Secondary Transitional Experience Program Manual

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.


DHS's Division of Rehabilitation Services is the state's lead agency serving individuals with disabilities. DRS works in partnership with people with disabilities and their families to assist them in making informed choices to achieve full community participation through employment, education, and independent living opportunities.


Improving the independence of our customers is the only reason for existing. We realize that the skills and the abilities of our front-line staff are the keys to our success. Embracing, listening to, and collaborating with our community partners will sustain our success.

DRS will be a customer -driven organization, with all major decisions based on the needs of our customers. Our staff will be informed and valued, pursuing lifelong learning and striving to improve their professional skills. We will create an environment where customers and staff work in partnership, where customers enjoy working with staff, and where staff looks forward to coming to work. Finally, we envision an agency where customers feel confident that their goals will be reached.


  • We value DHS - DRS as a workplace that promotes supports, recognizes, and invests in the importance of having a culturally diverse staff with the skills and knowledge to respectfully provide services to all our customers in a qualitative manner.
  • We value equal participation in society by people with disabilities. 
  • We value situations in which the individual with a disability receives needed services. 
  • We value an environment that provides comprehensive accessibility to individuals. 
  • We value being responsive to the needs and concerns of our customers. 
  • We value the right of all customers to choose the services that enable them to work and live independently in their communities. 
  • We value community integration and the customer's right to live in the least restrictive environment. 
  • We value lifelong learning for our staff and are committed to providing the necessary training to improve their professional skills. 
  • We value staff whom are creative, well trained, efficient, and knowledgeable about disabilities and developing careers for customers, and the use of assistive technology.


This Policy and Procedures Manual is a living document by DHS - DRS with contribution from School Partners who serve as members of the Statewide Secondary Transitional Experience Program Advisory Council. As a living document this manual has the capacity to change as rehabilitation issues change. As changes occur, the Community Resources Unit and the Statewide STEP Advisory Council will forward all changes to the Director for final approval.

Updated: April 2017






Secondary Transitional Experience Program (STEP) is an evaluation, training, and employment program that prepares students with disabilities for transition to employment and optimum community participation during and after high school.

To promote this emphasis, DHS-DRS have established the following Guiding Principles and goals for all S.T.E.P. providers:

  • Vocational skills development in integrated, employer paid, community-based training experiences utilizing on-the-job evaluation, on-the-job training and job coaching which may extend beyond hours of a school day.
  • Training experiences for students in integrated community-based training/work sites.
  • Customized services that are responsive to the individual support needs and learning styles of students and include linkages to education, other agencies and adult services.
  • Compliance with Department of Education 34 CFR based on Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended by WIOA.
  • Compliance with all state and federal Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Compliance information for state and federal labor regulations may be found at and at .



Job Exploration Counseling - Classroom instruction usually conducted within the school setting that could include: career exploration for in-demand occupations, as well as nontraditional employment; labor market trends; career interest inventories, and identifying careers of interest to the student.

Work-based learning experiences: Work-based learning experiences, which may include in-school or after school opportunities, or experience outside the traditional school setting (including internships), that is provided in an integrated environment to the maximum extent possible. These will include: On Campus OJE-OJT, Community OJE-OJT, Employer Paid Work experiences, Work-Site tours to learn about necessary job skills, job shadowing, mentoring opportunities in the community, internships, apprenticeships, short-term employment, or fellowships.

Counseling on Post-Secondary Education: Counseling on opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or post-secondary education programs at institutions of higher education. This would include advising students and parents or representatives on academic curriculum, providing information about college applications and admission processes, completing the FAFSA, or providing disability support services.

Workplace Readiness Training - Classroom or community-based instruction beyond that received in a work related class. This typically provides training in skill areas other than vocational development that students will need to function independently within the community. Skill areas may include, but are not limited to, use of public transportation, meal preparation, money management, household management, communication and interpersonal skills, job seeking skills, understanding employer expectations and are tailored to the individual's needs.

