In honor of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, we asked principal investigator Dr. Lee Kern how her intervention research reduces dropouts and prepares students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) for college and career readiness (CCR). The purpose of her current IES project is to develop and pilot test an intervention, Supported College and Career Readiness (SCCR), that augments typical school-based college and career readiness activities for students at or at risk for EBD.
What motivated you to conduct this research?
Given the high dropout rate among students with EBD, I am interested in strategies that keep them in school. Because post-graduation experiences serve as important indicators of positive educational outcomes, I want to establish a stronger connection between school and life after school to ensure that students are fully prepared. My co-PIs, Jennifer Freeman and Chris Liang, were motivated to collaborate on the current research project as well because of their unique focus on different aspects of CCR, allowing us to address multiple dimensions in the development of our intervention.
Can you provide us with an update on the project? What work have you completed to date on the development of the SCCR program?
We recognized and addressed a gap in the college and career readiness literature with this group of students. During the first 2 years of the project, we completed two literature reviews and two conceptual papers, which are in press, and we are in the process of completing a third literature review. Our completed literature reviews indicated (a) limited attention to CCR for individuals with emotional and behavioral problems, (b) lack of defined components of CCR interventions, (c) the need to evaluate the effectiveness of CCR interventions with students of color, and (d) aspects of CCR interventions that might be important for individuals with diverse sexual identities. These papers helped us develop our multi-component CCR intervention for students with or at risk for EBD.
The development phase was vital to creating our multi-component program. Schools practice different approaches to college and career preparation, so we needed to create a flexible program that could fit the many permutations in course scheduling, career interest assessments, career exposure activities, and other factors. Receiving teacher and student feedback on the program during the second year of the project was helpful and appreciated as we refined SCCR. We initiated a randomized controlled trial and ran the study in four schools this academic year. We will expand the research into four additional schools in the 2023-24 academic year.
What other types of research are needed to move forward in the field of CTE for students with or at risk for EBD?
Although we know that students, especially those with or at risk for EBD, need more preparedness for college or their future careers, research must specify intervention components that result in improved outcomes in these areas. Also, it must determine whether the interventions are effective across diverse groups of students and ascertain adaptations that address the needs of all students. Existing and ongoing research must be conducted to better assess student skills. Identifying assessments directly linked to critical and effective interventions that practitioners can implement will be important for future progress.
NCSER looks forward to learning the results of the pilot study to better understand the promise of the SCCR program for improving the college and career readiness of students with or at risk for EBD. For more highlights on the CTE-related work that IES is supporting, please check out our IES CTE page.
Dr. Kern is a professor and the director of the Center for Promoting Research to Practice at Lehigh University. She has more than 30 years of experience in special education, mental health, and behavior intervention for students with EBD.
This CTE blog post was produced by Alysa Conway, NCSER student volunteer and University of Maryland, College Park graduate student. Akilah Nelson is the program officer for NCSER’s Career and Technical Education grants.