Connecting Activities

Supporting Evidence & Research

The Connecting Activities standards and indicators are based on sound evidence and research that supports their utility in the field. The information below identifies and presents research, federal government documents, commissioned reports, and other sources that serve as the foundation upon which these standards are based. This compilation should not be viewed as all-inclusive, but rather as illustrative of the range of research and expert analysis currently available. See more about the research.

Organizations Collaborate to Serve all Youth Equitably With a Variety of Programs and Services

Standard 5.1
Organizations coordinating services and supports align their missions, policies, procedures, data, and resources to equitably serve all youth and ensure the provision of a unified flexible array of programs, services, accommodations, and supports.

Standard 5.2
Organizations connect youth to an array of programs, services, accommodations, and supports, based on an individualized planning process.


Effective transition planning and services depend upon functional linkages among schools, rehabilitation services, and other human service and community agencies. However, several factors have stood as barriers to effective collaboration. These include:

  1. lack of shared knowledge and vision by students, parents, and school and agency staff around students’ postschool goals and the transition resources necessary to support students’ needs and interests (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, & Mack, 2002);
  2. lack of shared information across school and community agencies, and lack of coordinated assessment and planning processes (Benz, Johnson, Mikkelsen, & Lindstrom, 1995);
  3. lack of meaningful roles for students and parents in a transition decision-making process that respects both students’ emerging need for independence and self-determination, and parents’ continuing desire to encourage and support their children during the emancipation process that is part of becoming a productive, contributing young adult (Furney, Hasazi, & DeStefano, 1997);
  4. lack of meaningful information on anticipated postschool services needed by students, and lack of follow-up data on postschool outcomes and continuing support needs of students that can be used to guide improvement in systems collaboration and linkages (Hasazi, Furney, & DeStefano, 1999; Johnson & Sharpe, 2000);
  5. lack of effective practices for establishing and using state and local interagency teams to build capacity for collaboration and systems linkages; and
  6. lack of coordinated eligibility requirements and funding for agency services (Luecking, Crane, & Mooney, 2002).

These barriers to effective collaboration are not insurmountable. Research suggests that systems can work more effectively together, and student achievement of meaningful secondary and postschool outcomes can be improved, through:

  1. the use of written and enforceable interagency agreements that structure the provision of collaborative transition services (Johnson et al., 2002);
  2. the development and delivery of interagency and cross-agency training opportunities;
  3. the use of interagency planning teams to facilitate and monitor capacity building efforts in transition (Furney et al., 1997); and
  4. the provision of a secondary curriculum that supports student identification and accomplishment of transition goals and prepares youth for success in work, postsecondary, and community living environments (Hasazi et al., 1999).

Promising collaboration strategies have been proposed to link secondary education systems with employers and community employment services funded under the Workforce Investment Act (Luecking, Crane, & Mooney, 2002; Mooney & Crane, 2002) and with postsecondary education systems (Flannery, Slovic, Dalmau, Bigaj, & Hart, 2000; Hart, Zimbrich, & Whelley, 2002; Stodden & Jones, 2002).

Collaborative approaches bring together community agencies to focus their collective expertise and combined resources to improve the quality of transition planning and services for youth. This sharing of resources, knowledge, skills, and data requires planned and thoughtful collaboration among all participants. The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2002) suggested connecting special education to outside services such as vocational rehabilitation, as a way to improve postschool outcomes for youth. The Commission also found that not enough interagency activity occurs between schools and vocational rehabilitation agencies. Further, fiscal disincentives should be removed and waiver options provided to promote cost-sharing and resource-pooling among agencies to improve the availability and cost effectiveness of transition services and supports for students with disabilities.

Knowledgeable, Responsive, and Accountable Personnel are in Place to Help Youth Achieve Their Goals

Standard 5.3
Organizations hire and invest in the development of knowledgeable, responsive, and accountable personnel who understand their shared responsibilities to align and provide programs, services, resources, and supports necessary to assist youth in achieving their individual postschool goals.


In addition to the need for collaboration among youth-serving organizations, these organizations must be committed to supporting the development and retention of personnel who are knowledgeable, responsive, and accountable. State and local education agencies across the United States are experiencing a shortage of qualified personnel to serve children and youth with disabilities. In 1999-2000, more than 12,000 openings for special education teachers were left vacant or filled by substitutes (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Further, an additional 31,000 positions were filled by teachers who were not fully certified for their positions (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).

