Agency: Maryland Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) and TransCen, Inc.
Summary: The Maryland Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) has used the Guideposts for Success (the Guideposts) to develop and pilot a seamless transition services model called the Maryland Seamless Transition Collaborative (MSTC). The Guideposts, which were initially adopted by DORS in the context of implementing a High School/High Tech Grant awarded by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, have provided the agency and its partners with a research-based framework for aligning and coordinating services across various agencies and service providers to increase youth outcomes across the state. The Guideposts framework is comprised of five areas: school-based preparatory experiences, career preparation and work-based learning experiences, youth development and leadership, connecting activities, and family involvement and supports.
In 2007, DORS received a federal transition model demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Under the grant, DORS partnered with TransCen, Inc. to design a model of transition services for VR-eligible youth using the Guideposts. The MSTC model also incorporated the concept of “seamless transition” from the Transition Services Integration Model (TSIM). By combining the Guideposts with TSIM, DORS and TranCen, Inc. created a model for engaging youth in a sequential set of coordinated transition services that start in early high school and continue through a post-high school follow-up period.
At the time that DORS received the RSA grant, Maryland state agencies already had a strong history of interagency collaboration to support youth transition from school to employment and adulthood. With the RSA grant, DORS and TransCen, Inc. sought to increase the consistency with which local interagency partners across the state were implementing transition service components known to increase positive post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. The Guideposts provided a research-based framework that DORS and TransCen Inc. could readily use to identify essential transition service components correlated with improved youth outcomes.
DORS launched MSTC in 2007 by issuing a competitive request for proposals to select local education agencies (LEAs) to participate in the demonstration model. The RFP explained that sites would have to agree to plan and implement a model of transition services based upon the Guideposts. Priority was given to LEAs with current interagency cooperative transition planning agreements. Each site was awarded $75,000 per year for two years – the first year for planning and the second year for integrating and implementing the model into its existing transition services. Each site was required to serve and track outcomes of approximately 20 VR-eligible students as a part of the two-year grant. The grant requirements included the expectation that sites would develop strategies to sustain and expand the model at the conclusion of the grant. Each site received technical assistance from TransCen, Inc. including completing a need assessment and developing a comprehensive training and technical assistance plan.
Operationalizing the Guideposts for Success
The MSTC model is not a program but a structured alignment and coordination of transition services and activities provided by a student’s school, the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor, and other post-school and community service providers (e.g. postsecondary education institutions, community rehabilitation providers, disability services, developmental disabilities services, health and mental health services). The MSTC model components that align with each Guidepost Area are described below:
|Guidepost Area||MSTC Model Components|
|Career Preparation & Work-based Learning Experiences||Discovery: a process by which students explore their strengths and identify their employment interests, goals, and support needs through a combination of formal and informal assessment methods. This first step in the MSTC model occurs before the student participates in work experiences and employment in order to inform all subsequent services and activities. Information from this process is used to create a Positive Personal Profilethat guides the student’s individualized planning.
Individualized Work-based Experiences: Starting no later than two years before school exit, students participate in a series of individualized activities designed to help them explore employment options matching their strengths, interests, and goals. These activities may include informational interviews, jobsite tours, job shadowing, volunteering, job sampling, paid or unpaid internships, and summer employment.
Individualized Paid Inclusive Employment: Prior to school exit, every student obtains at least one employment experience at the federal minimum wage or higher which may be a standard competitive job or a customized job with negotiated tasks and schedules that meet both the students’ and employers’ needs.
|Youth Development & Leadership||Self-determination skills instruction & practice: Students may receive training in how to direct and advocate for their own career and life choices and support for applying these skills during transition planning and IEP meetings at school and in post-school transition decision-making.|
|Connecting Activities||Early Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Case Initiation: Students begin meeting with the DORS counselor assigned to their school no later than two years prior to projected school exit.
System Linkages & Collaboration: Each MSTC site establishes a project management team, a collaborative cross-function group of professionals who are each responsible for some form of transition support. Members of the team typically include representatives of the school district, VR, postsecondary education institutions, mental health service providers, intellectual and developmental disabilities services providers, One Stop Career Centers, and community rehabilitation providers. The team coordinates the services received by individual students participating in MSTC to increase the students’ connection to various services they need for successful transition and to prevent service interruptions as they exit high school and enter post-school employment and education.
|Family Involvement & Supports||Family Supports: Families are involved from the beginning of the MSTC process by completing Discovery activities with students and guiding students through a decision-making process to plan for the work experiences and job search. Families receive support through a variety of methods including information meetings, transition fairs, and disability benefits management training.|
|School-based Preparatory Experiences||Coordination with Teachers & Instructional Staff: The MSTC model involves teachers and other school personnel in planning and supporting the students’ transition activities in ways that help students understand the relevance of their school courses to achieving their post-school employment and education goals. VR counselors and other support service providers may participate in the student’s IEP meetings to support the school and the student in developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that align with the student’s strengths and employment interests, goals, and support needs.|
Early Findings from the MSTC Demonstration
As of 2013, 11 out of Maryland’s 24 countywide school districts have implemented the MSTC model. Approximately 400 students have participated in some of the MSTC transition service components. DORS and TransCen, Inc. indicate the model has worked equally as well in urban, suburban, and rural communities and for a diversity of students who vary by disability type, academic standing, and post-school goals. DORS and TransCen, Inc. are currently evaluating student outcomes across the sites. Preliminary data for MSTC students who have exited high school in seven of the sites indicates over 60 percent of the participating students were either employed, enrolled in postsecondary education, or both upon school exit.