New CCRS Center Brief: Improving College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities

The National Longitudinal Studies and other data demonstrate how students with disabilities are lagging behind their peers. Students with disabilities graduate from high school at lower rates, attend and graduate from postsecondary institutions less frequently, and achieve lower rates of competitive employment. The American Youth Policy Forum recently co-authored a policy brief with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center titled, Improving College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities, highlighting these disparities and identifying critical issues that states have grappled with to address such disparities. The issues that the brief looks at  falls into three major categories—collectively and transparently defining college and career readiness for students with disabilities; developing the capacity of educators to provide high quality instruction, assessment, and other services; and aligning efforts across a wide range of stakeholders to create meaningful pathways to college and careers.

States have taken different approaches to these issues and in some cases have done an excellent job in aligning their efforts in support of a unified vision. The Oregon Youth Transitions Program is an example of when the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, University of Oregon, and school districts across the state have developed a transition program for youth with disabilities. All youth receive a comprehensive menu of services, including individualized planning, instruction in academic, vocational, and other skills, career development services, paid employment opportunities, mentoring, and follow-up support. Many other current initiatives demonstrate that students with disabilities can be held to very high expectations and succeed as a result.

Project DO-It, funded by the University of Washington and the National Science Foundation offers support for high school students with disabilities through mentoring, peer advising, participation in STEM activities, work-based learning opportunities, and summer college exploration activities. The program has helped students with disabilities succeed in STEM-focused postsecondary courses through meaningful relationships, ongoing mentoring, and exposure to college and career experiences. Elsewhere, has been supporting students with intellectual disabilities by documenting dual enrollment opportunities across the country, offering technical assistance to states, and providing coordination, research, and resources.

In addition to highlighting major issues in the field, the brief identifies several similar successful programs, policies, and resources that can be instructive to states as they continue to support students with disabilities.

Andrew Valent is a co-author of the brief and a Program Associate at the American Youth Policy Forum.

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