimum wage.
    ii. that while a person’s disability may impact a worker’s earnings or productive capacity for one type of work, the same disability may have no impact on his or her ability to perform another kind of work.

    We look forward to working with you as you continue your good work. Please let us know how we can be of assistance.

  10. When I first came to NCVR we had counselors with only BA degrees that had been doing the job for many years and several were close to retirement. When the demand for master level degrees came, these individuals either retired or took lesser jobs with in VR or left all together. I can only say what a pity as after they left we have had a revolving door for counselors with the masters degree being the ticket for entry and exit.

    The services that have been offered since they left have been pitiful and lacking in quality, obviously not from everyone with masters as you cannot generalize. However as the placement member of the team I have found myself providing guidance and counseling to clients who upon being placed were not ready for the employment agreed upon in the plan. My attempts then were to try and help the client save the job because as a job placement person I know the value of having a good work history. Losing jobs is also a mentally crushing blow.

    I am not saying that master level counselors are not good but much of what I have seen in VR lately has been processing of papers and payments with client coming to me having received little guidance on the issues that have kept them from becoming employed in the first place. Many of these new master level counselors don’t want to venture out of the office in the community they work in only wanting to stay in the office.

    I believe that a person with a Bachelor’s Degree can offer equal service as well as persons with a Masters and in fact I have seen it. As I already stated I am doing it now. The vast majority of Teachers have bachelor degrees but they also have levels of certification such as K through 6 or K through 12. Perhaps what is needed are certification levels that include positions from Bachelor’s Degree to Master Degree and then better screening of qualified individuals with in those ranks not just people to fill chairs. Next would be better pay for the work for I have seen great masters level individuals leave us because of the pay and disappointed counselors who formerly held only a Bachelor’s earn a master’s and find the pay raise to be substandard.

    But I have digressed, I am providing guidance and counseling now and have managed to help clients find lasting employment and save jobs for others. One other commenter stated that counselors were not involved in job placement as they should be in order to help offer proper guidance and counseling, this is the key Bachelor’s or Master’s if you don’t know your communities job market then you will not make good and lasting placements or be able to offer quality guidance or counseling.

  11. This comment is specific to the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development identified in H.R. 803, Title IV, Sec. 41(a)(4)(B). This section reflects minimum requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, however there are no requirements listed for the Administrative Staff of the State Agency. As important as it is to have highly qualified staff to provide direct services to individuals with disabilities it is even more critical that the State Agency Administration meet minimum standards regarding training and experience in Vocational Rehabilitation. Unless the State Administrators clearly understand the nature of the individuals they serve and all that is involved in assisting those individuals become successfully employed, the likelihood of the implementation of policies and procedures being designed and implemented which negatively impact the outcome of each individual case is extremely high. Bureaucratic policies that impact the counselor’s ability to develop a relationship and appropriate plan with the individuals they serve is not only harmful to the individual but negatively impacts that State Agency’s ability to successfully achieve the standards and indicators contained in the Act itself.

  12. The Council on Rehabilitation Education has set the accreditation and certification standards for Rehabilitation Counselors, and require a Master’s level degree to be eligible for certification. One’s degree level, along with certification distinguishes between those who are competent and effective counselors, and those who are not. This is our professional identity. As counselors who have a specialized skill set to work with the population of individuals with disabilities, it is an insult to our field and to the many years of training, knowledge and expertise to suggest counselors need only a Bachelor’s degree.

    To remove educational requirements and lower standards of certification most certainly will impact the quality of services being delivered to persons with disabilities. Simply ask yourself, Would you seek services from a doctor who only had a four year degree, and was not licensed? Would you seek services from a lawyer who only had a four year degree, and had not taken the bar? What about seeking marriage counseling from someone who only had a four year degree, and did not have a license? Any reasonable person wanting effective services would simply say, no! Why then are persons with disabilities any different?

    Why is this conversation even being considered? By having this conversation implies that persons with disabilities do not deserve effective services by qualified professionals. What message are we giving society and the disability community by lowering the standards of professionals who serve them? In fact, the message we should be sending is to increase the standards for professionals working in the field as Rehabilitation Counselors.

    As a Rehabilitation Educator, it is disheartening to work so hard to prepare students to become effective counselors only to leave our program and not be required to maintain their certification by State Vocational Rehabilitation programs. The Federal government has an obligation to protect citizens who have disabilities by mandating states to provide the highest quality of services available. The highest quality of services available would require state’s to hire Rehabilitation Counselors who possess a Master’s Degree from an accredited program, and who possess the necessary credentials to serve this population. Additionally, Rehabilitation Counselors who have the necessary credentials should be compensated for the level of expertise they bring to the agency.

    The outcry from the disability community and professionals who serve them is clear, we want standards, we want effective services!!! In the words of the great Justin Dart, who fought so hard for the rights of others, “Now we join to protect what aggressors would wreck and we will fight on and on. Shoulder to shoulder we worked together; together we shoulder on: Life! Empowerment! Solidarity! Love! Lead on! Lead on! Lead on!”

  13. Yes, I think VR Counselors in particular should have formal training for such, practical hours in counseling, and awareness and work experience with a vast array of people with various disabilities.

  14. Having worked in this field for over 20 years I have a few concerns/fears about what could happen to the more severely disabled who report a desire to work. Individuals who report they want to work may not be given a fair opportunity to pursue their vocational desires. I have found that VR and the rehabilitation facilities have tended to take the easy path and quickly determine the individual cannot work competitively. They are not given opportunities to pursue even an assessment to determine the feasibility of competitive employment. I fear the schools will ask VR to certify the individuals for the sheltered workshops before they are allowed to pursue supported employment opportunities. So basically, I fear the laws can be circumvented, and the agencies who are supposed to help the individual move into employment will take the easy path and just document the individual cannot work competitively. I work with a great deal of most severely disabled who want to work, but because it would take a great deal of effort to find them competitive employment they are not given the opportunity.

  15. In general we are hopeful that the WIOA will have a positive, long-term impact on provision of VR services.

    A primary concern is in the facilitation of the common performance measures and other new data requirements. Any changes in data collection will require considerable costs and resources. A staggered schedule of changes should be taken into consideration so that client-centered resources will not have to be redirected.

    Given the many new requirements and measures in WIOA, it is unclear whether cost tracking will require substantial changes. Will there be common efficiency measures as well as performance measures?

    The process by which the VR component of the unified state plan is developed will also be important. As the unified state plan will have common performance measures and will seek to streamline the workforce partnership system, it is critical that the VR program continue to be able to utilize comprehensive needs assessments and data that take into full consideration the specialized needs of people with disabilities in achieving successful employment outcomes, and for those findings to be integrated into the unified state plan’s expectations.

    As we look at the sharing of information among partners as specified in the WIOA’s instructions for elements that should be described in local workforce board plans, VR client confidentiality standards would be a key consideration and concern, as would any expectations of service provision by VR personnel in the centers that is beyond the scope of allowable use of VR basic support funding.

    We also noted the change in procedures that give Independent Hearing Officers the authority to require specific corrective action regarding the applicant or eligible individual’s VR services. This would seem to preclude the VR agency’s input toward an appropriate corrective action and is very concerning.

    And, we believe regulations should be established that maintain the highest level of qualifications for vocational rehabilitation counselors, consistent with standards that require skill sets to include: (a) knowledge of the medical and psychological aspects of disability, (b) knowledge and expertise in vocational assessment, (c) knowledge of the local labor market and, d) competence in vocational counseling and guidance leading to an individualized plan that prepares and assists the individual to be successfully employed in a competitive, integrated setting.

  16. As a CRC and Master’s level rehabilitation counselor with 44 years of service, I am proud to see the many responses by my colleagues all over the country who still practice and are proud of the services and dignity that they provide to the disabled in our country. As we know, sometimes politicians are pressured by various groups to change standards of professions to make it easier for unqualified people to practice or to make it more difficult for the qualified professionals to practice. The bottom line usually involves money, instead of doing the right thing to serve people. Hopefully, the multiple responses will encourage the “regulators” to maintain the established standards and respect for our profession.