Instruction in Self-Advocacy: Learning about rights, responsibilities, and how to request accommodations or services as well as being able to communicate any thoughts, concerns or needs while seeking services. Conducting informational interviews, mentoring with educational staff, employers, individuals in the community, or other areas and participating in youth leadership activities are all examples.


Community Integrated Employment - Work experience that is competitive, integrated and fully employer funded with no subsidy from any source.

Community On-The-Job Evaluation/Training (OJE/OJT) - A training experience to evaluate student's aptitudes and abilities, work speed, work skills, ability to learn, quality of work performed and work behaviors. This is used to develop basic job skills that would lead to employment and is utilized until the student is able to perform most or all of the required job tasks in a timely manner.

Job Shadowing - Is a non-paid learning experience in which time is spent with an individual who is working in the career of interest. Students learn the realities of a job by walking through the day as a shadow of a competent worker. This provides opportunities for students to see if he/she has the ability to perform essential job functions with or without accommodation, to ask questions, to observe some job tasks, and to evaluate whether he/she likes the job based on first-hand observations.

On-Campus OJE/OJT - Experience in any school setting, closely supervised. Often a student's first training experience, used to identify vocational strengths, and to develop appropriate work behaviors and skills in preparation for community placements.

Student with a Disability - an individual with a disability in secondary, postsecondary, or other recognized education program:

  • Who is not younger than the earliest age for the provision of transition services under section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII0
  • If the State involved elects to use a lower minimum age for receipt of pre-employment Transition services under this Act, is not younger than that minimum age
  • Is not older than 21 years of age or if the State law provides for a higher maximum age for receipt of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is not older than that maximum age
  • Is eligible for, and receiving special education or related services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Act or:
  • Is a student who is an individual with a disability, for purposes of section 504 of the Federal Register.

Supported Employment Program - Employment that is individualized and customized, consistent with the individuals unique strengths, abilities, interests, and informed choice, including with ongoing support services for individuals with the most significant disabilities.

Transition-means a coordinated set activities for students or youth with disabilities, and outreach to and engagement of parents or, as appropriate, the representative of students or youth with disabilities.

Students can be served by both the school and a community rehabilitation provider during their final year per counselor's approval. Students must be removed from school STEP Work Verification Sheet before they can be reported on the CRP Group Billing but should remain on STEP Flow Chart. Students can be referred for VR services through DHS-DRS prior to being referred to a CRP per DRS counselor approval. An IPE is required prior to CRP services being initiated. In order for a CRP to claim a successful placement closure on a student graduate, the closure must be 90 days post-graduation.

Youth with a Disability - means a youth with a disability that is not younger than 14 years of age and not older than 24 years of age. There is no requirement that a "Youth with a disability" be participating in an education program.


The following information is critical to ensure timely payments and program operations:

  1. Training/Work Verification Sheets are to be completed on a monthly basis. Match expenditure reports are submitted at least quarterly.
  2. Incomplete, inaccurate forms required for payment will result in delayed payments.
  3. Non-compliance with Provider Responsibilities/Assurances may result in suspension of payments until DHS - DRS is satisfied that compliance concerns have been addressed.
  4. Final reconciliation must be completed and submitted to the Transition Advisor at the end of the school year.
  5. Flow Charts are required quarterly.


