Preparing Students With Special Needs for College and Careers

The aim of the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center’s issue brief “Improving College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities” is to help state policymakers better recognize strategies that prepare students with special needs for college and careers. This blog post offers an overview of the brief and highlights key takeaways.

A Large Order to Fill. In order for the 21st century global economy to be successful, young people entering the workforce will need a broader range of knowledge and skills than previous generations. Achieving this will be no easy task, however, as it will require a higher percentage of America’s youth to earn postsecondary degrees—including youth with special needs. Yet, as data in this brief illustrate, students with special needs have lower graduation rates than students who have not been identified with special needs. These lower graduation rates can, at least partially, be attributed to teachers, counselors, and families having lower expectations for these students’ academic outcomes. Because of this, students with special needs are often not challenged to live up to their true potential.

Filling the Order. To help meet the demands of the 21st century economy, state policymakers need to take a more proactive role in helping districts and schools develop strategies that will effectively prepare students with special needs for college and careers. The brief identifies various strategies to assist state policymakers in achieving this goal, which include the following:

  • Raise expectations for students with special needs.
  • Make information regarding postsecondary education and career options more readily available in the early years of high school.
  • Ensure access to well-informed counselors who can provide guidance  and support in planning transitions.
  • Provide all students with well-trained teachers prepared to support individual needs.
  • Aid districts and schools to better use data that inform instruction.
  • Provide multiple pathways to post-high-school success.

These strategies are also accompanied by links to additional resources. For instance, the DO-IT Scholars program, funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Washington, offers support mentoring and peer-advising support and provides advice on college and careers to students with special needs. Another example comes from the National Collaborative for Workforce and Disability for Youth brief “Engaging Youth in Work Experiences: An Innovative Strategies Practice Brief,” which provides tools for establishing work-based learning programs and partnerships for students with special needs.

The outlined strategies plus additional resources offered by this CCRS Center brief make it a valuable resource to policymakers looking to strengthen graduation outcomes for students with special needs as well as to help fill the demands of the 21st century economy.    

If you would like more information on state initiatives to prepare students with special needs for college and careers, please e-mail us.

Jeremy Rasmussen is a project associate with the CCRS Center.

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