University of Maryland College of Education researchers Ellen Fabian and Richard Luecking received a $6.8 million grant from the Maryland State Department of Education to help students with disabilities prepare for postsecondary education or entry into the workforce upon high school graduation. The grant award was funded through a larger initiative by the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, which provided $7.5 million to MSDE’s Division of Rehabilitation Services, as part of $39 million total in awards given to five states.
“Youth with disabilities lag behind their peers in college and career readiness,” explained University of Maryland College of Education professor Ellen Fabian, Ph.D. “Innovative programs that help students with disabilities enter the workforce represent an important investment in their long-term success.”
To ensure evidence-based outcomes, the project will include a randomized control design implemented across diverse school districts in Maryland, with 400 students with disabilities participating. Students enrolled in the research project will be those who are two years prior to high school graduation, largely 16 to 18 years old. The research will examine the most effective ways to use Pre-Employment Transition Services, which include work-based learning experiences and is one of the provisions of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
“This research is designed to help students with disabilities overcome barriers to employment or post secondary education,” said Sue Page, assistant state superintendent of the MSDE Division of Rehabilitation Services, which is leading the overall project. “Identifying effective interventions will help inform the field and the state of how to best support students with disabilities in achieving career goals.”
Fabian and Luecking’s research will feature Work-Based Learning Model Demonstrations, which may include touring employment sites, attending informational interviews, or help securing paid employment during high school. Other key components of the comprehensive project are early referral of youth to MSDE’s Division of Rehabilitation Services to connect them to services, as well as collaboration amongst the state, local educational agencies, and other key partners.
“Workforce participation of people with disabilities is low — estimates range from five to 45 percent of people with significant disabilities holding employment. Addressing the real challenges for youth with disabilities has the potential to significantly improve their adult employment prospects,” said University of Maryland College of Education Research Professor Richard Luecking, Ed.D.
Fabian and Luecking, both housed in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Higher Education & Special Education, have extensive experience conducting research with practical applications and are experts on issues related to special education and vocational training for people with disabilities.
October 12, 2016