  17. Paraquad appreciates the opportunity to submit comments to OSERS and OCTAE. Paraquad has the following comments regarding the questions posed by these agencies.
    Paraquad is pleased to see the addition of “integrated” to the definition of competitive employment. As a center for independent living, Paraquad believes that services should be provided in the most integrated setting possible. However, we do share some of the same concerns as others in that we fear some service providers may prevent or make difficult access to these services for those with the most significant disabilities because of their assumption that these individuals will not be able to achieve this goal of competitive integrated employment. Paraquad would like to see specific regulations ensuring that this practice does not occur.
    Paraquad believes that transition services should begin before the age of 14 years old. Currently, VR does not start working with students until they are in their last year of high school. VR should start working with students early to assist them with planning their future. In our experience, some student may need extra time to process and think about the next steps before graduation, Most times students with disabilities do not realize their possibilities or what services are available to them.
    In addition, funding needs to be provided to offer job readiness & career exploration services. We need time to walk the students through different phases of transition.
    For example:
    Phase 1 – Career Exploration ages !4-16
    Phase 2 – Job readiness
    Phase 3 – Education opportunities
    Phase 4 – Independent Living
    Paraquad believes that requiring more services be provided to employers could benefit th4 individual with a disability. Individuals with disabilities and employers often seek guidance from Paraquad on the rights of persons with disabilities as they relate to employment. We believe that requiring this type of collaboration between employers, centers for independent living and other entities providing these employment services would benefit everyone and result in more inclusive and diverse employment opportunities.
    Paraquad is pleased with the addition of competitive integrated employment and customized employment to the definition of supported employment. Specifically, implementing regulations requiring exploration of customized employment services with youth with most significant disabilities may help successfully transition these youth to competitive integrated employment. Keeping this in mind, youth must be made aware that these customized employment services are an option.
    When considering indicators to use within adult education programs, it is important to note to “low-skilled” and limited English proficient individuals need extremely concrete indicators and goals. They also need to be very measurable and small. Indicators such as “learning this skill will help me get a job” may not be a good idea. Sme individuals may not be able to understand how learning math skills can assist with getting a job as a janitor.
    Finally, Paraquad believe it is important to remember when considering additional activities for AEFLA that too much information and too many activities can easily backfire in these types of situations. Guidelines on how much instruction at a time is given/required and how much activity time is given/required should be considered.

    Thank you,
    Paraquad Inc.

  18. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the implementation of key new elements of the recently authorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

    Here are the recommendations developed by the APSE Public Policy Team:
    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?
    In terms of the performance measures, under section 116, it appears the intent is to replace the current 7 Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services program performance measures, with the 6 common measures. In developing regulations and guidance, the following should be considerations:
    a) Clarifying the status of the current 7 VR performance measures.
    b) Allowing for the Secretary of Education to develop additional performance measures specific to the VR program.
    c) Include in additional measures the “significant disability rate” that is part of the current VR performance measures. This measure is critical to avoid “creaming” and ensuring those with the most significant disabilities are being served via the VR program.
    d) Include in additional measures the percent of individuals who are in competitive integrated employment as defined under WIOA.
    e) Guidance that clearly states that development of performance measures for the VR program must not conflict with the presumption of eligibility for VR services in WIOA, or serve as a deterrent for serving individuals with the most significant disabilities.
    f) The effectiveness in serving employers must include indicators that factor in employer hiring of people with disabilities, potentially tying this in with assisting employers with compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
    g) It is not clear whether the “Primary Indicators for Eligible Youth” apply to the public VR program. This needs to be clarified.

    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?
    There are a number of areas that OSERS should consider in terms of pre-employment transition services:
    a) The term “pre-employment” is in itself potentially of concern, as the focus of transition should be on individuals gaining work experience in the general workforce in typical after-school and summer jobs, ideally starting at age 16. When these services are characterized as “pre-employment”, this could be interpreted as focusing on activities primarily preparing individuals for employment in the future. Guidance and regulations should clearly emphasize the primary objective of individuals gaining paid work experience in the general workforce while in school.
    b) “Work-based learning experiences” needs to be very clearly defined with an emphasis on settings that are fully integrated within the community, typical of employment settings for students without disabilities, and aligning with the definition of “competitive integrated employment”. Guidance should also state: a) Work-based learning experiences should be based on an individual’s interests and preference; b) Use of in-school work experiences, particularly those that emphasize stereotypical roles (e.g., cleaning cafeteria tables), should be limited. c) Use of segregated facilities (e.g., sheltered workshops) for work-based learning experiences is absolutely not permitted.
    c) “Workplace readiness training” needs to be very clearly defined in terms of permitted activities. Given the research that clearly shows that individuals with significant disabilities (like most individuals) best learn through actual on-the-job experience, there is concern that this “workplace readiness training” will result in activities that are of limited benefit, and result in “readiness criteria” that students must comply with before becoming employed, which is at odds with the situational nature of job readiness in general. As such, “workplace readiness training” should emphasize experiential activities, and avoid “readiness training” as a gateway to employment. Finally, guidance and regulations should absolutely prohibit use of segregated facilities (e.g., sheltered workshops) for “workplace readiness training”.
    d) Performance measurement for “pre-employment transition services” will be critical. Such measurements should include the percentage of students with disabilities receiving these services, demographic information regarding type of disability, etc., actual paid working experience resulting from these services, whether students enter/maintain employment after leaving school, and post-secondary education experience and outcomes.
    e) WIOA is silent on the issue of what entity will fund “pre-employment transition services” and what entity will provide these services (public VR or the LEA). This is a major concern, as extensive time and resources could end up being utilized in making these determinations at the local level, likely resulting in inconsistent or non-implementation. It is critical that regulations and guidance clarify this issue, with simply expecting/requiring public VR and LEAs to develop an agreement at the local level as insufficient. Guidance and regulations should specify the requirements for a clear agreement between each state’s department of education and the state’s public VR system regarding the specifics of the role of VR and schools in provision of transition services. Clear responsibilities for payment and delivery of service between VR and LEAs must be defined.
    f) Related to the previous item, guidance and regulations must clarify in general that individuals are eligible for VR services prior to leaving school, and specify the types of services that VR may pay for while an individual is still enrolled in school. Too often there is still a belief that individuals are not eligible for VR services until they leave school. The inconsistency and lack of capacity of school systems to do effective job placement is a major issue, and stronger roles and partnerships with VR and schools are critical in addressing this.
    g) The language on transition places a good deal of emphasis specifically on meeting the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Within the implementing regulations and guidance, similar specific emphasis should also be placed on meeting the needs of young people with mental health and emotional disabilities, as well as significant learning disabilities.
    h) Implementing regulations and guidance should emphasize the importance of coordination with Youth Services authorized under Subtitle B, Chapter 2 of WIOA, to ensure leveraging of services and expertise. Youth with disabilities are highly eligible for such services and coordination with public VR in supporting young people in using these services would be of major mutual benefit.
    i) Many states are already spending 15% of their VR funds on transition age youth. Implementing regulations and guidance should emphasize the changed role and expectations of VR in terms of transition, beyond simply dedicating at least 15% of their budget to transition.

    3. 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? The emphasis in the Rehabilitation Act is actually on in-demand fields as defined in WIOA, not high-demand. That is a distinction that is important to recognize. Current regulations define employment outcome as follows: “Employment outcome means, with respect to an individual, entering or retaining full-time or, if appropriate, part-time competitive employment, as defined in Sec.361.5(b)(11), in the integrated labor market, supported employment, or any other type of employment in an integrated setting, including self-employment, telecommuting, or business ownership, that is consistent with an individual’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.” The core of this definition, particularly the emphasis on integration should remain and be expanded on, and any attempts to change this definition to allow for non-integrated settings as was permitted prior to 2001, should be avoided at all costs. Changes in the definition of employment outcome need to integrate the definition of “competitive integrated employment”, particular the features of integrated setting within that definition as well as wages/benefits. However, in creating this language, there must be clear guidance that the emphasis on competitive integrated employment in in-demand fields does not preclude the obligation of public VR to serve individuals with the most significant disabilities, and that is the job of public VR to develop strategies that will enable individuals with the most significant disabilities to become successfully employed in competitive integrated employment within in-demand fields.

