With the recent enactment of the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act (WIOA), the role of the federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) system in helping youth with disabilities transition to employment is receiving heightened attention. New ways of dedicating resources to transitioning youth will be mandated by WIOA. How can the VR system most effectively meet the needs of youth with disabilities who are preparing for transition to employment? What can VR counselors do to make the most effective use of VR resources in this endeavor? The RRTC for VR Practices for Youth is conducting a series of studies to examine these questions. In this issue of the RRTC newsletter we introduce one of these studies.
Featured Study: 
Evaluating and Strengthening the Evidence Base on Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for Youth


Purvi Sevak, David Mann, David Stapleton and Jeff Holt of
Mathematica Policy Research

Study Purpose: 
  1. To review current State VR programs serving youth and young adults with disabilities, including efforts to assess the effectiveness of these programs
  2. To examine ways to use administrative data and data analytics to improve agency practices and promote youth outcomes

Study Overview: 

This study will include an environmental scan that documents the services that VR agencies provide to youth with disabilities.  Information reviewed will include: existing reports and Rehabilitation Service Administration state plans, interviews with staff at selected VR agencies, and a review of unpublished and published studies.  The scan will initially include all 51 general and combined VR agencies in the United States. Information will be gathered on the range of programs across agencies, any evidence on the programs' effectiveness, and any efforts to use data to track outcomes.
From this review, researchers will select five to seven agencies who have multiple programs for transition-age youth to conduct follow-up interviews with staff.  Attention will be paid to the 25 or so general or combined agencies with the most youth. 
The second stage of the research involves developing and testing of a DAS with a single agency. Researchers will work with this agency and negotiate an agreement under which the research team will provide technical assistance to design and implement a DAS. The system will be built around information gained in the environmental scan and will involve innovations designed to address specific challenges the agency is having in serving youth with disabilities.  Collaboratively they will:
  1. Develop a low-cost system that the agency can use with minimal external technical assistance, and
  2. Demonstrate that this system works well and has high value relative to its cost

Study Research Questions: 

RQ1. How do VR agencies differ in the range of programs they offer to youth with disabilities? What consensus, if any, exists on what works best in promoting transition outcomes?
RQ2. Do VR agencies produce any evidence regarding the efficacy of these programs? Are any agencies using data analytics to provide evidence of VR outcomes?
RQ3. How can VR agencies use well-developed data analytic systems (DASs) to systematically and cost-effectively improve services to transition-age youth clients?
Study Impact: 

The end goal of the study is to develop and document that a DAS is a model for continuous improvement that can be sustained by the agency to improve outcomes for the youth they serve.  Additionally, it is hoped that the DAS model can be used by other states to impact programmatic improvement for the benefit of youth they serve

Upcoming Issue: 

Study highlight: What works in youth transition: Evaluating the impacts of a comprehensive transition intervention in vocational rehabilitation.

Funded by Department of Education - PR/Award #H133A100007 CFDA #84-133B

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