Improving Post-High School Outcomes for Transition-Age Students with Disabilities: An Evidence Review

About the study

This study examined various transitioning programs for high school students with disabilities to help career practitioners develop effective programs that would improve post-high school outcomes of students with disabilities, including employment. Through a rigorous review of relevant literature conducted using Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse (WWC)’s standards, the study identifies research evaluating the effectiveness of programs based on available evidence to determine whether participating in school-based work study or community-based work experience programs had positive effects on employment for students with disabilities after high school.

 

What can be learned from this study?

• With only 43 out of 10,752 studies meeting WWC evidence standards, and none without reservations, there is clear lack of evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of transition programs. The authors recommend that more rigorous research be conducted using randomized control trials or quasi-experimental studies for a more comprehensive analysis between treatment and control groups.

• Based on the evidence, community-based work experience programs are found to have mixed effects on employment outcomes of students with disabilities following high school graduation.

  • For example, an evaluation of the Steps-to-Success program for young people with emotional or behavioral disorders in Miami, United States, indicates that the program had little effect on employment at follow-up, whereas a community-based transition program, or “supported employment,” had positive effects on employment after graduation. Community-based transition programs that offered services such as job shadowing, assessments, and work adjustment supports proved to be more effective than other programs.

• For school-based work study programs, one study found that students who have participated in a work study program while in school did not fare any better obtaining full-time employment than those who did not participate. However, other studies have shown positive effects on employment after high school graduation for students who worked in at least one job while in school.

• In terms of program development, some studies suggest that integrating work experience programs with a career and technical education component may lead to better employment outcomes for students with disabilities.

 

What method(s) did the study use?

A systematic literature review conducted using WWC’s evidence standards. This research is based on 43 studies that have met the WWC’s evidence standards and have either used randomized control trials, quasi-experimental designs or single-case designs.

 

References

Out of 22 randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies examined, only three met the WWC’s evidence standards (with reservations). All three studies focused on employment outcomes of students with disabilities after high school graduation.

Baer et al. (2011) examines full-time employment rate of students with intellectual disabilities after high school graduation. Career and technical education, as well as work study programs are found to have little effect on the graduates’ employment rate. (Quasi-experimental design)

Cimera (2010) finds students who have participated in community-based transition programs such as “supported employment” in high school are more cost-efficient in their adulthood than those who did not receive transition services. (Quasi-experimental design)

Karpur et al. (2005) evaluates the Steps-to-Success program by comparing employment outcomes of individuals with emotional and behavioral problems by participation in the program using a quasi-experimental design.