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Using Employment Predictors to Build Quality Transition Plans

As described in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), transition services are a coordinated set of activities that facilitate a student’s movement from school to postschool activities. The types of services a student receives depend on the student’s needs, strengths, preferences, and interests. Although the recipe for postschool success looks different for each student, there are several predictors that positively correlate with postschool success in the areas of education, employment, and independent living. These predictors can be used to build the transition plan within the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). This brief will describe the predictors of postschool success and provide examples of how to apply employment predictors within the IEP.

What are the Predictors of Postschool Success?

Predictors of postschool success are the activities, skills, or experiences that are positively correlated with successful postschool outcomes (Mazzotti et al., 2021). Currently there are 23 predictors of postschool success. These predictors align with positive outcomes in the areas of employment, post-secondary education, and independent living. Within the current list of identified predictors (see Mazzotti et al., 2021), there are three levels of evidence.  An evidence-based predictor has the highest level of research support. A research-based predictor has less research support but sufficient positive correlations across studies to support its effectiveness. Finally, a promising predictor has the least amount of research support, but still demonstrates a positive correlation between the predictor and the intended outcome. 

What the Research Says

Of the 23 predictors of postschool success identified by Mazzoti et al. (2021), 21 are correlated with employment (see Table 1). The amount of evidence to support each predictor varies, with most predictors identified as promising or research-based. The only evidence-based predictor for postschool employment is Career Technical Education (CTE). Mazzotti et al. (2021) identified six studies that resulted in CTE being labeled an EBP. All of these studies noted that job readiness training and having students with disabilities targeted for inclusion in CTE contributes to the effectiveness of CTE (Mazzotti et al., 2021). 

The predictors study conducted by Mazzotti et al. (2021) builds on the work of Test et al. (2009) and Mazzotti et al. (2016). In the 2021 update to the predictors, Mazzotti et al. not only found additional research to support many of the previously existing predictors, but they also moved the employment predictors of student support, parent expectations, program of study, and youth autonomy/decision making from promising predictors to research-based predictors based on additional research conducted since the 2016 review. Regardless of whether a predictor is currently identified as having research-based, evidence-based, or promising evidence, school teams are encouraged to consider all identified predictors in the design and evaluation of their transition programs.

Table 1
Considerations for Aligning Employment Predictors within the IEP Secondary Transition Plan

Employment Predictor  Current level of evidence Considerations for alignment within IEP secondary transition plan 
Age-Appropriate AssessmentsPostsecondary OutcomesCourse of StudyTransition Services Annual Transition Goals
Career Awareness PP XXXXX
Career Technical Education EBP X XXX
Community Experiences  PP XX XX
Exit Exam Requirements/High School Diploma Status  PP   XXX
Inclusion in General Education RBP   XXX
Interagency Collaboration PP XX XX
Occupational Courses PP X XXX
Paid Employment/Work Experience RBP XXXXX
Parent Expectations RBP X  X 
Parental Involvement PP X  X 
Program of Study RBP XXXXX
Psychological Empowerment PP XXXXX
Self-Care/Independent Living PP XXXXX
Self-Determination/Self-Advocacy RBP XX XX
Self-Realization PP XX XX
Social Skills PP XX XX
Student Support RBP X XX 
Technology Skills PP X XXX
Transition Program PP   XXX
Work Study RBP X XXX
Youth Autonomy/Decision-Making RBP XX XX

Note. Table 1 is based on Mazotti et al. (2021). This is not a comprehensive list of the predictors of postschool success. The table only includes evidence for employment predictors. See for more information about the sections of the Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE) Secondary Transition form. PP = promising; RBP = research-based; EBP = evidence-based.

Guidelines for Practice

Knowledge and understanding of the predictors of postschool success is the first step in creating effective transition programming for students with disabilities. Being aware of what activities, opportunities, and skills are more likely to improve postschool outcomes provides IEP teams with the tools needed to determine appropriate transition services and goals. 

IEP teams in Illinois may find it helpful to refer to Table 1 to identify where employment predictors for postschool success can be embedded within the IEP. The table provides suggestions for appropriate matches between the predictors and specific sections of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Secondary Transition form (see The table can be used in two ways. 

  1. Option 1. If the IEP team determines that one or a combination of the predictors for postschool success would be an appropriate match for the student’s postschool employment goals, they can identify the sections of the secondary transition section of the IEP with an X, indicating that the particular section could include activities related to the predictor(s).
  2. Option 2. Another way the table can be used is if an IEP team is looking to develop a particular section of the secondary transition plan within the IEP and is looking for predictors that could be included in that particular section by finding the predictors with X’s in the column for the section.

The table is a simplified way of looking at the potential crossover of the employment predictors for postschool success and secondary transition plan sections of the IEP. Teams using the table to develop transition plans will need to seek further definition of both the predictors and IEP sections to ensure they are appropriate and aligned for the individualized needs of each student. Additionally, the Transition Services section of the secondary transition plan includes seven sub sections that should be looked at individually to determine appropriate alignment of the predictor. Within the subsections of Transition Services, there could be meaningful alignment between a predictor and one or multiple services, so it is important to look at each of them individually to determine if inclusion of the predictor is appropriate.

Additional Resources

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004, P. L. No. 108-446, 118 Stats. 2647. (2004).

    Mazzotti, V. L., Rowe, D. A., Kwiatek, S., Voggt, A., Chang, W., Fowler, C., Poppen, M., Sinclair, J., & Test, D. W. (2021).  Secondary transition predictors of postschool success:  An update to the research base. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 44(1), 47-64. 

    Mazzotti, V. L., Rowe, D. A., Sinclair, J., Poppen, M., Woods, W. E., & Shearer, M. L. (2016). Predictors of postschool success: A systematic review of NLTS2 secondary analyses. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 39(4), 196-215. 

    Test, D. W., Mazzotti, V. L., Mustian, A. L., Fowler, C. H., Kortering, L., & Kohler, P. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32(3), 160-181.