Students with Disabilities in Career and Technical Education
Career and technical education (CTE) can provide significant benefits to students with disabilities. CTE teachers need to be aware of the rights of students with disabilities and of the planning process involved in meeting their needs. In addition, CTE teachers must know what role they play both in planning and in providing instruction. CTE teachers often need background information on the details of disabilities and the accommodations required. This Digest provides information on students with disabilities for secondary CTE teachers.
Benefits of CTE
Research shows that students with disabilities in secondary CTE programs were less likely to drop out and more likely to be employed, to have paid competitive jobs, and to work full time after high school (Cobb et al. 1999; Colley and Jamison 1998). However, CTE that included only simulated work experience in classroom settings did not appear to lead to optimal employment outcomes. Students with disabilities who had paid or unpaid work experience in high school had better employment outcomes—higher wages, more hours, more continuous employment. Furthermore, students with disabilities mainstreamed into regular CTE or academic classrooms obtained paid competitive jobs more often and felt better prepared to keep their jobs. Qualitative studies reviewed by Eisenmann (2000) imply that integration of academic and vocational curricula promoted meaningful engagement and inclusion of students with disabilities by increasing persistence, academic achievement, and postsecondary engagement.
Rights of Students with Disabilities
Four key federal laws define the rights of students with disabilities (Ordover and Annexstein 1999). Two federal civil rights laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, require access for students with disabilities to all federally funded programs and prohibit discrimination based on disability in any aspect of public education programs. The 1998 Perkins Act requires equal access for special populations, including students with disabilities, to all vocational programs, services, and activities and prohibits discrimination based on special population status. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as amended in 1997, establishes the right of students with disabilities to a free appropriate public education, including special education, related services, and transition services.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) mandated by IDEA draws on the results of a comprehensive evaluation of the student's educational needs at least once every 3 years (ibid.; Smith 2000). The IEP must identify the student's current level of educational performance; measurable goals and objectives; special education, related services, and other accommodations to be provided; and the extent of participation with nondisabled students. The IEP must also...