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Evaluation Studies of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 (NLTS 2012)
(also referred to as Study of Transition Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities, Phase I)

Contractors: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and the University of Minnesota Institute of Community Integration

Background/Research Questions

This study is the third in a series examining the characteristics and school experiences of a nationally representative sample of youth with disabilities. NLTS 2012 focuses on students ages 13 to 21 (in December 2011) but also includes a small sample of students without disabilities to enable direct comparisons of students with and without individualized education programs (IEPs). It is part of the congressionally-mandated National Assessment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004, P.L. 108-446) and is supported with funds authorized under Section 664 of the Act. The study will address such question as:

  • What are the personal, family, and school characteristics of youth with disabilities in public schools across the country?
  • What regular education, special education, transition planning, and other relevant services and accommodations do youth with disabilities receive?
  • How do the services and accommodations differ from those of youth not served under IDEA, including those identified for services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act?
  • How do the services and accommodations for youth with disabilities vary with the characteristics of youth?
  • How much have the services and accommodations of youth with disabilities changed over time?


Phase I of the study collects survey data (Spring 2012–Summer 2013) on a nationwide sample of 12,000 youth in school, of which 10,000 are students with IEPs across the federal disability categories. Surveys of both youth and their parents/guardians will be administered. This phase of the study also included, a systematic review of the research literature on post-high transition programs for students with disabilities..

Cost/Duration: $22,897,534 over 69 months (September 2010–June 2016)

Current Status

Survey data collection was completed and analysis of the data is underway. Reports describing the survey results are scheduled for release in 2016 and will be announced on A report assessing existing research on the effectiveness of transition strategies for youth with disabilities was released August 19, 2013 (see

Key Findings:

A systematic review of the evidence on transition strategies was conducted, to inform development of the surveys and interpretation of the survey results. The review found:

  • Only 16 studies were designed and carried out with sufficient rigor to meet IES' What Works Clearinghouse standards.
  • Based on these studies, community-based work programs were found to have mixed effects on students' employment outcomes and potentially positive effects on postsecondary education outcomes. Functional life skills development programs were found to have potentially positive effects on independent living outcomes although the extent of evidence was small.