  1. Ensure program accessibility to all students with disabilities that includes:
    1. Opportunities to work, with or without individualized supports, in competitive jobs in the community prior to school exit, and
    2. A minimum of 10 hours of work experience for each student per calendar week approved by the STEP Counselor, which earns credits towards graduation requirements.
  2. Identify potential STEP participants for DHS-DRS referrals
    1. NOTE: STEP services should be considered not only for students with an IEP, but also students with a 504 plan or a documented disability that constitutes a barrier to employment
  3. Inform parents and students of the availability of STEP and DRS services, and of their rights and responsibilities in transition planning.
  4. Complete online referrals to DRS. Submit necessary documentation to the DRS counselor to determine student eligibility for services and approve participation in STEP at time of referral. This shall include at a minimum:
    1. Social security number
    2. Consent for services
    3. Release of Information, if the student is under 18 or has a guardian
    4. Most recent Individualized Education Program (IEP)
    5. Existing medical documentation, most recent psychological and record reviews. If applicable, social history will also be included; or
    6. Any other verification that the student has been determined by another educational or governmental agency to be an individual with a disability.
  5. Develop and monitor a coordinated educational (IEP), vocational (IPE) plan with students, parents, multi-disciplinary school personnel, STEP counselor, and adult service providers. STEP counselor must be involved in any decisions that would alter previously agreed upon STEP programming for individual students, including placement in or removal from work-based learning experiences. A copy of the students most recent IEP must be sent annually to DRS while a student is in STEP.
  6. Invite DRS counselor/TS to the annual IEP meeting at least ten (10) days in advance.
  7. Secure sites for work-based learning experiences (approved by STEP counselor) that are compatible with students' interests and needs using DHS-DRS OJE/OJT Work Site Form.
  8. Obtain appropriate wage compensation for STEP students in accordance with state and federal labor laws
  9. Provide adequate program supervision and personnel to carry out the contracted program of services
  10. Submit for payment the STEP Training/Work Verification sheets, time sheets, match reports, flow charts and student evaluations as specified in this manual in a timely and accurate manner.
  11. Complete yearly STEP application packet for submission to the Transition Advisor.
  12. Download, sign, and return contracts to OCA and Transition Advisor.
  13. Complete and submit the Final Reconciliation to Transition Advisor.
  14. Encourage active participation on local Transition Planning Committee(s).
  15. Maintain all records six (6) years, including the current year.
  16. Comply with all provisions as specified within this agreement.


Provide staff to serve as liaison to STEP who determines eligibility for DHS-DRS services. Duties include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Provide input into agreement and program development.
  2. Process referrals for STEP participation and notify school of service eligibility date and DHS - DRS case number(s).
  3. Approve and monitor all worksite agreements.
  4. Receive, review and approve all STEP documentation (including work verification sheet, flow charts and student evaluations). After reviewing case documentation for accuracy and completeness, the Counselor or Transition Specialist will initial their students on the work verification sheet and flow chart prior to submission to their office supervisor.
  5. Office supervisors will then review case for accuracy and then sign the work verification and flow chart and submit to the Transition Advisor.
  6. Document contacts with the student at least quarterly (four times a school year). May include annual student reviews, work site visits, and classroom visits.
  7. Develop and monitor a coordinated educational (IEP), vocational (IPE) plan with students, parents, multi-disciplinary school personnel, STEP counselor, and adult service providers. STEP counselor must be involved in any decisions that would alter previously agreed upon STEP programming for individual students, including placement in or removal from work-based learning experiences. In addition, if special education services are being provided, a copy of the students most recent IEP must be obtained annually to assure ongoing compatibility between student's educational programming and DRS services.
  8. Transition Planning Committee (TPC) attendance.
  9. Maintain all records for six (6) years, including current year.

Transition Advisor will serve as the Project Officer to STEP. Duties include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Provide technical assistance and support in operational procedures
  2. Review STEP Application packet, make corrections as necessary and submit to Community Resources mailbox.
  3. Transition Advisors approve contract budgets on the Contract Services Administration (CSA) tracking system.
  4. Monitor and evaluate contract performance and recommend remediation if needed.
  5. Participate in TPC activities when possible.
  6. Conduct on-site program reviews every 3 years or as needed.
  7. Review, process and submit payment requests.
  8. Review and submit the STEP Match report to Fiscal unit.
  9. Process and submit Final Reconciliation by end of school year.
  10. Participate in Contract Forum meetings.


For many students, STEP will be a multi-year program of services that will serve many purposes. As such, case management and status movement decisions need to be responsive to the individual needs and circumstances of each student.

Initially, STEP services may typically reflect those that are necessary to complete the certification of eligibility. Since STEP services are provided in conjunction with a student's educational program, it is important the DHS - DRS' services are compatible with his/her IEP. For this reason, a copy of the student's most recent IEP must be obtained annually while the student is in STEP. Review of the DHS - DRS' case file for a STEP student should clearly show a relationship between the student's IEP and the services that are being provided to the student, regardless of whether the student is completing his/her comprehensive assessment, or is in planned status.