    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? 
The challenge of this provision is ensuring that these employer services are having an impact. The concern is that the emphasis will be on generic “disability awareness” with limited or no impact, rather than a more sophisticated approaches that result in true businesses partnerships, with mutual leveraging of VR and business strengths and needs. It is highly recommended that within implementing regulations and guidance that the language within Section 109 be expanded to specify the types of employer services that can be provided that will be impactful. These employer services should also be connected with the requirements of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The emphasis with employer services, should be focusing on in-demand fields and occupations, and ensuring outreach to the full range of businesses that are fully reflective of the local labor market. There also should be clear measurement in terms of impact of these employer services, in terms of connecting the services provided to specific employers with employment outcomes for individuals served by VR. Regulations and guidance must also emphasize working in partnership with state and local workforce development system, to ensure a coordinated integrated approach in the delivery of employer services, leveraging of the mutual employer connections (including engaging private sector members of state and local workforce boards). Finally, regulations and guidance on Section 109 should specifically note that employer services should include working with public sector employers at the federal, state, and local level, and not just the private sector.

    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? There is going to be a need for a clear definition of “most significant disabilities”, and it is recommended that the current definition of “individual with a significant disability” be used as a starting point (29 USCS 705(21)A [Title 29. Labor; Chapter 16. Vocational Rehabilitation and Other Rehabilitation Services; General Provisions]). A concern regarding this provision is that the allowance for up to 4 years of extended services for youth with the most significant disabilities could result in a major reduction in the number of individuals being served through the supported employment (SE) state grants (i.e., fewer individuals getting a much higher level of service). In the implementing regulations and guidance, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that the SE state funds are to be used for extended employment only in cases where other funding services are not available. The guidance should specifically note other potential sources of funding for extended services, including but not limited to Medicaid, Social Security Work Incentives, etc. Coordination with entities administering other funding sources for extended services should be emphasized for reference back to the cooperative agreements required in the state plan. Implementing regulations should also provide a clear definition for extended services, with an emphasis on services that maximize integration and inclusion in the workplace, and use of natural supports supplemented only as necessary with paid supports. There is concern that with the emphasis on youth with the most significant disabilities, that older adults will have limited access to supported employment services. Regulations and implementing guidance should therefore re-emphasize that supported employment services for individuals of any age can be funded via Title I VR funds. Lastly, there is a need for clarifying the definition of supported employment in terms of “employment in an integrated work setting in which individuals are working on a short-term basis toward competitive integrated employment”. The specific meaning of what “working on a short-term basis towards competitive integrated employment” needs to be clarified and specified. This includes having implementing regulations state that individuals “working on a short-term basis towards competitive employment” must be paid at least minimum wage.

    6. Additional comments:
    Need for greater emphasis on coordination with state mental health agencies: Under Section 412, regarding State Plans, there is language that states the need for a cooperative agreement regarding individuals eligible for home and community based waivers. An agreement with the state agency with primary responsibility for providing services and supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities is specified. Within the implementing regulations, an agreement with the state mental health agency should also be specified, given the high level of need in terms of employment supports for individuals served by mental health agencies.

    Inclusion of definition of Employment First: OSERS should consider inserting a definition of Employment First in developing regulation or guidance for implementing WIOA. The term “Employment First” means—
    (A) a delivery model of publicly financed supports for individuals with disabilities, including individuals with significant disabilities and individuals with the most significant disabilities, that effectuates on a systemic basis the presumption of competitive integrated employment as the intended employment outcome for such individuals; and
    (B) includes policies, practices, and procedures promulgated through Federal and State governmental entities, including policies, practices, and procedures requiring that public systems have a statutory responsibility to provide services that align their priorities, funding and reimbursement practices, and policies and guidance to promote, encourage, incentivize, and prioritize services and supports that lead to competitive integrated employment outcomes;
    Prohibit use of facility-based services for assessments: 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 in terms of employment preferences and skills, as well as for determining eligibility for VR services.
    Section 511 issues: There are numerous issues with Section 511 – Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage that need to be addressed via implementing regulations and guidance. These include the following:
    a) The intent of this provision appears to be that all individuals 24 and younger, before being placed in a sub-minimum wage position, must have gone through the full series of steps outlined under (a)(2)(A) and (B). This needs to be clarified, and while this would be potentially a positive development in terms of limiting the use of sub-minimum wage, the ability of public VR to take on this additional responsibility is of concern. There are also concerns that individuals with more significant disabilities will continue to be shuttled into sub-minimum wage employment as a matter of course after a pro-forma “checklist” approach regarding the requirements of Section 511. The implementing regulations must contain strong language and requirements that ensures this will not be the case, and that there is true integrity in terms of compliance with the requirements of Section 511.
    b) The role of public VR overseeing the processes outlined in Section 511 is unclear, although that appears to be the intent. This needs to be clarified, and if public VR is fully responsible for the administration and processes within Section 511, then consideration must be given to how public VR will have sufficient resources to properly manage the provisions of Section 511.
    c) There is great concern that entities that employ individuals at sub-minimum wage will be allowed to determine whether the steps outlined under (a)(2)(A) and (B) have been complied with, or that such entities will actually provide the required “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.” In no way should this be permitted as this is an inherent conflict of interest, and implementing regulations should ensure this is not allowable.
    c) Section 511 contains a number of provisions that are required during employment at sub-minimum wage to allow for exploration of alternatives. There is concern that such processes will be essentially “pro-forma” without any substance, particularly if they are managed by the provider of sub-minimum wage employment. Within the implementing regulations, the requirements for these processes should be strengthened to ensure they are substantive, and that there is strong documentation and external monitoring of such processes to ensure they are complied fully within the spirit and intent of Section 511.
    d) Section 511 appears to prohibit schools from contracting with entities that pay individuals sub-minimum wage. The inclusion of this language is a positive development. However, it is not clear how this provision will be enforced, and it certainly cannot be the role of public VR to oversee and enforce this provision. The implementing regulations should reinforce this prohibition on schools contracting with entities that pay sub-minimum wage in terms of detailing the requirements under this provision, and clarifying how this provision will be enforced. If it is possible within the parameters of Section 511, it is recommended that this provision be expanded to no longer allow school systems themselves to pay sub-minimum wage (there are currently 270 14(c) certificates held by school districts nationally). While this provision does not prohibit schools from contracting with non-employment facility-based segregated programs (e.g., day habilitation providers), if at all possible, the implementing regulations should expand this provision to prohibit schools from contracting with any segregated facility-based service (employment or non-employment).
    e) The implementing regulations for Section 511 should emphasize the requirements of Section 14(c) of the FLSA in terms of an individual’s rights, including regular review of a decision to pay an individual sub-minimum, the rights of an individual to appeal a decision for payment of sub-minimum wage, and that payment of sub-minimum wage for a specific job does not presume that an individual cannot work in another position at above minimum wage.
    f) Implementing regulations should add a requirement that implementation of Section 511 will be monitored by the state’s Protection and Advocacy Organization, to ensure compliance monitoring and enforcement by an outside entity.
    g) The implementing regulations should clearly specify that individuals with disabilities are to have the provisions of Section 511, and their overall rights under Section 14(c) fully and properly explained to them by an entity other than the service provider, and that this information must be provided in a manner that enables the individual and their parent/guardian as appropriate, to fully understand the process and their rights, and to act on the information being provided. The regulations should also specify documentation requirements for explanation of these rights. Suggested language in regards to rights under 14(c) includes the following:
    Procedures will be put in place for ensuring that each individual with a disability served under this title who has achieved employment under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 214(c)), is fully and completely aware of their rights under the laws and regulations governing the special certificate provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, that includes —
    (i) Steps that will be taken to inform them of their rights in addition to posting the “Notice to Workers with Disabilities/Special Minimum Wage Poster”
    (ii) Mechanisms for interactive communication with each individual and their parent or guardian as appropriate, in a way that ensures full comprehension and understanding of their rights, and fully accommodates the individual’s disability;
    (iii) a review of specific rights including, but not limited to:
    (I) the Employee’s right to petition under Section 214 (c) (5) to appeal a decision for payment of sub-minimum wage.
    (II) that while a person’s disability may impact a worker’s earnings or productive capacity for one type of work, the same disability may have no impact on his or her ability to perform another kind of work.

    Prepared by the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE), August 29, 2014.

  19. While there are certainly important roles in the VR process to be played by Bachelor-level Rehabilitation professionals and professionals in fields such as business and HR, it does a disservice to individuals with disabilities to dilute the educational and certification requirements of the counselors who are managing their rehabilitation programs. Master’s level programs offer extensive training and education in all aspects of working with people and specifically the unique needs of people with disabilities. Certification mandates continuing education and ensures that professionals in the field are remaining current and adhering to industry standards.

