Special issue of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation guest edited by WSU faculty

Closeup of Joshua Taylor and Holly Whittenburg.
WSU faculty members Joshua P. Taylor and Holly N. Whittenburg

Education experts at Washington State University guest edited a new issue of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation that explores what works and what doesn’t when it comes to school-to-work transitions for students with disabilities.

The special issue of the journal comes a decade after federal law expanded the mandate for states to make it easier for students with disabilities to make the transition from school to the workplace. It includes research and observations from a variety of special education and vocational experts. The publication was guest edited by WSU faculty members Joshua P. Taylor and Holly N. Whittenburg, both assistant professors in the College of Education’s special education program.

Whittenburg said much progress has been made expanding services for youth and adults with disabilities transitioning from school to the workforce since the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was passed 10 years ago.

“We have reached a timely juncture to parse out what has and has not been accomplished as a result of the landmark legislation,” she said. “This is vital for envisioning pathways for future refinement through policy implementation and reauthorization.”

Among people with disabilities, there is disproportionate unemployment. Taylor said the special issue highlights best practices in implementing pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) and other innovations evolving within the field. It also provides recommendations for policymakers, state leaders, researchers, and practitioners.

“Taken as a whole, the articles in this issue represent a comprehensive set of insights into a system in flux, as well as offer best practices in refining and guiding effective Pre-ETS delivery,” Taylor said. “Our hope is they illuminate both where we currently are in terms of the implementation and point the way forward in ways that will allow us to significantly improve the trajectories of youth with disabilities as they move from school to work.”

Just one area to improve, Wittenburg said, is that of continuity across states.

“State differences in Pre-ETS implementation require further research to investigate best practices within and across states,” she said. “Additional training and technical assistance aligned with these state-level differences are needed.”

Taylor said the special issue brought together many of the top minds in the field – including other faculty from WSU – who are doing research on transition policy, developing tools to improve service delivery, and providing technical assistance to various states.

“It is our hope that the special issue calls for greater attention to what’s working and what needs to change within Pre-ETS to realize the promise made 10 years ago.”

The journal publisher, IOS Press, has made the full issue open access and downloadable until June 16.

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