It's important to note that a case must be certified Eligible or in plan status in order for work hours and days to apply toward a STEP outcome or paid service.

An IPE must be written in order to initiate planned services. This movement from certified status to a planned status will ensure that plans and goals have been developed, linkages for community supports have been addressed, and services necessary for a successful transition are in place. A plan must be developed or amended every year a student participates in STEP.

As a general rule, the determining factors in case management and status movement decisions regarding closure of STEP cases should be no different than those of any other customers. These decisions must be based on individual needs and circumstances and should not be confused with, or driven by, programmatic issues such as those that are unique to STEP.

Transition/STEP cases may be closed as a successful outcome after the following criteria have been met:

  1. There is a current and active IPE in place for customer's services.
  2. Student has exited high school for 90 days.
  3. When customer has employment stabilization a minimum of 90 days.


Annually, DHS - DRS will establish the amount of funds to be set aside for STEP based on the availability of state and federal dollars. Agreement proposals originate with the provider and are endorsed by the Transition Advisor based on need and past performance, and must identify local matching funds as part of the application and total agreement amount (not required of non-third party/private programs). Following the Secretary's approval, agreements are issued and distributed by the DHS Office of Contract Administration.


The following agreement options are available to both third-party and non-third party providers whose programs offer a full array of services as described in the Program Description section of this Manual.

  • Menu Based STEP - Payments based on providing services to students as specified within the agreement. Job Coaching is not an allowable service in this contract.
  • Performance Based STEP - Payments based on providing PTS to students and achieving employer paid outcomes (PERFORMANCE). The final payment is based on the level of performance achieved during the agreement period. PTS can be billed for up to 30% of the total contract. Job Coaching is not an allowable service in this contract.
  • STEP-Specialized - Payments based on providing services to students as specified within the agreement. Job Coaching is an allowable service in this contract.


Performance Outcome is defined as:

Competitive, integrated, unsubsidized community-based work for 240 hours and a minimum of 60 work days.

In addition, the following information is provided for purposes of clarification:

  • "Competitive" means employment in the community which provides an individual at least minimum wage reimbursement and, if applicable, fringe benefits, i.e., vacation, sick leave, etc.
  • "Integrated" - Integration occurs when a person with a disability works alongside coworkers who are not disabled or has frequent interaction with the general public as a result of his/her job duties
  • "Unsubsidized" - Wages are paid in full by the employer - there are no wage reimbursements from any source, i.e., DHS - DRS, Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, (WIOA), etc.


Multiple placements can be used to achieve outcomes. Placements do not have to be consecutive, as long as all other criteria apply, i.e., competitive, integrated, unsubsidized, etc.

Holiday, evening, weekend, and summer work schedules can be used to achieve the outcome, as long as the same level of supervision is provided by the Provider that existed during the regular Monday-Friday STEP program. Supervision is generally provided by the Pre-vocational Coordinator, but other Provider personnel may be assigned. STEP Counselors and Transition Specialists, however, may not be assigned to provide program supervision.

Ideally students will work 2 or more hours per work day.

If a student is unable to work 2 hours or more per day due to their disability a minimum of 1 hour per day is allowed. For students in this category, an outcome credit may be obtained with 120 hours and a minimum of 60 days.

The STEP Counselor/Transition Specialist must document any circumstances that would affect a student's ability to fully participate in 2-3 hours of STEP services per day with a goal of increased program participation.

Only one outcome credit per student per contract period is allowed. This does allow for the possibility of more than one outcome credit on the same student when served during different contract periods, as long as all other criteria are met. It also allows for a carry-over of days from one contract period to the next contract period to count towards an outcome credit, as long as all other criteria are met. The burden of proof for outcome credits lies with the Provider and will be documented by the STEP Work/Verification sheet, student time sheets and Flow Chart. The STEP Counselor/Transition Specialist is responsible for approving STEP outcomes.