  20. I agree with the comment another person has made. Title II also serves those who are working with their families toward better literacy and would not be counted as successful completion of an educational gain. I would like to see a target that would include anyone who achieves a secondary diploma/certificate after leaving adult education.

    Another issue I disagree with is having the Adult Education applications go through local WIB boards. My local WIB board does not have any Adult Education representation on the board and never has.

    Adult Education in my area serves a large group of low literacy students who are learning English. Title II cannot be held accountable for every target that Title I is held accountable. Title II share clients with Title I but there is a significant number of Title II clients who fall outside of the goals/targets of Title I.

  21. Please consider the years of education and experience required to hone the skills of a professional Rehabilitation Counselor. I have analyzed hundreds of jobs across multiple industries and familiarized myself with physical and mental limitations and job accommodations. The CRC exam requires a broad base of medical, legal and employment information and you need a master degree to sit for the exam. These standards ensure a quality of service. It is critical that the standards are adopted by the WIOA.

  22. As a person with a disability who once received services from a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor, and then went on to become the same thing myself, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of having a well-trained counselor. My counselor was able to use every tool at her disposal to help me choose my career path and then guide me in the steps of accomplishing that goal. The counselors who serve people with disabilities need to be well trained in those disabilities in order to help them succeed.

    Having a healthy, positive self-esteem is hard for a person with a disability to acquire because of all the stigma that is associated with disability. It becomes more apparent in the job search process with employer rejections. When a counselor shows they believe people with disabilities can accomplish their goals, it rubs off. It helps them see they are able to succeed. Sometimes the only thing they need is the encouragement offered through counseling and guidance in order to be able to find the courage to obtain and then maintain employment because they cannot see how they could possibly work with all the barriers they have in their way. Only a certified rehabilitation counselor would know how to help get through those barriers.

  23. Back in the mid to late 80’s, rehabilitation professionals were hired with a related bachelor’s degree or a business degree. Seems like the table is turning again. I would rather focus on the outcome of services rather than whether or not rehab professions have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Our youth need committed professionals and role models.

  24. As a result of WIOA, Adult Education functioning levels will have to be expanded to get students college ready. How will Developmental Education and Adult Education intersect? Will there be guidance on bringing these areas together since their outcomes/standards will get students to the same levels of college readiness? What will that mean to financial aid support for all students?

  25. 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?

    I have serious reservations about the proposed requirement that applications for funding under AEFLA be submitted to local workforce boards for review. Individuals who are well versed in the needs of employers and the local job market are not necessarily qualified to judge the merits of an adult literacy program.

    Additionally, it must not be overlooked that many limited English proficient adult learners are not currently documented and are not, therefore, immediately eligible to enter the workforce.

    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?

    Is critical to remember that AEFLA stands for Adult Education and Family Literacy Act. While the focus on job seekers and career readiness is laudable, we must not overlook the fact that many family literacy program participants are parents (usually women) with small children—and therefore are not available to enter the workforce. I believe that if these parents are to become full partners in their children’s education, the types of comprehensive services provided by family literacy programs must be supported.

  26. In this country, how important are the needs of our fellow Americans with disabilities? If individuals with disabilities are NOT important in our society, then it would make sense to downgrade the requirements of the rehab counselor assisting them. If they ARE important, they deserve the best qualified educated professional rehab counselor assisting them.
    I personally hope our society is looking forward, not backward, in our consideration, treatment and respect of these individuals.

  27. My son was a client of state rehab twice. The first time, he never finished his plan. He worked with “voc counselors” who were not master level trained and did not have CRC certification. He did not receive the counseling and guidance he needed to make good decisions and ended up giving up. A few years later he went back and developed a well thought out plan and got the counseling and guidance he needed to be successful from a master’s level voc counselor with a CRC. I think the standards need to be changed to require all voc counselors to have masters in rehab counseling and CRC CERTIFICATION. To require less, wastes money, resources and lives.

  28. The implementation of decreased skill set required to practice vocational work greatly impacts practicing counselors, as well as clients in an extremely negative manner

    Four different state- based studies have already demonstrated the negative impact of allowing individuals without a master’s degree in rehab counseling to practice in the field. Wisconsin (Szcymanski,1991), Maryland (Szcymanski & Danek, 1992) and New York ((Szcymanski & Parker, 1989) and Alabama (Cook & Bolton, 1992). All studies concluded the following: individuals with a master’s degree in rehabilitation, had a higher successful closure rates with then those who did not possess a master’s degree in rehabilitation, but rather another field of study.

    As a client of VR services, I have first- hand knowledge of the benefit of working with a qualified VRC. Furthermore, the council on rehabilitation education (CORE) has outlined many educational requirements that, an individual with a business degree has no required knowledge of i.e human sexuality, human growth and development and counseling strategies and conflict resolution. These CORE courses in pursuit of the VRC master’s degree not only better prepares the counselor to address issues faced by an individual with a disability, re mediate the severity of those issues and provide long term solutions that both: allow the individual to gain critical problem solving skills and maintain a sense of independence.

    The CORE courses mentioned and practical application of those skills listed above supports the core values of all vocational rehabilitation counselors, none more paramount then treating the whole of the individual.

    To diminish the qualifications needed to practice as a VRC, diminishes the individuals seeking to help , destroys the foundation on which vocational rehabilitation was built and most importantly, turns individuals with a disability into nothing more then “needy people” who should be satisfied with any menial job he or she is “assigned”.

    This is not fair to individuals in need. Those motivated to reach their full potential should be given the opportunity to do so. If the VRC qualifications needed to practice are lost, so too is much of what the disabled community has fought for for so many years, an honest, fair chance at being someone more then just a person with a disability.

  29. Rehabilitation professionals need specialized education and experiences to be effective. Moreover, rehabilitation professionals serving the transition-age population need specific training, that differs from that of serving adults, to meet their unique needs which involves working in collaboration with families, secondary school professionals, and other community members. These competences need to be developed, researched, and taught. Otherwise, we will miss a great opportunity to make a difference through the intentional improvement policies and practices that lead to better transition outcomes and improve the trajectory of people with disabilities in education, employment, inclusion, and community participation.

  30. Individuals seeking vocational reahabilitation services deserve to have confidence that service providers have demonstrated competence and continue to meet appropriate professional standards. Well meaning, untrained individuals can unintentionally do immeasurable amounts of harm. You wouldn’t expect Medicare or Medicaid to pay for a non-medical provider to perform surgery, or an individual with a B.S. in Business to be reimbursed for providing psychotherapy… Demand the same common sense approach to funding of Vocational Rehabilitation Services… Federal funding should be tied to standards that include the appropriate level of professional certification and training. Namely, in this instance, Certified Rehabilitation Counselors. As the family member of a consumer of services, I want to say “close enough” is NOT good enough.. vocational rehabilitation is not horse-shoes or hand-grenades… Consumers deserve the assurance that they will be served by a well trained, competent, certified professional.

    • I am writing to comment as a provider of rehabilitation services to disabled adults, Disabled individuals have the highest unemployment rate. An individual who requires surgery deserves to have a surgeon who specializes in the area impacted by problem causing the need for surgery–a surgeon who is highly skilled and experienced, licensed and board certified. Same with any medical specialty. People with disabilities have the same right to vocational rehabilitation services provided by someone who has a minimum of a Master’s degree and preferably nationally certified as a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC). Vocational rehabilitation counseling is a highly specialized specialty area within the field of counseling. Training and education focus on counseling skills to help individuals cope with their losses and find ways of moving forward in their lives; learning much about a wide variety of medical conditions and their vocational implications. It includes career counseling, vocational testing, knowledge about transferable skills analyses, understand the vocational implications of a wide variety of medical conditions, as well as their knowledge of the world of work, adaptive technology, developing job accommodations, etc. This is not just about placing square pegs in round holes. Individuals with non-related bachelor degrees in business or human resources would not have any of the specialized knowledge or skills required to help individuals with disabilities to seek and sustain work in good paying jobs and professions. They may play a valuable role in working as a job developer and their knowledge of the business community has a valuable role in that context. Thus, I recommend that regulations be clarified to require state plans, as well as for all who provide vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities, establish and maintain standards for vocational rehabilitation counselors that require the national standard of CRC certification. I believe regulations should be established so that the highest level of qualification for both agency and contracted vocational rehabilitation counselors require adherence to high standards of ethical practice and commitment to life-long learning. Finding a job is hard enough for the able-bodied. It is that much harder for those with disabilities and they deserve to have highly qualified service providers to work with.

