Skip Navigation
archived information
Skip Navigation

Event recap: Supporting postsecondary success for students with special needs

Event recap: Supporting postsecondary success for students with special needs

By Cora Goldston
January 30, 2020

All students need support to become academically, socially, and emotionally ready for their next steps after high school. Students with special needs may need additional supports to transition successfully to college, a career, or the military.

The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest, the REL Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance (MCRRA), and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) co-hosted an event in Brainerd, Minnesota, on October 23, 2019, to help the state’s special education directors meet the postsecondary needs of their students. The half-day event was offered as a pre-conference session before the Minnesota Administrators for Special Education Fall Conference. Speakers shared research on postsecondary outcomes for students with special needs as well as research-based tools to support student success. The session also featured a panel discussion with four Minnesota special education directors, who shared their experiences and strategies for promoting postsecondary readiness.

College and career outcomes for students with special needs

At the event, Amy Feygin, Ph.D., senior researcher with REL Midwest, presented key findings from the MCRRA research report The postsecondary education and employment pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates: Investigating opportunity gaps, with a focus on graduates with special needs. The study found that Minnesota graduates with special needs were less likely than their peers to enroll in college within one year of high school graduation as well as less likely to earn a four-year degree or to be employed six years after high school graduation. Graduates with special needs also had lower median earnings than their peers six years after graduation.

How can districts prepare students for success?

Drawing on the findings from the REL Midwest study, Tessie Bailey, Ph.D., principal technical assistance consultant with the American Institutes for Research, discussed how special education directors can align funding under four different federal programs to support students’ postsecondary readiness:

Tom Delaney, MDE interagency partnerships supervisor, then shared several MDE resources that districts can use to plan and implement college and career readiness strategies for students in special education programs. The resources included an employment resource guide [4,206 KB PDF icon] and related planning workbook [4,047 KB PDF icon], resources for transitioning students from Individualized Education Plans, information on work-based learning opportunities, and a capacity-building cohort for practitioners to learn from others. For more information on the cohort, contact Lindsey Jo Horowitz at

Hearing from the field: Special education directors panel

The event also featured a panel discussion with four special education directors from different parts of Minnesota:

  • Amy Ernst, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Public Schools
  • Alicia Jepsen, Benton Stearns Education District
  • Alecia Mobley, Roseville Public Schools
  • Deb Stoll, Worthington Public Schools

Delaney and Dominique Bradley, Ph.D., a researcher with REL Midwest, then facilitated a question-and-answer session with the panelists about strategies they use to prepare students and align supports across district, school, and industry partners.

Related resources

< Previous PostNext Post >

Author Information

Cora Goldston Staff Picture

Cora Goldston

Communications Specialist | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (11)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (24)

Teacher Recruitment (2)

Teacher Retention (2)

Teacher Workforce (14)

Return to the REL Midwest Blog

Sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly updates featuring new posts from the REL Midwest blog!

Subscribe to Newsletter