Providers can claim outcome credits for students who transfer into a program if they can verify that the Performance Outcome criteria have been met. The burden of proof lies with the Provider wishing to claim the outcome credit.


Program review, evaluation, and monitoring should be an ongoing process that serves multiple purposes. For DHS - DRS, it assures agreement compliance and quality services based on the Guiding Principles that are the cornerstone of this program. For providers, it provides an opportunity to discuss program needs, future plans, and creative action to further improve and expand services. These opportunities for review and discussion are often through informal contact such as phone calls for problem solving and technical support, in-service meetings with program staff and formal documentation.

The PROJECT OFFICER'S MONITORING REPORT meets DRS' contract monitoring requirements, and is completed by the Transition Advisor at the end of the agreement period.

The on-site review meets DHS contract monitoring requirements and is completed by the Transition Advisor once every three years.


Agreement disputes shall be resolved between DHS - DRS local office staff and the Provider. If disputes cannot be resolved at this level, the Provider or DHS - DRS Supervisor shall submit in writing to the Community Resources Administrator.

The Administrator of Community Resources will be the final level of the appeal and will render a written decision within ten working days. Copies of the final decision will be sent to the Provider, Rehabilitation Services Supervisor, and the Transition Advisor.


An agreement change may be initiated by either DHS - DRS or the provider, but can only occur with an amendment or modification that has been authorized by the Transition Advisor.

For agreement changes involving only an increase or reduction in match, a modification must be completed when match will be increased or reduced by at least $2,000 or 10%, whichever is greater. As a general rule, any amendment that increases DHS - DRS funds should result in increased student outcomes or services.

  • AMENDMENT An amendment is required to increase or decrease contract amounts, add a line item or change the scope or deliverables of a contract. This becomes effective on the date of the DHS - DRS Director's letter of approval or signed amendment from the DHS Secretary. All amendments MUST be completed prior to April 1.
     If the changes in existing budget line item amounts total less than 10% of DHS funding amount, a modification may be completed.

Changes MUST be within the limits of the modification authority and completed prior to June 1.


All amendments MUST be completed prior to April 1.

Modifications MUST be completed prior to June 1 of the agreement period.

Paperwork - Gotta Have It! Who Gets What When

Document What Is It? Who Gets It? When Do They Send It?
OJE/OJT Work Site Form Describes Student's Work Site, Supervisor, Job Title, Job Duties, and Work Schedule as well as information re: wages and who is paying. Automatically generated through WebCM to STEP Counselor or Transition Specialist Before start of any job
Student Evaluations Quarterly Evaluation completed by work site supervisor STEP Counselor or Transition Specialist Due each quarterly grading period
Student Time Sheets Document that details the dates and hours student worked. Can be an employer generated document, student kept calendar, pre-voc general document. Automatically generated through WebCM to STEP Counselor or Transition Specialist By the 15th of the following month
STEP Training/Work Verification Sheet Monthly report of students who worked that month. Used to track program participants, hours worked, status and performance contract information. STEP Counselor or Transition Specialist, then Supervisor, then Transition Advisor, then Contract Unit By the 15th of the month following the month of reporting
Quarterly Match Report Identifies the cost of the school personnel involved in STEP for the time they are released to do it. STEP Counselor or Transition Specialist, then Transition Advisor, then Fiscal Unit By the 15th of the month following end of quarter.
Flow Chart Identifies all the students who have been involved in STEP during the contract year and the services and programs in which they have been involved. STEP Counselor or Transition Specialist, then Supervisors, then Transition Advisor By the 15th of the month following end of quarter.
Reconciliation Shows amount of contract, outcomes or services provided, total DHS payments received and money owed to provider or DHS, if any. Transition Advisor, then to Contract Unit At the end of the school year
Training Memorandum Same as Work Site Form School and Students keeps copies Before the start of any job.