    • If this is really going to work for adults with significant disabilities (supported employment) , there needs to be specific guidelines set, parameters and people developing those that understand the population and what the needs truly are. They need someone to find employers who do not mind making the necessary accommodations needed and who are truly interested in this population succeeding. This is a group that Vocational Rehab. does not help . I hope this is not just “lets make it sound good” for political reasons , but real thought, action, and benefits for those who need supported employment.

    • Human Service professionals with experince working with individuals with disabilities assisting them with job placement and employment services are capable of providing career counseling and resources for an overall vocational rehabiltiation plan. A person with a B.S. in Business and Human Resources are excellent professionals for the job placement services needed for employment success. Professional certification for a CRC to provide guidance and counseling is an excellent plus when the consumer is in the development of a plan, but individuals with the ability to provide professional career direction are just as qualified when assisting consumers in obtaining and maintaining employment. There is a huge gap in this area of provided service. The VR Counselor is great at the Rehab process but is very limited when in comes to providing labor market information, career exploration and effective business relations for successful direct job placement and employment outcomes.

    • Well said. As a rehab professional I completely agree. While I’m sure those individuals are well intended, to understand the complexities of the many different types of disabilities and how they manifest differently coupled with head injuries etc is difficult even for the trained professional let alone anyone without training in these fields.

  31. As a person with disabilities myself, I find the dilution of requirements for a rehabilitation counselor very insulting. So, this tells me that the government does not care enough to provide competent and high quality service for people with disabilities in the Vocational Rehabilitation field. Meanwhile, high quality care goes towards illegal immigrants in this country who have no business being here without being willing to go through the citizenship process. This is a conundrum. I agree with the comments above mine and they all share a significant point of a highly qualified rehabilitation counselor being specially trained and knowledgeable in order to give the highest quality of service to a person with disabilities. This field needs to continue to have the highest quality standards in order to give the best possible service to people with disabilities in order to improve the quality of their lives.

  32. 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?

    • With the new requirement for 15% of state VR funding to be allocated for employment services for youth under age 24, provide specific clarification and detail to vocational rehabilitation agencies about what types of transition activities can be purchased and that these services should exclude activities in segregated facilities of any type (sheltered workshops), whether paid or unpaid.

    Note: Wisconsin already has such a stipulation for all service recipients in its VR technical specifications that could be a model for other states/national consideration.

    • Require state VR agencies to develop a process that includes regular data pulls on how many youth cases were closed prior to attaining integrated employment and then follow up to ensure that those youth have had at least 2 work experiences in the community.

    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?

    • Consider language revision to “an average of approximately 20 hours per week or more total” versus a specific number of hours that define a meaningful work week.

    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?

    • It is important that the Department of Education does not overlook the need for secondary teachers to have adequate training on evidence-based practices in transition. Preparing qualified transition personnel is recognized in the research as one of the critical factors to improving the outcomes of students with disabilities . Transition educators across Partnership in Employment (PIE) projects report a significant lack of pre-service exposure and professional development support in the area of transition. Some PIE states use a cross-categorical K-12 special education teacher certification that may expose a teacher to as little as one college lecture on transition content, yet this certification allows a teacher to meet the federal “highly qualified” standard. National data shows that less than half of special education personnel preparation programs address transition standards, and only 45% offer a stand-alone course on transition. In a recent survey of Wisconsin teachers, only half of participating high schools provided teachers with education and development in the areas of applying academic and career education, forming relations with technical schools and colleges, and developing school-to-work programs.

    • Require states (SEA’s and long term services) to develop a process that includes regular data pulls on how many youth under 24 years of age are working in a sheltered workshop and then follow up to ensure that those youth have had at least 2 work experiences in the community.

    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?
    No comment.

    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?

    • Include provisions for adequate training for all personnel, including teachers, service providers, and VR counselors, on applying customized employment strategies that afford youth with the most significant disabilities opportunities to work in integrated jobs for minimum wage or higher.

    • Clarify that the competitive integrated employment and supported employment definitions should not serve as a barrier to people with the most significant disabilities or there should be no criteria that excludes people with significant disabilities. For example, the Individual Placements and Supports (IPS) model has a zero exclusion policy to ensure that anyone who wants to work receives the vocational services needed to work.

    Additional Comments:
    • Provide direct guidance to State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) on their responsibilities for being compliant with sub-minimum wage and develop a measure to ensure they are not paying for any pre-employment services, including assessments and pre-vocational services that would lead to sub-minimum wage jobs. Schools should be required to provide documentation any services they pay for in students’ transition plans outside of the school district including any arrangements with an entity for the purpose of operating a program for an individual who is age 24 or younger under which work is compensated at a sub-minimum wage.

    • Best practices from Think College should be incorporated into the technical assistance for post-secondary education. Vocational rehabilitation agencies and staff at the Centers for Students with Disabilities on higher education campuses need to be better informed about how people with I/DD can participate in post-secondary education program (regardless of whether or not a Think College or similar program for people with disabilities exists on the campus).

    • In addition to maintaining data on use of services by people with disabilities, One Stops should be required to report, at least annually, on how they are offering services and expertise on topics related to the employment of people with disabilities.

  33. OSERS requested comments related to sections of WIOA, including Section 116 which relates to performance measures for Vocational Rehabilitation Services’ core programs. DC Appleseed is a public interest advocacy organization that researches, analyzes and addresses workforce issues and special education, among other community issues, including the intersection of workforce development with adult literacy and education. We have heard from adult education providers that basic skills education is considered secondary to job obtainment in today’s workforce development system. Learners drop out, often after as little as six months, to take low-wage jobs with irregular schedules and no benefits. However, if learners were adequately supported from assessment through attainment of a credential – a process which may take several years for low-skill learners – they can ultimately take higher-skill, higher-wage jobs with more job security and economic stability. It is essential that OSERS and the other agencies implementing WIOA keep this balance in mind as they draft regulations. The performance indicators for core programs must not weigh the attainment of low-wage jobs disproportionately to educational attainment or educational gains. The indicators must be crafted with recognition that many adult learners will not obtain a credential after only one year of services, especially those that start at a very low level of literacy. The law must ensure that measures for providers and programs incentivize them to support the educational pursuits of these individuals.

    Specific comments were requested about the impact of performance indicators on adult education participants and definition of “measurable skill gain” to best support the services furnished to individuals with low skills and limited English proficiency. Currently, Section 116(b)(2)(A)(i) includes two proposed performance indicators which would measure education: (IV) the percentage of program participants who obtain a recognized postsecondary credential, or a secondary school diploma or its equivalent, during participation in or within 1 year after exit from the program; and (V) the percentage of program participants who, during a program year, are in an education or training program that leads to a recognized postsecondary credential or employment and who are achieving measurable skill gains toward such a credential or employment. While we understand that the outcome measures must reflect the goals of the program – and the goals are secondary and post-secondary credentials – more thought must be given to lower-level “tipping points,” in order that providers of services to lower-skilled learners are incentivized to get and keep learners on career pathways. We recommend that these “measureable skill gains” explicitly include progress toward educational milestones other than secondary and post-secondary degree attainment, such as advances in reading level, English proficiency, or other measures used by adult literacy providers for learners who are not yet ready to test for a postsecondary credential. If GED-readiness is the only outcome measured in the performance indicators, providers will not be held accountable or given credit for their work with lower-level learners. This is essential in order for job-seekers at all levels of education, literacy, and job-readiness to benefit from the core programs authorized under WIOA.

  34. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the implementation of key new elements of the recently authorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The law contains many new and exciting opportunities to improve outcomes for adult education students. Below, please find responses to two of the four questions posed by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

    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?

    The introduction of “measurable skill gain” as an interim performance indicator for adult education programs is an important step toward ensuring that programs serve adults with very low skills. The inclusion of interim measures represents a significant improvement over existing performance metrics that fail to account for the fact that learners come to adult education programs with different skills and some will require significantly more time and resources to become college- and career-ready. To ensure that the new “measurable skill gain” metrics support the goal of expanding and improving services to very low-skilled and/or English language limited (ELL) adults, we ask policymakers to consider the following:

    • Ensure that skill gain measures are evidence-based: Development of the interim skill measures should leverage existing research and evaluation on what helps low-skilled adults advance along a career pathway. In particular, the development of the indicators should be informed by the findings from the evaluation of career pathway programs under the Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) and the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways. Both efforts are generating valuable evidence and insights into key momentum points that help low-skilled adults advance both their career and educational goals.