New teachers are entering the field without the specific knowledge and skills needed to support transition. Miller, Lombard, and Hazelkorn (2000) reported that few special education teachers have received training on methods, materials, and strategies for developing meaningful IEPs that include transition goals and objectives and specifically address students’ needs through curriculum and instruction. Further, many special education teachers underutilize community work-experience programs and fail to coordinate referrals to adult service providers.

Teachers and others assisting students in the transition from school to adult life need specialized skills and knowledge. Several states have developed state licensure or certification for transition coordinators, support services coordinators, work experience coordinators, and school vocational rehabilitation counselors. However, these licensure and certification programs are few in number and have been difficult to maintain, due to costs and competing demands for personnel in other, broader classifications of special education teacher licensure, such as learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders.

Rehabilitation and career counselors are often the only link that school programs have to postschool environments, including employment. Concern about the quality of services in the area of rehabilitation counseling led to the mandate for the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) in the 1992 and 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This directive seeks to ensure that personnel are qualified by establishing CSPD minimum standards (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). However, the CSPD initiative is being implemented in the context of what may be the largest turnover and retirement of counselors in the history of the state-federal system of rehabilitation (Bishop & Crystal, 2002; Dew & Peters, 2002; Muzzio, 2000). Turnover and retirements have been reported to be as high as 30-40% of personnel in some states (Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, 2001). In general, job openings across all categories of counseling occupations is expected to increase 36% or more through 2010, faster than the average for other employment categories (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002a). The existing counseling training programs cannot be expected to meet this expanding need. Bishop and Crystal reported that in the preceding five-year period, less than one-third of vacant positions were filled by staff with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. The implications of losing experienced qualified professionals and replacing those individuals with less qualified and inexperienced staff are clear. This trend will have a tremendously detrimental impact on transition services, and the situation warrants a concerted effort to address this concern. In the immediate future, the collaboration needed to provide effective transition services may be in jeopardy until new counselors fill the vacant positions, stabilize their workload responsibilities, and receive needed training.

As young people with disabilities prepare to exit their public school programs, a significant number will need access to community services that address their community living, social and recreational, health, and other related needs. Persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in particular, will need to rely on service program personnel to support their everyday living needs. Significant worker shortages and the associated factors of compensation, recruitment, training, and support and supervision have become increasingly prominent issues within the adult service-delivery system for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (Larson, Lakin, & Hewitt, 2002). As the national movement from institutional to community settings has occurred, community service agency professionals and direct support personnel have been requested to do more with greater individual responsibility, less direct supervision, less structure, and greater competency, but without preparatory or ongoing training. Direct support staff, in particular, have been the most difficult to recruit, retain, and provide with proper training to ensure that they have the ability to address the residential and employment needs of the individuals they serve in community settings.

Direct support professionals play a key role in the lives of young people with disabilities exiting public schools by supporting them in their own homes, in community employment situations, and in other community settings. There are over 410,000 direct support professionals working in community residential programs and 90,500-120,000 of these personnel are working in vocational and employment settings (Larson, Hewitt, & Anderson, 1999; Prouty, Smith, & Lakin, 2001). In addition, the number of personal and home care aides and home health aides supporting adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is estimated respectively at 414,000 and 615,000 nationwide (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002b, 2002c). In the past quarter-century, annual staff turnover rates have consistently averaged between 43%-70% in community residential settings alone (Larson, Lakin, & Bruininks, 1998). Low average wages and lack of training for those filling these positions have compounded these difficulties.


Agran, M., Cain, H., & Cavin, M. (2002). Enhancing the involvement of rehabilitation counselors in the transition process. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25, 141-155.

Benz, M. R., Johnson, D. K., Mikkelsen, K. S., & Lindstrom, L. E. (1995). Improving collaboration between schools and vocational rehabilitation: Stakeholder identified barriers and strategies. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 18(2), 133-144.

Bishop, M., & Crystal, R. M. (2002). A human resources perspective on counselor retirement and replacement in the state-federal vocational rehabilitation program: A nationwide concern. Journal of Rehabilitation Administration, 26(4), 231-238.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2002a). Occupational outlook handbook, 2002-2003 edition: Counselors. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2002b). Occupational outlook handbook, 2002-2003 edition: Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2002c). Occupational outlook handbook, 2002-2003 edition: Personal and home care aides. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Dew, D. W., & Peters, S. (2002). Survey of master’s level rehabilitation counselor programs: Relationship to public vocational rehabilitation recruitment and retention of state vocational rehabilitation counselors. Rehabilitation Education, 16(1), 61-66.

