Student Support: Who’s Around to Help?

Ashley Voggt, Wen-Hsuan Chang, Catherine Fowler, and NTACT Knowledge Development Team

In-school and post-school outcomes in the areas of education, employment, and independent living for individuals with disabilities are poor in comparison to their same-age peers without disabilities (Lipscomb et al., 2017; U.S. Department of Labor, 2019). An effort that improves outcomes in all areas of transition involves providing student support to youth while in high school (Mazzotti et al., 2016; Test et al., 2009). Rowe et al. (2015) defined student support as a network of people (e.g., family, friends, educators, adult service providers) who provide services and resources in multiple environments to prepare students to obtain their annual transition and post-secondary goals aligned with their preferences, interests, and needs.

Characteristics of student support were further described by Rowe et al. (2015) as developing and implementing procedures for cultivating and maintaining school and community networks (e.g., considerations of culturally, racially, and ethnically representative to accommodate the needs of CLD students) to assist all students in obtaining their post-secondary goals. Teachers are encouraged to provide students access to rigorous, differentiated academic instruction while incorporating culturally responsive teaching strategies. Service providers are charged with linking students to appropriate individuals who can assist students in (a) obtaining access to assistive technology resources and teach students to use technology to enhance their academic and functional performance; (b) supporting financial planning, navigating the health care system, adult services, or transportation; © connecting with a community mentor and/or school-based mentor/graduation coach; (d) promoting meaningful engagement in the community (e.g., clubs, friends, advocacy groups, sports); and (e) ensuring teachers and other service personnel provide ongoing transition assessment to assist in planning for needed supports and resources in school and beyond.

Kohler et al. (2016) provides further explanation of student support within context of the Taxonomy for Transition Programming 2.0. Under the category of Student Development, Kohler et al. (2016) outlines critical components of student support including:

· Related services (e.g., Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, speech therapy, transportation, assistive technology)

· Functional communication systems, assistive technology

· Environmental adaptations, natural supports, and accommodations in school and communities

· Academic support (e.g., test-taking skills, study skills, targeted subject area skills)

· Opportunities given for credit recovery and acceleration (e.g., after school, Saturday school, summer enrichment)

· Counseling services for college and career readiness

· Adult advocates help students establish attainable academic and behavioral goals with specific benchmarks

· Students supported through partnerships established with community-based program providers (e.g., social services, welfare, mental health, law enforcement)

Currently, five specific research-based practices have been identified by NTACT which promote student supports within the collaborative systems predictor cluster:

• Academic support and enrichment for dropout prevention

• Accelerated middle schools for staying and progressing in school

• Adult advocate for dropout prevention

• Check and Connect for staying and progressing in school

• High school redirection for school completion

For more information about these practices as well as lesson plan starters to facilitate instruction to promote student supports, please see the link below to the Effective Practices Matrix.

Take a look at what is happening…

Last spring the Georgia Department of Education (Teacher Tools, April 2019) featured some of the effective work in school districts, focused on student support.

Out-of-school suspensions dropped 60% in DeKalb County Schools since implementing one example of successful student support, Check & Connect, in 2015. Cedar Grove High School senior, Khadir Reefer, shared, “Check & Connect made me a better person and a self-starter. Without the program, I would not be graduating.” Check and Connect is a research-based practice to reduce dropping out. It is based on monitoring school performance, mentoring, case management, and other supports. The “Check” component is designed to continually monitor student performance and progress. The “Connect” component involves program staff giving individualized attention to students in partnership with other school staff, family members, and community service organizations.

In another example of successful student support, South Paulding High School students and staff participated in Capturing Kids’ Hearts to overcome barriers that often impact teacher-student relationships and learning. Capturing Kids’ Hearts, founded in 1990 by Flip Flippen, is designed to coach and train schools to build teams and individuals into models of achievement.

NTACT’s Resources to Promote Student Supports with Secondary Students with Disabilities

· Effective Practices Matrix: access practice descriptions and lessons plan starters to promote student supports — Specific practices are noted above.

· Various Toolkits foster student supports

· Predictor Implementation Self-Assessment: a tool to guide decisions regarding program strengths, needs, and priorities for change, teams should consider the Degree of Implementation, the Evidence of Implementation scales, the definition of the predictor, and each individual program characteristic — can be facilitated with this Guide

· Taxonomy for Transition Programming 2.0: information and description of student supports

· Transition Gradebook: a locally served database application used as a school-level tool that records transition-related activities from five major areas from NTACT’s Predictors of Postschool Success — specifically, Career Awareness, Work Experience, Inclusion, Student Supports, and Collaboration

· Webinars regarding student supports

· CEC’s DCDT Fast Facts: Student Support


Kohler, P. D., Gothberg, J. E., Fowler, C., and Coyle, J. (2016). Taxonomy for transition programming 2.0: A model for planning, organizing, and evaluating transition education, services, and programs. Western Michigan University. Available at

Lipscomb, S., Haimson, J., Liu, A. Y., Burghardt, J., Johnson, D. R., & Thurlow, M. L. (2017). Preparing for life after high school: The characteristics and experiences of youth in special education. Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012. Volume 1: Comparisons with other youth: Full report (NCEE 2017–4018). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

Mazzotti, V. L., Rowe, D. A., Sinclair, J., Poppen, M., Woods, W.E., & Shearer, M. (2015). Predictors of post-school success: A systematic review of NLTS2 secondary analyses. Journal of Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 39, 196–215. doi: 10.1177/2165143415588047

Rowe, D. A., Alverson, C. Y., Unruh, D. K., Fowler, C. H., Kellems, R., & Test, D. W. (2015). A delphi study to operationalize evidence-based predictors in secondary transition. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38, 113–126. doi:10.1177/2165143414526429

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

U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics. Retrieved from

NTACT:C is a Technical Assistance and Dissemination project, funded by the OSEP and the RSA, Cooperative Agreement Number H326E140004.

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