KU part of $12.5M grant to prepare young adults with disabilities for careers

Mike Krings

The University of Kansas is part of a partnership that has secured a $12.5 million grant to help states better prepare young people with disabilities for the transition to postsecondary education and careers. The grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and will work with educators in all 50 states and 10 U.S. territories.

Researchers in KU’s Transition Coalition, a team that focuses on helping young adults with disabilities, will develop online and blended professional development strategies that educators, rehabilitation counselors, families and others will be able to use to improve practices in working with young adults during transition. KU will partner with University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the University of Oregon, Western Michigan University and TransCen Inc., a Maryland-based company that provides employment services to students with disabilities.

The National Technical Assistance Center on Improving Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students with Disabilities will begin formally in January 2015. The professional development strategies KU develops will be known as the Online Evidence-Based Learning Practices Platform. State education officials from across the country and U.S. territories will be able to access the training materials, largely based on KU expertise, and share them with educators and rehabilitation coordinators in their areas.

KU’s role in the project will be funded by about $1 million of the grant over five years. The Center’s funding was part of $121 million in funding awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to help improve outcomes of individuals with disabilities.

"These investments are significant in assisting individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "We want all individuals with disabilities to succeed, and these investments symbolize our values and commitment as a nation toward achieving excellence for all."

In addition to the online professional development designed for all states, KU researchers will design more intensive training for educators in 15 states that seek additional assistance as well as intensive technical assistance to five states. All of the online professional development will operate under the goals of helping states put into place evidence-based interventions for improving career and secondary education readiness, increasing academic achievement, helping states use their educational data to improve services, and reduce dropout and increase graduation rates for students with disabilities.

The work will be an extension of efforts KU’s Transition Coalition has been working on for several years. Recently the team, part of KU’s Center for Research on Learning, has worked with four states to help improve skills, refine approaches and access new resources in their work to prepare young adults with disabilities for their transition to adulthood. The courses were a blend of online and face-to-face efforts tailored to fit each state’s specific laws.

Mary Morningstar, associate professor of special education and director of the Transition Coalition, said the partnership will further enable the group’s ability to maximize opportunities for young people.

“We’re promoting successful transitions to college and adulthood for young adults with disabilities,” Morningstar said. “In this center we’ll be doing that by creating practices for educators and rehabilitation counselors that evidence has shown to be effective in giving young adults the best opportunity to succeed.”