Effectiveness Students Disabilities
Effectiveness of the Work-based Program on Students with Disabilities:
Perceptions of program faculty, students, parents and the business community
Across the United States, students with disabilities face unique challenges in obtaining and maintaining meaningful employment after high school. Studies show that graduates with disabilities are disproportionately unemployed or underemployed when compared to the general population. The researcher is concerned that students with disabilities who are granted Transition diplomas will not be able to use their diplomas to find gainful employment or participate in a post secondary education.
As it is with this diploma choice the student meet the requirements of their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) but not the requirements of the school systems’ regular education plan. To prepare for the transition from school to work, students with disabilities must therefore gain the skills, self-confidence and work-based experiences that enable other students to succeed. The researcher is evaluating the effectiveness of work-based programs on students with disabilities based the perception of students, parents, business community and the program faculty, administration and counselors.
According to the Georgia Department of Education’s website (2008), its vision is that all students with disabilities will participate in a challenging educational program designed to meet their unique needs that results in increased academic performance and prepares them for employment and independent living (www.doe.k12.ga.us).
Is this vision being realized through work-based programs for students with disabilities? Since 1997, an amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been a significant law in mandating the transition planning for Exceptional Education students beginning at 14 years of age. The vision is realized when all of the stakeholders (parents, students, program faculty, administrators, counselors and the business community) work together to support the student with disabilities with meaningful and challenging work-based experiences.
DeKalb County, Georgia is primarily a suburban community located approximately 20 miles east of the city of Atlanta. DeKalb County School System (DCSS) is Georgia’s second largest system with a population of 102,000 students according to the website (2008). The population consists of 9.2% students with disabilities (www.dekalb.k12.ga.us).
Warren Technical School is a magnet work-based program in DCSS that provide students with disabilities instruction in career, job readiness, and life skills. Programs are offered in auto service, building maintenance, construction, culinary arts, hospitality, grounds maintenance/horticulture, office technology, and production/distribution. Reading is also taught to ensure workplace literacy. Students have the opportunity to learn skills directly in the workplace.
Review of Literature
Planning for one’s transition from high school to work is both challenging and intimidating for most students. However, the challenge is even greater for students with disabilities. Ryan (1995) states that students with disabilities must develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for success in multiple career roles in an increasingly complex world through educational and vocational services. Within this review, the researcher will provide insight from other studies and findings at it relates to work-based programs for students with disabilities.
Studies show that work-based learning experiences, especially paid work integrated into curriculum, leads to improved post school employment outcomes for all students with disabilities, regardless of primary label or required level of support (Benz, Yovanoff, & Doren, 1997). In fact, Hagner and Vander Sande (1998) noted that work based job experiences might be thought of as the ultimate functional curriculum.
Students who practice job skills only in a classroom environment may not be able to effectively transfer the skill set to the workplace after high school. Recommended practices associated with favorable outcomes for students with disabilities include vocational training, parental involvement, social skills training, paid work experience, follow-up employment services, vocational assessment, employability skills training and community based instructions (Sitlington, Clark, & Kolstoe, 2000).
Other studies also support the importance of work-based programs for students with disabilities. Knight and Reick (1997) notes that students with disabilities receiving job-specific skills are significantly less likely to drop out of school and experience better school attendance. As a result, they are more likely to acquire positive social bonding skills and that parents actively involved in their education.
After high school, former Exceptional Education students who had paid or unpaid work based experiences during their secondary education had higher wages, longer hours and more meaningful employment. Despite the demonstrated value of work-based learning experiences for students with disabilities, participation in these experiences remains low (Colley & Jamison, 1998). The availability of work-based experiences lies with willing employers making accommodations to work with disabled students.
The researcher found it well-documented that work-based programs lead to greater employment success for students with disabilities beyond high school. However, little research could be found on the best practices for work-based programs for students with disabilities.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to study the effectiveness of the work-based program on students with disabilities in Georgia’s second largest school system - DeKalb County Schools. Through the perceptions of the program faculty including administration and counselors, students, parents and the business community, the effectiveness of the program is measured by evaluating the participants’ responses regarding their experiences with the students’ preparation for employment.
The study involves students with disabilities who have elected the Transition Diploma Program of Study and attends Warren Technical School. The study will also serve as a resource to identify both intended and unintended outcomes of the work-based program.
In conducting this research study, the following questions will be addressed:
- What is the effectiveness of the work-based program as perceived by the students with disabilities?
- What is the effectiveness of the work-based program as perceived by the parents?
- What is the effectiveness of the work-based program as perceived by the program faculty?
- What is the effectiveness of the work-based program as perceived by the business community?
- Is there a significant difference in the effectiveness of the work-based program as perceived by the program faculty, students, parents, and business community?
The following are definition of terms to allow the reader to fully understand the content of the study:
- Transition Diploma is a certificate issued to Exceptional Education students to acknowledge the successful completion of a postsecondary education based on his/her Individual Education Plan.
- Exceptional Education refers to the education of students with physical or mental disabilities. The students are referred to as students with disabilities.
- Workforce readiness is the acquisition of skills in preparation for disability students to enter and compete in a global economy.
- Individual Education Plan (IEP) refers to an educational plan to meet the unique need of a child with a disability. The plan also includes a written document to describe its significance, implementation and evaluation procedures. An IEP is a federally mandated document for Exceptional Education students.
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide educational related services to children with disabilities from birth to the age of 21.
