Success of Students with Disabilities Positively Correlated With DO-IT Interventions

Data routinely collected by DO-IT suggests positive outcomes for DO-IT participants.

DO-IT Scholar Data

The DO-IT Scholars program, originally funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1992, was institutionalized with Washington state funds in 1998. Each year a cohort of 20 high school students with disabilities interested in attending college Some Scholars are initially interested in challenging academic and career fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); others have no dominant interests or are interested in other fields when they enter the program.

Scholar progress is presented in the annual DO-IT Snapshots publication. Scholars boast a 100% high school graduation rate. As of winter, 2008, most (251 of 282) entered postsecondary school and 112 are currently attending. Forty-five have secured associates, 83 baccalaureate, and 16 graduate degrees (31, 60, and 12, respectively, in STEM fields). Sixty-four participants are in the workforce (46 in STEM fields). Many individuals who were once Scholars act as mentors in the e-community supported by DO-IT.

AccessSTEM Participant Data

The Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM), funded by the National Science Foundation, began in 2002. Through March, 2008, in a sample of 182 AccessSTEM participants tracked through critical junctures to STEM careers, 126 internships were completed, 164 received mentoring, 153 peer support, 123 advising, and 151 information from staff. All high school participants graduated from high school with their class and many transitioned to college. 151 participants attended college during AccessSTEM, 38 in 2-year, 109 in 4-year schools, and 4 in graduate schools; 98 are still enrolled; and 62 graduated, 21 with associates (16 STEM), 35 with baccalaureate (28 STEM), and 6 with graduate (6 STEM) degrees.

AccessSTEM/DO-IT Longitudinal Transition Study (ALTS)

A longitudinal transition study sponsored by AccessSTEM/DO-IT explores college and career outcomes for students with disabilities participating in activities sponsored by DO-IT projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the state of Washington. Specific research questions are:

  • (a) What are the educational achievements of participants in AccessSTEM/DO-IT interventions? (b) Do they differ from other youth with disabilities with regard to educational achievements?
  • (a) What are the employment outcomes of participants in AccessSTEM/DO-IT interventions? (b) Do they differ from other youth with disabilities with regard to employment achievements?
  • Are specific interventions, such as summer college/career preparation programs, mentoring, and internships, positively correlated with better academic and employment outcomes of program participants?

Because of the goal of AccessSTEM to increase the numbers of STEM(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) postsecondary degrees and careers for individuals with disabilities, in addressing each of the research questions specific data is collected and analyzed regarding STEM activities, education, and employment. The AccessSTEM/DO-IT Longitudinal Transition Study (ALTS) measures progress toward STEM degrees/careers of students with disabilities who had a goal of postsecondary education while in high school and received DO-IT-funded interventions (e.g., internships, mentoring, college transition activities), many of which were funded by NSF.

The study is designed in such a way that respondent content can be updated and data can be analyzed at any point. Recognizing that at any point in time some respondents in the study are still enrolled in secondary school or are recent high school graduates, besides graduation and career outcome data, the researchers record the "on track" status of respondents as they progress through critical junctures that lead to degrees and careers in STEM. The reports of ALTS respondents are compared with those of participants in the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) for whom postsecondary education was part of their transition plan while they were still in high school. Although ALTS participants were not randomly selected and the two groups are not identical in characteristics, both groups are composed of college-bound youth with a wide range of disabilities. Neither group was recruited because of STEM interest; DO-IT, for example, works with students who have a wide variety of academic interests, but encourages and supports STEM studies and career pursuits through program activities and resources.

Preliminary results of the ALTS, posted online, indicate positive outcomes with respect to high school graduation, college enrollment, degree attainment, and career success. Respondents also rate highly program interventions, that include access to assistive technology, mentoring, work-based learning, and college/career transition events.