    • Align skill gain measures with college- and career-readiness standards: States have already made progress on aligning adult education programs with the Common Core State Standards. Those efforts, in conjunction with emerging evidence on momentum points, should form the foundation for developing skill gain measures and related assessments. The Department should leverage and build on the considerable work that states have already completed in trying to align their adult education programs with the common core standards movement. See the 2013 publication “College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education” for more information.

    • Develop credentials in conjunction with skill gain measures: The development of interim skill gain measures presents an excellent opportunity to facilitate stronger transitions to the labor market for adults by providing them with more and better credentials. The skill gain measures should be more than opportunity for adult education programs to track (and get credit for) skill gain; they should also present an opportunity for adults to earn valuable credentials on their way to a high school equivalency. Digital badges offer a promising approach to creating open, competency-based micro-credentials that can be linked to specific skill measures. These credentials could then serve as important outcomes in their own right, helping individuals build electronic resumes, and helping adult education programs better understand the value of particular interim skills. For more information on how badging can play role in helping adult learners succeed, see The Potential and Value of Using Digital Badges for Adult Learners.

    • Use skill gain measures and related credentials to support dual-generation approaches to delivering adult education: A growing body of literature points to the negative effects of low literacy and low educational attainment rates of parents on a host of economic and social indicators for children. For example, a recent study (Hernandez and Narpierla) on the relationship between mother’s education and children’s outcomes found severe disparities separating children whose mothers had bachelor’s degrees relative to those who had not graduated from high school; over half of children with mothers who held only a high school diploma lived below the official federal poverty rate, compared to just 4 percent of children with mothers who held a bachelor’s degree. The research also revealed strong correlations between mother’s education and children’s reading and math proficiency levels, school enrollment and completion rates, and a variety of health indicators, including obesity and mortality rates.

    Another recent study, this one by the Migration Policy Institute on immigrant parents and early childhood programs, found that “immigrant parents face significant barriers as they try to engage with their children’s early education experiences.” The number and percentage of children of immigrant parents has been growing steadily over the past three decades, but educational policies have not kept up. In 2012, one out of every four young children (ages 0 to 8) had foreign-born parents, compared to just one in 10 in 1980. The primary barrier to stronger engagement by parents in their children’s education, according to the report, is that “immigrant and refugee parents often require support building U.S. cultural and systems knowledge and in overcoming English language and literacy barriers.”

    Adult education programs have a crucial role to play in helping low skilled and immigrant parents acquire the intellectual skills necessary to support their children’s education as well as their own career and educational goals. Dual-generation approaches to literacy and basic skills education that target children and their parents through the same delivery system can be effective for reaching hard-to-serve immigrant or low-skilled adult populations. Well-designed skill measures can form the basis of dual-generation approaches to education that teach adult and children similar basic skills, but in an age-appropriate fashion. The skill measures themselves can facilitate the design of joint programs and linked curricula that support simultaneous parent-child learning opportunities. Through the development of dual generation strategies, states can leverage a wider range of settings – early education programs, community-based organizations, K-12 school systems – to reach low-skilled parents and deliver adult education that results in measurable skill gains. The interim skill measure creates an opportunity to develop metrics that can capture progress at lower educational levels. In designing the measures, we urge the Department to consider how they can be incorporated into dual generation strategies that focus on improving the educational attainment levels of low-skilled parents.
    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 removal of barriers within AEFLA to the creation of integrated education and training (IET) programs represents a significant improvement in the law. A growing body of evidence shows that IET programs hold great promise for improving education and employment outcomes for adult education students. While authorizing the use of adult education program funds to support IET approaches is a positive step, it is important to ensure that the integrated programs equip participants with both specific occupational skills and broad academic skills sufficient to support continued educational advancement. When developing regulations and/or guidance on IET programs, we urge the Department to consider the following:

    • Occupational training should be at the postsecondary level: While adult education funds are designed to help individuals below the postsecondary level, IET programs should serve as bridges to postsecondary education. As such, the occupational training portion of IET programs should be at the postsecondary level, while the basic skills portion of the program equips participants with a high school equivalency. The programs should not focus on integrating basic skills education with training for jobs that do not require postsecondary skills or credentials. The Department should consider issuing regulations or guidance that clarify the importance of integrating basic skills education into college-level courses as a strategy for helping participants transition into postsecondary education and advance along a career and educational pathway. In the absence of clear guidance, there is a risk that AEFLA funds will be used to support the proliferation of low-skill, low-wage pathways for adult education students, rather than as a bridge to higher-skilled, higher-wage pathways.

    • Programs must impart basic skills as well as occupational skills: We urge the Department to establish clear guidelines for states on the portion of an IET program that must be dedicated to imparting basic academic skills. In the absence of clear guidance, there is a risk that IET programs will focus too heavily on important job-specific skills while failing to prepare students with the math, language, and literacy skills necessary to continue their education and function effectively in society. While these basic academic skills can be contextualized around the occupation for which the participant is being trained, it is essential that the programs assess academic skills and ensure participants can successfully transition into further postsecondary education. The Department should consider consulting with states that have successfully implemented IET programs, as well as related research on IET programs, for feedback on the appropriate balance between occupational and basic skills portions of a program. Following the consultation, we hope the Department will issue clear guidance on how much an IET program that uses AEFLA funds must be dedicated to imparting and assessing basic skills.

    • Participants should earn academic and industry credentials: Participants in IET programs should earn credentials that allow them to advance along both educational and career pathways. In the case of education credentials, that means a high school credential and or postsecondary academic credits. It is essential that IET programs not focus exclusively on helping individuals obtain only industry-based credentials. The Department should consider issuing guidance or regulation on the types of credentials individuals earn through their participation in an AEFLA-supported IET program.

    • IET Programs should be part of a career pathways system: In keeping with the emphasis within WIOA on career pathways, the Department should consider issuing guidance or regulation to ensure that IET programs are not developed as stand-alone interventions but, rather, serve as stepping-stones to further education and training. Ideally, the development of IET programs should be part of a larger state strategy to support transitions to economic self-sufficiency through the delivery of an integrated and coordinated web of education, training, employment, and human services. The Department should consider limiting the use of AEFLA funds for IET programs that are not part of a larger, integrated service delivery strategy designed to support individuals as they progress along career and educational pathways.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to comment. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
    New America Foundation

  35. Professional training is vital in assisting individuals with disabilities and, in particular, individuals with the most significant disabilities to prepare for and secure high quality employment. I do not believe it is in the best interest of disabled individuals to be served by Bachelor’s level individuals with degrees in HR or Business,for example. In the past, requirements have been for Master’s and CRC. I do not believe such individuals will have the knowledge or skills to help disabled individuals cope with the impact of loss of functioning, perform transferable skills analyses, develop realistic vocational rehab plans, etc. Those of us who have been Masters trained Rehabilitation Counselors for decades do not deserve this and neither do the clients we service.

  36. -In alignment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, future guidance should focus on the elimination of unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities and ensuring that individuals with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting, that enable individuals with disabilities to interact with those without disabilities to the fullest extent possible.
    -Consider inserting a definition of Employment First in developing regulation or guidance for implementing WIOA. The term “Employment First” means—
    (A) a delivery model of publicly financed supports for individuals with disabilities, including individuals with significant disabilities and individuals with the most significant disabilities, that effectuates on a systemic basis the presumption of competitive integrated employment as the intended employment outcome for such individuals; and
    (B) includes policies, practices, and procedures promulgated through Federal and State governmental entities, including policies, practices, and procedures requiring that public systems have a statutory responsibility to provide services that align their priorities funding and reimbursement practices, and policies and guidance to promote, encourage, incentivize, and prioritize services and supports that lead to competitive integrated employment outcomes.
    – 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.
    – Regarding new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act relating to pre-employment transition services in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act, 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.
    – Provide additional protections for individuals with disabilities in extended employment or other employment under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 by ensuring that each individual with a disability is fully aware of their rights under the laws and regulations including a “Notice to Workers with Disabilities/Special Minimum Wage Poster” and mechanisms for interactive communication with each individual and their parent and/or guardian as appropriate, in a way that ensures full comprehension and understanding of their rights, and fully accommodates the individual’s disability.
    -Recognizes that significant numbers of individuals with disabilities are not working as a direct result of funding mechanisms and policies that do not place employment in integrated settings as the intended outcomes for publicly funded services and supports for people with disabilities.
    -Have a strong representation from groups that believe in Employment First, rather that those who support facility-based services and sub-minimum wage employment when establishing an Advisory Committee focused on Increasing Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities.

