The National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS-2) funded by the U.S. Department of Education is documenting the experiences of a national sample of over 12,000 students who were 13 to 16 years of age in 2000 as they move from secondary school into adult roles, most importantly employment and postsecondary education. The NLTS-2 has documented several factors that are associated with poor transition outcomes, including minority status, certain disability classifications, and social and economic disadvantage. This study, being conducted by the Center, is mining NLTS-2 data to develop a prediction model that identifies both inhibiting and mitigating factors related to success in entering employment and postsecondary education by youth with disabilities. Specifically, the study is focusing on factors affecting service participation and outcomes related to work experience, employer-based programs, supported employment, and secondary school/vocational rehabilitation partnerships.
Researchers are using JMP Partition Modeling to determine what variables or factors contribute to youth outcomes. Partition Modeling uses a stepwise approach to study the relationship between a dependent variable and any number of predictor variables. The predictor variables include an array of youth and family demographic variables, school and community variables, and student program variables. The model partitions the data and depicts it in a classification tree illustrating how major categories formed from the independent predictor (or splitter) variables can differentially predict a criterion or dependent variable. The partitioning process continues until no further splits can be performed that contribute to overall predictive value.
The Risk Modeling Study (Study 1) is identifying homogeneous subgroups of students who are at greatest risk for poor employment outcomes post-school. These will be students who are likely to fall into multiple risk categories (e.g., race and ethnicity, gender, disability type, family status, etc.). Yet even with the highest risk students, some will be successful in achieving employment post-school. Thus, this is a follow-up study to Study #1—Risk Modeling. Researchers, of this study, are using the NLTS-2 data focusing exclusively on high risk students and investigating factors that may mitigate their risk for poor transition outcomes.
The study is using a retrospective comparison design. Researchers of this study are extracting a subset of the data representing students in multiple risk groups. Then making comparisons between those who were successful in transition to employment versus those who were not on factors that are amenable to developing interventions, such as (1) the student’s educational program (e.g., engagement in the general educational curriculum, vocational education, etc.); (2) the student’s level of integration with non-disabled students; (3) student support services provided; (4) collaboration with adult services; and (5) the student’s role/level of participation in transition planning.
The findings of this study will provide valuable information for school districts for developing more effective school-to-work transition programs and plans for high risk youth.
The poor post-secondary education employment outcomes reported in the NLTS-2 Study, the National Council on Disability, and numerous others indicate persisting gaps in post high school employment outcomes for students with disabilities compared to their peers, particularly those from minority backgrounds. Given the lack of rigorously controlled studies in this area, the current status of research on youth transition outcomes can be characterized as “nascent”, although there are several reports of “promising practices”.
One of the promising interventions that has garnered research attention is the Bridges from School to Work Program (Bridges) administered by the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. Operating since 1990, the Bridges program has provided services to about 15,000 youth with disabilities at seven metropolitan sites spanning the country; with a substantial proportion being at-risk. Bridges is a vocational intervention offered to youth with diverse disabilities in the year prior to school exit consisting of career counseling, job placement, and ongoing employment supports. While national reports have cited the effectiveness of the Bridges intervention in improving post-school employment outcomes, there are small, but significant groups (i.e., Latinos, youth with SED) who have not displayed similarly positive outcomes.
This study is conducting a secondary analysis of the multi-site Bridges database (2005 to 2009 including about 5,000 students) to identify individual and environmental factors associated with greater likelihood of getting and keeping a paid job for transitioning youth. As a result of this study, the Center is identifying effective interventions and programmatic recommendations relevant to the capacity of school systems and transition programs to improve transition services for at-risk youth.
This mixed method study (Creswell, 2009) is examining the types, level and intensity of direct intervention services delivered by employment specialists in a multi-site transition program. In addition, the perceptions and attitudes of employment specialist towards their professional role are being investigated. Such findings will identify staff-based factors contributing to successful job placement and high retention rates of high-risk transition-age youth and young adults with disabilities. The methodology incorporates basic quantitative descriptive elements combined with qualitative empirical case study design for data collection, analysis and interpretation (Yin, 2009). Additional analyses will follow procedures espoused by Miles and Huberman (1994), allowing the Center to identify detailed contextual evidence of events, conditions, and the relationships between them, and to discover meaningful patterns that reinforce theory and answer the research questions (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Supported employment has been used in secondary education settings for the past 25 years. Prior research documents the effectiveness of individual school-based supported employment programs, yet little rigorous empirical research has been done on the extent to which the program is currently used in secondary transition programs, the actual supported employment practices in use, and the effectiveness of these programs. The Center is conducting an empirical study of the effectiveness of supported employment programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in secondary schools throughout Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Education is assisting in the selection of school divisions to participate in this study by reviewing data from Indicator 13 as well as considering size (urban, suburban, and rural) and geographic location within the State. This will enable the study to address the extent to which supported employment services vary by size, location, and types of students served. The study will yield a reliable and validated fidelity scale. Results of the fidelity scale are being analyzed in relation to the employment outcomes for each school, based on employment data provided by the schools and the results of a multi-year analysis of the Virginia Indicator 14 data.
The hallmark practices associated with effective transition programs include: 1) student centered planning; 2) youth empowerment; 3) individualized career/work experiences; 4) paid employment; 5) family support and participation; and 6) inter-agency collaboration and service coordination. While the first five practices have received significant attention in the empirical literature and moderate support in outcome studies, inter-agency collaboration and service coordination, while widely endorsed, have been neglected in the research literature even though collaboration is statutorily required in authorizing legislation. Collaboration in transition has been the focus of recent federal initiatives, but there remains surprisingly little known regarding its measurement and effect on student outcomes.
In 2007, the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) received a transition model demonstration grant from RSA to implement and evaluate a state-wide best practice transition model called the Maryland Seamless Transition Collaborative (MSTC). Almost all of the identified participating students are youth with intellectual disabilities or youth with SED, two of the groups with the greatest risk of poor employment outcomes.
This study is measuring the extent to which collaborative networks contribute to student transition outcomes and whether collaborative networks improve as a result of project implementation. Working with eight of the participating MSTC sites, the Center on Transition to Employment will administer two surveys capturing perspectives on collaboration from the local MSTC teams. As a result of this study, the field will know more about the extent to which collaborative networks contribute to student transition outcomes and specifically how the networks are defined. More importantly, the study will contribute to efforts on system change in transition.