In San Diego Unified, schools are falling far short in helping special education students plan for what happens after high school, according to a new report paid for by the school district.

Schools are supposed to help teens with disabilities make the jump to adulthood under federal law. They are required to work with students to draw up plans that include their goals for after high school, what classes they should take to achieve them, and what services the school district will supply to help.

San Diego State University special education professor Jason Naranjo analyzed more than 1,200 student plans and found that none of them were adequate under federal requirements.

Among the slew of problems Naranjo saw:

• More than 95 percent of students didn’t have an appropriate, measurable goal for independent living, which can include things like learning to ride public transportation or balance a checkbook. He also found that 41 percent didn’t have an educational goal and 21 percent didn’t have an employment goal.

• Most students lacked a clear course of study to help them reach their goals. And more often than not, the plans did not set out any services to help students meet the goals they had set.

• Most alarmingly, 40 students had no written plan for how they would transition into adulthood at all, in apparent violation of federal law.

Naranjo recommended that the school district hammer out clear policies so that school employees understand what they should be doing to help students with disabilities plan for the future. He also advised the school district to provide training on transition planning.

The professor did point to some bright spots: San Diego Unified is doing a good job of making sure that students are involved in making their plans, he said. And Naranjo said they aren’t shying from problems or trying to bury the report, something he worries about when he comes up with unflattering findings.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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