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Mixed-Methods Exploration of Factors Associated with Postsecondary Success English Language Learners with Disabilities

Year: 2017
Name of Institution:
New York University
Goal: Exploration
Principal Investigator:
Trainor, Audrey A.
Award Amount: $1,397,251
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2017–07/31/2021)
Award Number: R305A170259


Co-Principal Investigator: Lynn Newman (SRI International)

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore factors associated with positive transition outcomes from high school to postsecondary life for students who are both English learners (ELs) and have a disability. Research suggests these students face multiple barriers to postsecondary success, but few studies have identified the challenges or successes these students experience during this transition. By addressing this gap in knowledge, this project aims to inform the development or the modification of programs at secondary schools and postsecondary institutions to leverage the strengths and meet the needs of these students.

Project Activities: Using a mixed-methods design, the research team will explore malleable factors related to improved postsecondary outcomes for ELs with disabilities. The researchers will use secondary data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 (NLTS 2012) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) and primary qualitative data from students and adults who support them to examine the secondary and postsecondary school experiences and outcomes for ELs with disabilities. By combining these data sources, the researchers will explore which school-related practices (e.g., transition planning, availability of general supports such as writing labs) correlate with positive postsecondary outcomes for these students and identify the possible factors that may influence the correlation between student school experiences and postsecondary outcomes (e.g., student demographics, family involvement).

Products: The products of this study will include preliminary evidence of an association between a key set of malleable factors and positive postsecondary outcomes for ELs with disabilities and peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Research activities will take place in public high schools and postsecondary education institutions in New York City. Secondary data will be obtained from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 (NLTS 2012) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), both of which are nationally-representative studies.

Sample: The primary data collection will include approximately 60 Spanish-speaking English learners (ELs) with disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, intellectual and development disabilities, and speech/language impairments) as well as the adults who provide support to these students (e.g., parent/guardians, school personnel, vocational rehabilitation counselors). This sample of students will be from multiple high school settings and postsecondary settings. The secondary data, which come from the NTLS 2012 and NLTS2 studies, includes ELs with disabilities from a range of race/ethnicities, linguistic backgrounds, disabilities, and geographic locations across the United States.

Malleable Factors: There are multiple education-relevant malleable factors that could affect the participation and success of EL students with disabilities (ELSWDs) in postsecondary education. For example, student course taking (e.g., the amount of time spent in general education settings or in college prerequisite, STEM, and EL courses) may be relevant. Similarly, high school and postsecondary supports and accommodations, such as the availability of general supports (tutoring and writing and study centers) and test accommodations, may be relevant. High school transition planning-related activities (e.g., goal development, school programming, family involvement, and interagency collaboration) may also be relevant. Other factors may mediate or moderate the influence of the malleable factors. For example, student-based factors, such as demographics or particular disability, may be a relevant. Similarly, the student’s community and family context may also be relevant (e.g., parental level of education).

Research Design and Methods: The research has two major branches: a quantitative analysis of the NLTS 2012 and NLTS2 data and a quantitative analysis of student experiences. These two branches will inform one another, e.g., the results of the quantitative analysis will help inform the development of interview and observation protocol, and the results of the qualitative analysis will inform the interpretation of the quantitative findings. The qualitative work includes a descriptive analysis of NLTS 2012 data and regression and propensity modeling analyses of the NLTS2 data for both all ELSWDs as well as a subgroup of Spanish-speaking ELSWDs. The qualitative research will occur in three waves over the course of the project. For the qualitative studies, the researchers will develop protocols for interviews and observations to assess participants’ perspectives on in-school and post-school resources that supported as well as hindered their transition to postsecondary life and education. They will also conduct a document review of transition planning in high school and will observe the postsecondary transition support provided in high school.

Key Measures: Outcome measures include three postsecondary outcomes and one high school outcome: postsecondary enrollment, perseverance, and completion; and high school graduation (e.g., high school diploma). Outcome data will come from the NLTS2 data as well as from the qualitative data collected during the interviews. For measures of the malleable factors, the researchers will use existing codes within the NLTS2 dataset along with researcher-designed protocols and coding rubrics for the qualitative interview and observational data.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use logistic regression analysis and propensity score matching to analyze the secondary data. The qualitative studies use ethnographic observations, interviews, and document reviews, using grounded theory methods of data collection and analysis.

Related Projects: Factors Associated with Postsecondary Success for Students with Disabilities (R305A120300)


Trainor, A. A., Newman, L., Garcia, E., Woodley, H. H., Traxler, R. E., and Deschene, D. N. (2019). Postsecondary Education-Focused Transition Planning Experiences of English Learners with Disabilities. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals. 42, 43-55. doi:10.1177/2165143418811830