Flannery, K. B., Slovic, R., Dalmau, M. C., Bigaj, S., & Hart, N. (2000). Learning for a lifetime series: Preparation for postsecondary education and training. Eugene: University of Oregon.

Furney, K. S., Hasazi, S. B., & DeStefano, L. (1997). Transition policies, practices, and promises: Lessons from three states. Exceptional Children, 63(3), 343-355.

Hart, D., Zimbrich, K., & Whelley, T. (2002). Challenges in coordinating and managing services and supports in secondary and postsecondary options. Issue Brief, 1(6). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Hasazi, S. B., Furney, K. S., & DeStefano, L. (1999). Implementing the IDEA transition mandates. Exceptional Children, 65(4), 555-566.

Institute on Rehabilitation Issues. (2001). Succession planning: Building a successful organization in a dynamic environment. Menomonie, WI: University of Wisconsin-Stout, Vocational Rehabilitation Institute.

Johnson, D. R., & Sharpe, M. N. (2000). Results of a national survey on the implementation transition service requirements of IDEA of 1990. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 13(2), 15-26.

Johnson, D. R., Stodden, R., Emanuel, E., Luecking, R., & Mack, M. (2002). Current challenges facing secondary education and transition services: What research tells us. Exceptional Children, 68(4), 519-531.

Kortering, L., & Braziel, P. (2001). A look at the consumer’s perspective of secondary special education: Implications for the role of vocational special educators. The Journal of Vocational Special Needs, 24(1), 3-14.

Larson, S. A., Hewitt, A., & Anderson, L. (1999). Staff recruitment challenges and interventions in agencies supporting people with developmental disabilities. Mental Retardation, 37(1), 36-46.

Larson, S. A., Lakin, K. C., & Bruininks, R. H. (1998). Staff recruitment and retention: Study results and intervention strategies. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.

Larson, S. A., Lakin, K. C., & Hewitt, A. S. (2002). Direct support professionals: 1975-2000. In D. Croser, P. Paker, & R. Schalock (Eds.), Embarking on a new century: Mental retardation at the end of the twentieth century (pp. 203-219). Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.

Lehmann, J., Cobb, B., & Tochterman, S. (2001). Exploring the relationship between transition and educational reform initiatives. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 24, 185-198.

Lehmann, J., Sample, P., & Hyatt, J. (2000). Partners in transition: Facilitating educator-directed staff development. The Journal of Vocational Special Needs, 22(3), 6-13.

Luecking, R. G., Crane, K., & Mooney, M. (2002). Addressing the transition needs of youth with disabilities through the WIA system. Information Brief, 1(6). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Miller, R. J., Lombard, R. C., & Hazelkorn, M. N. (2000). Teacher attitudes and practices regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities in school-to-work and technical preparation programs: Strategies for inclusion and policy implications. In D. R. Johnson & E. J. Emanuel (Eds.), Issues influencing the future of transition programs and services in the United States (pp. 127-136). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Transition Network.

Mooney, M., & Crane, K. (2002). Connecting employers, schools, and youth through intermediaries. Issue Brief, 1(3). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Mooney, M., Phelps, L. A., & Anctil, T. M. (2002, July). Using postschool outcome data to improve practices and policies in restructured inclusive high schools. Retrieved May 26, 2005, from

Muzzio, T. C. (2000). Undergraduate rehabilitation education: The need for graduates from the perspective of the public rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation Education, 14, 89-96.

President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education. (2002). A new era: Revitalizing special education for children and their families. Retrieved May 26, 2005, from

Prouty, R. W., Smith, G., & Lakin, K. C. (2001). Residential services for persons with developmental disabilities: Status and trends through 2000. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, Research and Training Center on Community Living. Retrieved May 26, 2005, from

Repetto, J., Webb, K., Garvan, C., & Washington, T. (2002). Connecting student outcomes with transition practices in Florida. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25, 123-139.

Stodden, R. A., Galloway, L. M., & Stodden, N. J. (2003). Secondary school curricula issues: Impact on postsecondary students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 70(1), 9-25.

Stodden, R. A., & Jones, M. A. (2002). Supporting youth with disabilities to access and succeed in postsecondary education: Essentials for educators in secondary schools. Issue Brief, 1(5). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. Retrieved May 26, 2005, from

U.S. Department of Education. (1999). Twenty-first annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Retrieved May 26, 2005, from

U.S. Department of Education. (2001). Study of personnel needs in special education. Washington, DC: Westat.

U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Twenty-third annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Zirkle, C. (2004). Integrating occupational and academic skills across the curriculum. Techniques, 79(6), 24-26.

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