Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Predicting Participation in Postsecondary Education for School Leavers with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Predicting Participation in Postsecondary Education for School Leavers with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The transition from high school into adult life is a complex period of time for all high school students, with or without disabilities. Within the field of special education, we have often framed our interest in transition as the movement from school to employment, even though the dimensions of postschool adjustment obviously involve a much broader array of adult roles (Halpern, 1993).

Participation in postsecondary education after leaving high school is perhaps the most common alternative to direct employment, at least within the general population. For students without disabilities, several different pathways exist, including 4-year colleges, community colleges, and private vocational schools that offer certificates in a particular job area, such as hairdressing or serving as a nurse's aide. Community colleges are also themselves rather complex, offering a wide array of programs, including preparation for transfer to a 4-year college, specific vocational training accompanied by a degree or certificate, and many adult education courses that are not degree oriented and can address either vocational or a vocational content.

At least in theory, all these options are also available to students with disabilities. In addition, students with disabilities sometimes have access to postsecondary education or training opportunities that are specifically designed for people with disabilities, such as job training programs supported by a vocational rehabilitation agency. The purpose of this article is to explore the predictors of participation in postsecondary education by high school students with disabilities after they leave school.

The methodology employed in this study involves the replication of a prediction model, using the same set of instruments and variables on two independent samples of school leavers.

BACKGROUND FOR THE STUDY

When considering the participation of school leavers in postsecondary education, we should question both the rate of participation and the predictors of participation. The rate of participation has gained attention since 1984, when the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (OSERS) of the U.S. Department of Education first declared transition as a national priority (Will, 1984). Since that time, OSERS has funded more than 300 model demonstration projects in the area of transition, including approximately 100 projects with a focus on postsecondary education as a transition outcome (Kohler, Rubin, & Rusch, 1994). In a review of the literature in this field, Bursuck and Rose (1992) found participation rates chat ranged from 9% to 50% of the samples of school leavers with disabilities that were represented in the studies reviewed.

The recently completed National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) also examined the participation of school leavers with disabilities in postsecondary education. NLTS findings indicated an average participation rate of 14% for all school leavers (N= 1,741) who were out of high school for less than 2 years (Wagner, D'Amico, Marder, Newman, & Blackorby, 1992). Graduates had higher participation rates (19%) than did dropouts (6%), and people with physical or sensory disabilities had higher participation rates (28%-36%) than did those with cognitive, emotional, or severe disabilities (4%-17%). The NLTS found no large differences in participation based on gender or ethnicity.

The NLTS is one of few projects that have also explored the predictors of participation in postsecondary education (Wagner, Blackorby, Cameto, & Newman, 1993). Project staff used logistic regression analysis techniques to examine the predictive power of five variables that one might expect to be influential: 1. Gender of the school leaver. 2. "Mental skills" of the school leaver. 3. The presence or absence of "transition planning"

that included postsecondary education

as a transition goal. 4. The presence or absence of parental expectations

that their child would participate in

postsecondary education. …

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