  37. As a qualified rehabilitation professional with years of experience in the field, I am very concerned with the current trend of downgrading professional qualifications for vocational rehabilitation counselors. I have worked for a number of years with a highly specialized population, the Deaf and hearing impaired. To appropriately service population, Masters level training is essential. In both current and previous positions I have seen, clinicians and rehabilitation counselors from a variety of disciplines attempt to serve disabled populations appropriately, only to fall far short of the national standard. As a person with a disability, as well as a rehabilitation counselor, I know all too well that lowering standards of professional achievement hurts clients being served, and demeans the profession.
    Particularly when serving specialized populations, a Masters degree is a minimum standard.

  38. I recently had a client ask one of his clients if she would go to the hospital, lie down on a gurney, and ask the nurse for a scalpel to start her own heart surgery. His comment was in regard to a person who chose to represent herself in real estate deals when she had limited knowledge of real estate law and practice. The same analogy can be used when we consider a bachelor’s degree level person providing vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities. The bachelor’s degree is a general education degree that prepares a person as a paraprofessional. Rehabilitation Counselors are professionals who need a master’s level degree and training in order to adequately serve people with disabilities with competence. Don’t ask our clients to walk into their local vocational rehabilitation office and direct their own services while working with someone who does not have the requisite knowledge to help them navigate the service system.

  39. Having a person with a disability served by a person with a BBA or other non-specifically trained counselor is similar to having a person with a heart valve problem referred to a general practitioner for surgery. So much special training and knowledge is needed to provide adequate and non-harmful care. Where does the thinking come from, that considers having a person with a sever vision impairment provided vocational/counseling services by a person who has no training/sensitivity about the condition. The untrained bachelors level person has no idea of how to direct the person with limb loss who is still reacting to the loss of the limb.
    The cost of unsuccessful rehab outcomes will be far more than the money saved by hiring unprofessional persons.
    PLEASE!!!

    • The California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) appreciates the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education’s (OCTAE) invitation to comment on the WIOA in the ED blog. We are identifying the operational, fiscal, technological, and other impacts of WIOA and will be engaging with the California State Rehabilitation Council, other advisory bodies, and other stakeholders in order to include their input as part of our feedback. Accordingly, DOR encourages OSERS and OCTAE to engage with the states and stakeholders to identify a different forum or vehicle by which we may comment on the important issues and provide more opportunities to provide input. We encourage OSERS to conduct community forums that allow interactive dialogue with impacted stakeholders and public agencies. With sufficient time and opportunity to exchange ideas before regulations are promulgated and throughout the rule-making process, we are confident that, together, we may help develop regulations that provide clear guidance, meet the spirit of WIOA, and eliminate regulations that do not serve to further the goals of the Rehabilitation Act as amended. Respectfully, California DOR

  40. I have concerns about the professional development and training that would likely be implemented. Not to question the knowledge base of any college graduates but individuals that receive bachelor’s degrees in business are not trained to specifically work with individuals with disabilities. The knowledge that one gains (in the classroom) when learning about disabilities and working with individuals that have them is unprecedented. In addition the master’s degree requirement, enables individuals to develop an increased since of professionalism while increasing their knowledge, and skill set. Working with individuals with disabilities is something that requires a level of knowledge, compassion and skill that is unique to master’s programs within the rehabilitation counseling field.

  41. The proposed regulation to allow unlicensed professionals to counsel, serve, and assist individuals with disabilities to achieve gainful employment is scary to say the least. Master level clinicians who are certified by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification must adhere to a higher level of conduct and service.

    Diluting standards for Rehabilitation professionals will do more harm than good. Many consumers have already experienced difficulties and uncertainness while adjusting to or developing techniques to surmount their impediments to employment. It takes skilled, qualified, Master level clinicians to properly assist individuals with consumers who experienced a Spinal Cord Injury after a devastating car accident, or a Traumatic Brain Injury and Amputation resulting from Military Combat. If Rehabilitation professionals are not properly trained on what to say, how to say it, and what techniques to utilize to guide consumers through the stages of change and/or grief resulting from a recent disabling condition, consumers may be left permanently scarred.

    The information learned in undergraduate only skims the surface, and to allow someone without a Master’s degree in the field of Rehabilitation Counseling to provide these services will result in negligence and uproar from concerned advocates, parents, and persons with disabilities. American’s with Disabilities deserve the best, they deserve to have highly trained and qualified professionals assisting them to reach all their vocational and rehabilitation goals.

  42. I am concerned about bachelor’s level training option for professionals. In a rehabilitation profession where all other disciplines are requiring MORE training (i.e. PT, OT), why would we want to lessen the requirements for vocational providers. It is important that professionals are properly trained! Please keep the requirment of a minimum of master’s level training. It is critical to quality services for consumers, especially those with complex disabling conditions.
    Thank you

  43. I am very concerned about the issue of lowering the educational requirements of rehabilitation counselors. This will negatively impact the clients’ services due the inadequate preparation of professionals in the field of rehabilitation. In addition allowing individuals, with a BA in business or any other discipline outside the rehab field, to provide rehab services to the disabled clients is utterly illogical.

  44. As a Veteran of the Armed Services and 25 years as a Rehabilitation Counselor/Educator I feel that having Rehabilitation Counselors who are not qualified and certified is disrespectful and a disservice to those who have disabilities. Individuals with disabilities and especially Veterans with disabilities deserve quality services by counselors who are qualified to understand the disability, the needs and dynamics of the individual based on the disability and the ethical practices and services Certified Rehabilitation Counselor are mandated to provide. The thought of having an unqualified person provide a service is disheartening as well as illogical. If you have a broken pipe in your home, you call a qualified plumber. You would not call an electrician, sure they are in the “trades” but they are not trained and certified to do plumbing. Under Section 412(a)(4)(B) WIOA it is suggesting that an individual with a disability could contact a person with a bachelor’s degree in business administration to assist them with their rehabilitation, training and pursuit of a career. It’s like calling a plumber to do electrical work. I have an undergraduate degree in business administration and would not have felt qualified to professionally address and assist individuals with disabilities. I have a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and understand the ethical aspects of assisting individuals with disabilities as well as the medical, emotional, technical and social complexities many individuals with disabilities are faced each day and throughout their life. Individuals with disabilities deserve ethical, knowledgeable and qualified Rehabilitation Counselor, this proposal to hire individuals with bachelor’s degree and especially degrees not in rehabilitation is absolutely offensive and disrespectful to individuals with disabilities and Veteran’s with disabilities.

  45. Alliance of Career Resource Professionals WIOA Recommendations and Commentary

    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?

    Specify use of career information delivery systems that meet Alliance of Career Resource Professionals (ACRP) Standards at the national or comprehensive level. http://www.acrpro.org/standards

    ACRP provides an online comparison tool for evaluating career information and services. ACRP provides the free tool to career system purchasers as a public service and to advance the use of high quality career resources. The tool combines ACRP Standards-based criteria with importance ratings provided by the user.

    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?
    Consider providing timely pipeline data for comparing demand with the supply of future workers who are currently in education and training.

    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?

    • Development of a product-independent online universal transferable portfolio system
    • Systemic application of the universal portfolio that is supportive and reflective of the individual education plan and the participant career plan
    • Creation and adoption of industry standards specific to the application of portfolio systems by persons with disabilities [OSERS should prescribe portfolio system provider participation in such standards producing organizations as the P-20 Electronic Standards Council, IMS Global Learning, and the Alliance of Career Resource Professionals.

    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?

    Provide professional development for employers on the benefits of matching employment to participant career characteristics (interests, values, skills, goals, and education and training).

    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?

    Align supported employment, to the extent possible, with the participant’s identified career interests, career values, career goals, and career-related skills and abilities.

    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?

    These measures should indicate improvement in career development and workforce preparation such as
    • Improvement in career maturity
    • Articulation of an informed and considered career goal and pathway
    • Completion of detailed career action plans to attain career goal

    In addition, the Alliance recommends
    • Use of these measures in an ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement process
    • Outcomes data should include measures of the degree of relatedness between education or training and employment

    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?

