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Grant Program: Special Topic: Systems-Involved Students with Disabilities
Contact: Dr. Katherine Taylor
(202) 245-6716


The Systems-Involved Students with Disabilities (Systems-Involved Students) special topic supports research to improve the kindergarten through postsecondary education outcomes of learners with or at risk for disabilities in Grades K-12 who are in juvenile justice, foster care, or out of home (e.g., residential) placements.

Often referred to as disconnected, underserved, vulnerable, or systems-involved children and youth, these students face a multitude of challenges and are at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including poor academic achievement, dropout, and unemployment. According to a joint publication for the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice, high numbers of students with disabilities are in juvenile justice, foster care, and out of home placements, yet there has been limited research on the specific needs of students with disabilities in these groups. While students in each of these groups experience unique challenges, they also share a common set of risk factors that can impact their academic achievement, school completion, and post-school success. For instance, systems-involved children and youth are generally highly mobile and, as such, are more likely to experience a lack of continuity in service provision that can lead to poor academic outcomes. They also commonly experience trauma and/or demonstrate emotional and behavioral difficulties that can affect their school engagement and progression. Shared systemic barriers can also influence the quality of education these students receive. For example, poor communication and coordination across educational systems and a lack of qualified instructional personnel (e.g., in juvenile justice settings and other residential treatment facilities) are common problems that can negatively impact the identification and education outcomes of systems-involved students with disabilities.

The Institute seeks to support research that addresses individual and systemic risk factors and promotes positive education, transition, and post-school outcomes for one or more groups of systems-involved students with or at risk for disabilities. For example, the Institute invites research on student- and teacher-level intervention approaches to improve outcomes for these students as well as research on systems-level practices and policies that are intended to improve the management, coordination, and implementation of systemic programs and services in ways that directly enhance the overall education environment, and indirectly improve student outcomes.