National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

national longitudinal study 2012 

Policymakers and educators have long recognized the importance of addressing the needs of youth with disabilities. Beginning with landmark legislation in 1975 and continuing through the most recent updates to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, the U.S. Congress has mandated that children and youth with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education and provided funds to school districts nationwide to help serve them. To support efforts to help secondary school youth prepare for successful futures, the U.S. Department of Education has sponsored longitudinal studies examining their diverse backgrounds, secondary school experiences, and preparations for life after high school. 

Mathematica is conducting the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) 2012 for the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to gather current information on youth with and without disabilities. The sample consists of secondary school students who receive special education services under IDEA—that is, those with an individualized education program (IEP)—as well as two other groups of youth without an IEP: (1) those with an impairment that qualifies for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and (2) students with no identified disability. The study also compares youth with different disabilities and uses data from two prior NLTS studies to examine trends in their characteristics and experiences over three decades.

Data for the study come from surveys of parents and youth completed in 2012 or 2013. The survey data enable the study to address five questions of interest to policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders:

  1. What are the background characteristics of youth and the schools they attend?
  2. What challenges do youth face relating to health, functional abilities, and independence?
  3. How engaged are youth in school and with friends?
  4. What academic and special education supports do youth receive?
  5. How are youth preparing for life after high school?

Three report volumes will address these questions, the first two of which are now available. Volume 1 compares youth with an IEP and youth without an IEP. Volume 2 compares youth in different disability groups. Volume 3 compares youth in special education over the past three decades. Together, the volumes aim to inform efforts by educators and policymakers to address the needs of youth in special education.

Mathematica has also prepared a design documentation report that provides technical information on the NLTS 2012, as well as a restricted-use data file and documentation for researchers to conduct secondary analyses.