  • 1 Assure new contract has been received prior to providing services
  • 15 June STEP Training/Work Verification Sheet (final billing) due 4th quarter Match Expenditure Report Flow Chart Due


15 July STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due


15 August STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due


15 September STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due 1st Quarter Match Expenditure Report due 1st Quarter flow chart


Reminder - Student Progress Reports due to STEP Counselors or Transition Specialists at end of grading period. 15 October STEP Training/Work Verification Sheet Due


15 November STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due SCHEDULE OF DUE DATES & REMINDERS


Reminder - Student Progress Reports due to STEP Counselors or Transition Specialists at end of grading period. 15 December STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due 2nd Quarter Match Expenditure Report 1st Semester Flow Chart due


15 January STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due


Reminder - Student Progress Reports due to STEP Counselors or Transition Specialists at end of grading period. 15 February STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due


Final day for contract amendments 15 Match STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due 3rd Quarter Match Expenditure Report 3rd Quarter Flow Chart

MAY 15

April STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due


Reminder - Student Progress Reports due to STEP Counselors or Transition Specialists at end of grading period. 1 Final day for contract modification. 15 May STEP Training/Work Verification sheet due. 30 Download, sign, and return contract, prior to June 30th.



  • Example:

Responsibilities of the Student Learner:

The student learner will keep regular attendance, both in school and on the job, and cannot work on any school day that he/she fails to attend school; he/she will notify the school and employer if unable to report.

  • The student's OJE/OJT funds will be terminated if he/she does not remain in school.
  • The student will show honesty, punctuality, courtesy, a cooperative attitude, proper health and grooming habits, good dress, and a willingness to learn. * The student will consult the teacher-coordinator about any difficulties arising at the training site. 
  • The student will conform to the rules and regulations of the training site.
  • The student will furnish the teacher-coordinator with all necessary information and complete all necessary reports.

Responsibilities of the Parent(s): 

  • The parent(s) will encourage the student to effectively carry out duties and responsibilities.
  • The parent(s) will share the responsibilities for the conduct of the student while training in the program. 
  • The parent(s) will be responsible for the safety and conduct of the student while traveling to and from the school, the training site and home.

Responsibilities of the Training Sponsor/Employer: 

  • The training sponsor/employer will endeavor to employ the student for at least the minimum number of hours each day and each week for the entire agreed upon training period. 
  • The training sponsor/employer will adhere to all federal and state regulations regarding employment, child labor laws, minimum wages and other applicable regulations. 
  • The training sponsor/employer will see that the student is not allowed to remain in any one operation, job, or phase of the occupation beyond the period of time where such experience is of educational value. 
  • The training sponsor/employer will consult the teacher-coordinator about any difficulties arising at the training site and before any student trainee is terminated.

Page Two

Rules & Regulations for Student Learner

  • The training sponsor/employer will provide experiences that will contribute to the attainment of the student's career objective. 
  • The training sponsor/employer will assist in evaluating the student. 
  • The training sponsor/employer will provide time for consultation with the teacher-coordinator concerning the student. 
  • The training sponsor/employer will provide instructional material and occupational guidance for the student as needed and available.

Responsibilities of the School:

  • The school administration will employ and retain a qualified teacher-coordinator. 
  • The school administration will allow the teacher-coordinator sufficient time to provide the related instruction and to carry on necessary coordination activities.

Responsibilities of the Teacher-Coordinator:

  • The teacher-coordinator will coordinate related classroom instruction and on-the-job training to improve job performance and to better prepare the student for his/her occupational career objective. 
  • The teacher-coordinator will see that the necessary related classroom instruction is provided.
  • The teacher-coordinator will make periodic visits as necessary to the training site to observe the student and consult with the employer or training sponsor. 
  • The teacher-coordinator will assist in evaluation of the student.

This agreement may be terminated by mutual consent of the training sponsor and the teacher-coordinator.

It is understood the parties participating in this agreement will not discriminate in employment opportunities on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, or national origin.

Student Date Training Sponsor/Employer Date

ParentDateTeacher-Coordinator  Date

State of Illinois

Department of Human Services

Division of Rehabilitation Services

Consent for Services I hereby give consent (permission) for ______________________________ to receive and

participate in vocational rehabilitation services that will lead to employment.

(Parent of Guardian Signature)  (Date)

IL488-2458 (01/03)