Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Suzanne E Graham

Second Advisor

Todd A DeMitchell

Third Advisor

Georgia M Kerns


Postsecondary employment and education enrollment rates for students with disabilities are substantially lower than rates for students without disabilities, despite recently amended legislation requiring high schools to provide transition planning to develop college and career readiness. The purpose of this study was to investigate aspects of transition planning experienced by students with disabilities, including course of study, direct instruction, and student role, and to simultaneously study postsecondary outcomes among youth with disabilities. In addition, an important focus of the study was to disaggregate both postsecondary outcomes and aspects of transition planning by disability category because much current literature regarding transition planning does not disaggregate by all twelve disability categories. This mixed-methods study utilized data from the National Longitudinal Transition Survey-2 , New Hampshire Indicator 13 (transition planning) and Indicator 14 (postsecondary outcomes) compliance and survey data, and six interviews from two high schools each (three educators and three alumni who received special services in high school) for a total of twelve interviews, providing an opportunity for detailed investigation into how transition planning impacted employment and educational outcomes for students with different disabilities.

It was found that employment and education enrollment percentages vary by disability categories. Young adults with mild disabilities tend to be more often employed and enrolled in postsecondary college programs than young adults with more involved disabilities. Although students with intellectual disabilities were the least likely to be enrolled in college, they reported receiving the most direct instruction about transition in high school. Students with visual and hearing impairments most often took the leadership role in their transition planning and were the most likely to be enrolled in postsecondary education. Unfortunately, New Hampshire state-level data was limited, and did not allow study of the relationship between transition planning features and educational or occupational outcomes. However, interviews with former students and current educators from two high schools in New Hampshire suggest that positive educational and occupational outcomes for these students were related to aspects of transition planning, involvement in a course of study, and social opportunities during high school.