    Professional development for employers on how to maximize use of information contained in participant career plans and portfolios.

    There should be careful assessment of the quality of the employee-employer match and the length of employee retention.

    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?

    Wherever possible, in accordance with state and federal law, programs should align with content standards supported by states and multi-state consortia.

    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?

    Development of an integrated education and workforce preparation curriculum should insure that participants engage in structured activities to ensure
    • Exposure to a comprehensive computerized career information delivery system and instruction in how to use such system independently
    • Career exploration
    • Assessment of personal characteristics related to occupational preferences
    • Exploration of local employment opportunities and employers
    • Investigation of key occupational characteristics including wage, demand, and outlook
    • Establishment of defined career goals
    • Informed career decision-making
    • Identification of appropriate education and training and career pathways
    • Creation of a detailed step-by-step career action plan for actualizing the participant’s employment objective.
    • Development of thorough understanding of employment requirements (both job-specific skills and work readiness skills)

    Prepared by the Alliance of Career Resource Professionals, August 28, 2014.

  46. The Utah State Office of Rehabilitation would like to submit the following comments regarding implementing regulations for reauthorized Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the Rehabilitation Act. We would like to focus on H.R. 803; Title IV; Sec. 412(a)(4)(B), which amends the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) requirements.
    We believe regulations should be established that maintains the highest level of qualifications for agency vocational rehabilitation counselors, consistent with standards that require adherence to high standards of ethical practice and commitment to life-long learning; thereby enhancing the quality of services provided to people with disabilities.
    To that end, we advocate for support maintaining the prior provision in Sec. 412(a)(4)(B)(i) which requires State plans to establish and maintain standards consistent with any national or State approved/recognized certification and/or licensing, requirement that apply to the area in which such personnel are providing vocational rehabilitation services.
    Vocational rehabilitation counseling is a specialized high-skilled intervention that is repeatedly found through research to be the most significant service received by clientele. It is built upon a profession with a foundation of specific advanced coursework at the master’s level that is focused on rehabilitation and disability matters as well as counseling knowledge and skills. The profession of rehabilitation counseling also has a long-established and well-recognized national certification for professionals providing rehabilitation counseling services, which is one core criteria for licensure in Utah to practice as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.
    Since the 1998 re-authorization and its CSPD requirements, and due to subsequent licensure in Utah that is founded upon the national CRCC standard for qualification as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, last year’s number, quality, diminished cost and client satisfaction of successful outcomes are at levels never before achieved in the agency. This is not unique to Utah either. Empirical research findings support this high-skills standard. Most notable are the findings of Szymanski (1991), Relationship of level of Rehabilitation Counselor Education to Rehabilitation Client Outcome in the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and Van Houtte (2013), The Effects of Level of Counselor Education on Client Outcomes in the Public Vocational Rehabilitation System of New Jersey.
    We recommend that regulations be clarified to require State plans to establish and maintain standards for vocational rehabilitation counselors that require the national standard. Where hiring efforts fail to identify an individual qualified at this level, State plans should focus requirements on master’s degrees within the rehabilitation disciplines with a reasonable timeframe for achievement of national standards.
    We also recommend that amendments to the CSPD requirements in Sec. 412(a)(4)(B)(ii) be clarified in regulation to apply to other rehabilitation service providers. For example, appropriate degrees for personnel such as rehabilitation technicians/assistants may include a bachelor’s degree in the rehabilitation disciplines, whereas personnel providing administrative or clerical services would more appropriately include degrees unrelated to rehabilitation.

  47. In a long time career as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and professional, I saw the value in reaching my potential as that professional early in my career. I obtained my M.Ed in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling, and when the CRC was introduced, I was one of the first to become certified in that field. I remained in that profession for 36 & 1/2 years, and use that training even now.
    It is a field of expertise that allows an individual to prepare to serve those with disabilities in the special way that it takes, and they deserve! A trained (Masters) and certified VR Counselor can look at the disability issues of an individual in the way no one else does. It is not just a matter of helping a disabled individual get a job, because anyone can do that. That is pretty simple!
    BUT, with the underlying responsibility to see successful closure (employment) happens to the disabled person, to be able to understand the “specific” aspects of the nature of the disability, direct the course of the disability relative to vocational skills and direction, the ability to understand and communicate with medical professionals intelligently, the ability to assemble professional partners to assess, recommend, and enlighten for a plan, initiate a “real” time referenced path to successful employment, understand the terms of disability issues to position a disabled individual for a career, job or life, AND, be able to type, compute, budget, inform, provide oversight and insight, direct, and guide, REQUIRES A HIGHLY SKILLED, CAREER ORIENTED, DISABILITY ADVOCATING, EMOTIONALLY FOCUSED MASTER’S LEVEL, CERTIFIED VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION COUNSELOR.
    “Just” any ole’ counselor will not do!! Not in the serious business of helping someone get a “leg up” in a world where they are not given as much creedence as other people to succeed. Without the highly skilled , certified VR Counselor, this will not happen, and that part of society will be lost under the weight.
    PLEASE, do not do away with the very specific qualifications of a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor is as a part of the bill addressed in Congress. Thank you very much.

  48. I am really concerned regarding the proposed regulations which would allow individuals with business degrees to provide rehabilitation counseling services. Although I think a master degree in rehabilitation counseling and CRC should be the minimum requirement, a bachelor degree in rehabilitation counseling is more appropriate than a business degree. This allows at minimum that any individual providing vocational rehabilitation services has completed an approved training and continues to expand their knowledge and skill set to best serve their consumers. Although business knowledge is very helpful for helping individuals with disabilities find jobs, there are skills learned in rehabilitation counseling courses that are not taught in business classes. Plus the internship/practicum experiences allow for continue growth while developing the skills necessary to be a successful rehabilitation counselor.

    As for transition services, pre-employment transition services are a vital part of the process. For students with significant disabilities starting with pre-employment skills will only benefit them in their job search and maintaining employment. Supported employment services should begin before a student exits high school as the job placement phase may take many months. We are doing a disservice to students by making them wait until they have exited school before they can fully participate in support employment (in the State I am in that is the policy).

    For some individuals, their employment goal may be to work 5 hours a week which meets their needs and are not interested in any other type of employment. Unfortunately these types of situations cannot be considered an employment outcome. We are placing a value on work that others may not agree with.

  49. NCRE wishes to offer comments on the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) in WIOA. There is concern that the new language in the WIOA opens up the VR personnel pool, but does not adequately address the skills needed by rehabilitation professionals to work with consumers, employers, and other helping professionals. The skills and competencies for rehabilitation counselors have been established through over 30 years of research in the form of role and function studies. Failure to require such a specialized skills and competencies goes against an extensive body of research and empirical evidence. This contradicts the efforts to move toward evidence-based practice for persons with disabilities, which has been a priority for the U.S. Department of Education and potentially could damage the professional identity of rehabilitation counselors. NCRE also fully endorses CRCC’s statement submitted for your consideration” that regulations be clarified to require State plans to establish and maintain standards for vocational rehabilitation counselors that require the national standard of CRC certification. Where hiring efforts fail to identify an individual qualified at this level, State plans should focus requirements on master’s degrees within the rehabilitation disciplines, consistent with CRC educational criteria, with a reasonable timeframe for achievement of CRC certification.”

    NCRE recommends that under the “other comparable requirements” provision in CSPD, OSERS define other comparable requirements as the skill sets that are needed by personnel who are providing VR services and include: (a) knowledge of the medical and psychological aspects of disability, (b) knowledge and implementation of vocational assessment strategies, (c) a working knowledge of the labor market and, d) competence in counseling and guidance including cultural diversity, and providing the services required to develop and implement the individualized career plan that enables the person to be successfully employed in a competitive, integrated work environment.

    NCRE recommends that OSERS provide regulatory guidance that clarifies that “reasonably preparing” an individual to work with consumers and employers requires the skill sets that lead to understanding vocational rehabilitation which again include (a) knowledge of the medical and psychological aspects of disability, (b) knowledge and implementation of vocational assessment strategies, (c) having a working knowledge of the labor market and, (d) competence in counseling and guidance, including cultural diversity, and providing the services required to develop and implement an individualized career plan that enables the person to be successfully employed in a competitive, integrated work environment.

    As rehabilitation educators it is our responsibility that every counselor who interacts with a person with a disability is qualified, competent, and effective. The recommendations presented above certainly will make sure that we take a step in this direction.

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