- Program effectiveness is based on the perception of the stakeholders’ (students, parents, business community and program faculty, administration and counselors) assessment of the students’ acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to obtain and maintain meaningful employment.
To conduct this study, the researcher will use both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The analysis of variance data will be collected using the questionnaire of the Likert Scale five-point model. This questionnaire which includes one written response will be completed by the students, parents, business partners, and the program faculty. (See Appendices A, B, C and D for the questionnaires.)
The qualitative data will be collected by interviewing two participants from each group. In addition, the administrators and counselors will be interviewed to gather their perceptions of the long term successes of the students and the strategies used to asses the effectiveness of the work-based program. (See Appendix E) To gather this data, the researcher has written questions to be used for the study.
The researcher chose these two methods of data collection because they represent an objective approach to determining the effectiveness of the work-based program. In addition, these methods will be administered so that bias is not introduced into the study.
Learning disabilities come in many different forms to include but not limited to autism, visual impairment, speech-language impairments, intellectual disabilities, emotional and behavior disorder, and significant developmental delay to name a few. The researcher has chosen to conduct a study using the data of emotional and behavior disorder (EBD) students in the DeKalb County School System (DCSS).
A sample of the population must meet specific criteria to include EBD students who will graduate with a Transition Diploma. The participants must also be enrolled at Warren Technical School, a magnet work-based program within DCSS that serves to help the students meet their transition plans of employment.
Thirty student participants will be selected during the 2009-2010 academic school year using a purposive sample that meets the previously mentioned criteria. The researcher will also seek thirty participants each of parents, program faculty/staff and the business partners (past and present) who assist with the work-based program.
The study will respect the participants by protecting the autonomy of all people and treating them with courtesy and respect and allowing for informed consent. The study will also maximize benefits for the research proposal while minimizing risks to the research participants and ensure reasonable, non-exploitative, and well-considered procedures are administered fairly.
All participants will be informed of the purpose and aim of the study use of results, and the likely social consequence the study will have on their lives (Creswell, 2005). The participants will have the right to withdraw from the study at any time and know that their anonymity is protected and guaranteed. Consent must also be established with parents and/or guardians of minor participants and participants will be informed that there is no monetary compensation for their time, nor will any profit be made. Consent forms will be distributed and signed from all appropriate personnel and participants before any research takes place.
Data Collection Instrument
Interviews and questionnaires will be the method of data collection. (See Appendices A, B, C and D for the student, parent, business and program faculty questionnaires, respectively. Appendix E contains the interview questions for the administrators and counselors of the work-based program). All questions of the two different instrumentations are designed to assess the same areas of the students’ academic, behavioral and social progress in the work-based program.
More so, the open-ended format was chosen for the interviews to avoid limiting responses. The researcher believes that the burden of the work-based program’s effectiveness lies with the administration and faculty. Warren Tech is unique in providing such students with instruction in career, job readiness, and life skills.
Programs are offered in auto service, building maintenance, construction, culinary arts, hospitality, grounds maintenance/horticulture, office technology, and production/distribution. Warren Tech has the privilege of low student teacher ratios, which allows teachers to evaluate student progress on a very individual level.
The researcher will field test the questionnaires and interview questions to make any appropriate changes based on feedback. After informing the potential participants about the purpose of the study and that their participation is voluntary, consent forms will be provided and permission granted before proceeding with gathering data. Interviews will be conducted with administration and counselors as questionnaires are given to students, parents and business partners (past and present) beginning in the Spring semester 2010.
The participants’ responses will be analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and qualitative analysis procedures. ANOVA will be used to analyze results based on independent participant groups using a post hoc test. This procedure will determine if there is significant difference in the perception among the students, parent and business community in the effectiveness of the work-based program. The qualitative analysis will derive from the interviews and written responses. The researcher will also analyze the data to derive at the intended and unintended outcomes of the work-based program.
Benz, M.R., Yovanoff, P., & Doren, B. (1997). School-to-work components that predict postschool success for students with and without disabilities. Exceptional Children, 63(12), 151-165.
Colley, D. A., & Jamison, D. (1998). Post school results for youth with disabilities: Key indicators and policy implications. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals: Official Journal of Division on Career Development, the Council for Exceptional Children, 21(2),145-160.
Cook, B. (2002). Special Educators’ Views of Community-based Job Training and Inclusion as Indicators of Job Competencies for Students with Mild and Moderate Disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals: Official Journal of Division on Career Development, the Council for Exceptional Children, 25(1),7-22.
DeKalb County School System. (2008) Fast Facts. Retrieved July 10, 2008 from http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Georgia Department of Education. (2008) Special Education Services and Supports. Retrieved July 10, 2008 from http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/ci_exceptional.aspx
Hagner, D., & Vander Sande, J. (1998). School sponsored work experience and vocational instruction. In F. R. Rusch & J. G. Chadsey (Eds.), Beyond high school: Transition from school to work (pp. 340-366). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Knight, D. & Rieck, W. (1997). Contracts for careers. Teaching Exceptional Children, 29(6), 42-46.
Ochs, L. and Roessler, R. (2001), Students with Disabilities: How Ready Are They for the 21st Century? Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin 44(3), 170-176
Ryan, C. (1995). Work isn’t what is used to be: Implications, recommendations, and strategies for vocational rehabilitation. Journal of Rehabilitation, 61(4), 8-15.
Sitlington, P. L., Clark, G. M., & Kolstoe, O.P. (2000). Transition Education and Services for Adolescents with Disabilities. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.