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Evidence-Based Practices and Predictors in Secondary Transition: What We Know and What We Still Need to Know

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As a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Program federally-funded technical assistance and dissemination center from 2006-2015, the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC; #H326J050004 and H326J110001) one of NSTTAC’s tasks was to identify the evidence-based practices for the field of secondary transition.

To do this, NSTTAC conducted a two part review of literature. In Part I, evidence-based practices based on quality experimental (both group and single subject designs) studies were identified (Test, Fowler, Richter, White, Mazzotti, Walker, Kohler, & Kortering, 2009). However, while these evidence-based practices were designed to teach students specific transition-related skills, to date, the experimental literature has not attempted to measure the impact of these skills on post-school outcomes.

As a result, in Part II, the review was expanded to include rigorous correlational research in secondary transition to identify evidence-based predictors that are correlated with improved post-school outcomes in education, employment, and/or independent living (Test, Mazzotti, Mustian, Fowler, Kortering, & Kohler, 2009).

What We Know

Initially, Test, Fowler, et al. (2009) identified 32 evidence-based practices in secondary transition. Since then NSTTAC, and now NTACT:C, have annually updated the literature review and expanded it to include journals in the fields of special education, vocational rehabilitation, career and technical education, and school completion.

In addition, practices and predictors of post-school success are now classified as having evidence-based, research-based, or promising levels of evidence, in the post-school outcomes areas of Education, Employment, and Independent Living.

What We Still Need to Know

Although these evidence-based, research-based, and promising practices and predictors have been identified based on high quality research, a need for rigorous research to identify additional secondary transition evidence-based practices and predictors of improved post-school success still exists. For example:

  1. There is a need for high quality group and/or single-subject experimental research that:
    • builds on NTACT:C’s levels of evidence. Currently, only 11 of the 131 practices meet the criteria to be evidence-based. High quality research is needed to move the remaining practices to the evidence-based practice level, as well as identify practices to teach many other transition skills.
    • includes students representing all disability categories and various ethnicities. NTACT:C has reported disability and ethnicity in its findings when available in the studies reviewed.
    • collects longitudinal data on the effects of secondary transition practices on in-school and post-school outcomes.
    • investigates the effects of published secondary transition curricula on student in-school and post-school outcomes.
    • disaggregates results for students with disabilities if conducted with “all” students.
  2. There is a need for high-quality multivariate correlational research that:
    • disaggregates data by disability category to identify predictors of post-school success for specific disability groups.
    • provides a more comprehensive understanding of in-school predictors of post-school success for students with disabilities.
    • determines if predictor variables identified by NTACT:C hold up over multiple points in time.
    • uses Propensity Score Modeling.

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