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IES Grant

Title: Evaluation of the Apply and Communicate for Transition Now (ACTNow) Tool for Shared Interagency Collaboration for Secondary Students with Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Dawson, Shirley Awardee: Weber State University
Program: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (8/1/2018–7/31/2020) Award Amount: $239,565
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R324L180011

Co-Principal Investigators: Chapman, Heather; Larsen, Julie

Partner Institution(s): Weber State University; Davis School District; Davis Technical College; Vista Education Campus; Utah State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation; Utah State Board of Education; University of Kansas Life Span Institute

Purpose: The goal of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of the Apply and Communicate for Transition Now (ACTNow) tool for improving the self-determination skills of high school students with disabilities. The ACTNow tool is designed to support the transition process and improve students’ self-determination skills through improved self-awareness and self-knowledge. Self-awareness and self-knowledge are critical skills for students with disabilities who are transitioning to employment and into their communities after high school. Students who have self-determination skills are better able to set goals, solve problems, make choices, and accept consequences of those actions which may result in greater opportunities in school and in postsecondary education and employment. The Davis School District (DSD) in Utah is particularly interested in bolstering these skills as the percentage of students with disabilities engaged in postsecondary settings after exiting DSD has dropped in the past few years. Thus, DSD is partnering with Weber State University to evaluate whether the ACTNow tool demonstrates efficacy for improving students’ self-determination and engagement in postsecondary settings.

Project Activities: In Year 1, the partnership researchers will collaborate in conducting a randomized controlled trial in which students will be randomly assigned using matched pairs to use the ACTNow tool or to continue business-as-usual transition services. The matched pairs will be created based on baseline levels of self-awareness and self-knowledge. In Year 2, the partners will evaluate the impact of the ACTNow tool on students’ self-determination and engagement with postsecondary settings.

Products: The results of the study will be disseminated through local and state-wide oral briefings, conference presentations, and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in one DSD high school and postsecondary settings in Utah.

Population/Sample: Participants will include approximately 200 high school students (in Grades 11 and 12) with individualized education programs (IEPs) or 504 plans preparing to transition to postsecondary education and/or employment.

Intervention: The ACTNow tool is used individually or in small groups within a multi-tiered system of supports to increase the self-determination of high school students with high-incidence disabilities. ACTNow includes the following six key components: interagency collaboration; high school setting; work, community, and social skills; self-determination; independent living; and parent involvement. An educator systematically teaches students to identify their strengths and areas of need and then communicate these strengths as they seek and apply for disability supports in their communities. Students use the tool at least once each term as they meet with educators to openly and jointly determine their present levels of functioning and set action goals. Students are encouraged to use this tool as they apply for postsecondary services in order to accurately convey their present skills and support needs. The tool is available in paper and electronic formats to meet individual student needs or desires.

Research Design and Methods: The partnership researchers will conduct a 1-year randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of the ACTNow tool compared to a business-as-usual control condition. All participating students will be given assessments of self-knowledge and self-awareness. Matched pairs will be created based on these assessments and one student in each pair will be assigned to receive the intervention and the other will be assigned to the control condition. Pre- and post-test data from students and district-level administrative data will be collected for the primary analyses.

Control Condition: Students in the control group will receive business-as-usual transition services.

Key Measures: The main sources of data for this project will be administrative data from an inventory for measuring self-awareness and self-knowledge and the Self-Determination Index: Student Response (SDI:SR). These will be administered before and after the intervention by the schools. In addition to these data sources, the team will measure student engagement through student reports of the number of contacts they make with postsecondary settings and community service providers and the number of applications provided to these settings. The following additional student data, such as attendance, current progress toward graduation, and grade point average will also be obtained from schools. Data from postsecondary partners will also be collected and will include the number of contacts from students, applications received, in-person contacts, and students attending postsecondary programs or accepted as a client.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use independent-samples t-tests to determine differences between students who used the ACTNow tool and students in the control group on self-awareness and self-knowledge. They will use a Chi-square test to identify differences in engagement between students in the intervention and control groups.