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The Post-High School Outcomes of Youth With Disabilities up to 4 Years After High School
NCSER 2009-3017
April 2009

Productive Engagement in the Community

NLTS2 considered youth with disabilities as being productively engaged in the community if they had participated in employment, education, and/or job training activities since leaving secondary school. Addressing this broader concept of engagement, rather than considering individual outcomes (employment or postsecondary education) separately, was encouraged by the advisory panel during the design of the initial NLTS; as a result, NLTS was one of the first studies to present a broader perspective on how youth and young adults with disabilities could be productively engaged in their communities. The advisory panel for the current study continued to endorse that view of engagement. The importance of this broader view of what constitutes a successful transition is now incorporated in the current federal policy that requires states to collect data on "Indicator 14"—i.e., "the percent of youth who had IEPs, are no longer in secondary school, and who have been competitively employed, enrolled in some type of postsecondary school, or both, within one year of leaving high school" (20 U.S.C. 1416(a)(3)(B)). The NLTS2 operationalization of this concept, as endorsed by the NLTS2 design advisory panel, is somewhat broader than Indicator 14, in that NLTS2 includes all forms of employment, not just competitive employment, and includes job training as a productive form of preparation for work, in addition to enrollment in postsecondary education.

  • Eighty-five percent of youth with disabilities who had been out of secondary school up to 4 years were reported to have been engaged in employment, postsecondary education, and/or job training during this post-high school period.
  • Thirty-six percent had paid employment as their only mode of engagement.
  • Thirty-one percent had been employed since leaving high school and also had been enrolled in postsecondary education.
  • Nine percent had been employed and also involved in other activities, including job training.
  • Postsecondary education was the only mode of engagement since high school for 6 percent of those with disabilities.