Educators and school administrators play a vital role in helping students with learning differences transition from high school to postsecondary education. “Student Voices”, a recent study conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the Oak Foundation, searched for contributing factors to post high school success. The conclusions provide insight for educators that will you prepare your students for a bright future.
According to the study, students with learning and attention issues fit into categories on a spectrum: strugglers, copers, and navigators. The navigators, or those who best handled the transition out of high school, had the most positive outcomes and the strongest support networks. Students who have less access to resources or difficulty navigating situations are more likely to fit under the “copers” and “strugglers” categories.
The students who had the best experiences transitioning out of high school had some common attributes. These include strong support from parents, mentors and friends, connectedness to their community and strong self-confidence.
Other social and emotional factors were also correlated with better outcomes included ability to overcome negativity, perseverance and participation in extracurricular activities. Playing an active role in planning for life after high school was also a common theme among students who more successfully made the transition.
Here are some tips from the study to help you help your students graduate and successfully transition to postsecondary education.
Prepare students early on
Setting up an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan should be completed as soon as possible so students have access to supportive resources early on. Once these plans are in order, teachers, parents and students can collaborate on success strategies. Ensuring that students’ needs are met before classes start will also decrease the likelihood of failure and frustration.
Address social and emotional issues
Learning disabilities do not only affect a student’s education — they affect a student’s ability to form relationships and build confidence. Students with learning disabilities are two times more likely to struggle with social issues and four times more likely to struggle with their confidence. Positive behavioral intervention supports (PBIS) can grow students’ social and emotional competencies. Those who were allowed opportunities to develop interpersonal and intrapersonal skills were more likely to succeed after high school.
Maintain active communication with parents
Parents are one of the driving forces of student success. By maintaining an open and active dialogue with students’ caregivers, teachers create communities where students can feel comfortable and build social skills. Communicating with parents can also help families understand a student’s rights and protections — important personal rights that will create safe learning spaces for students.
Serve as a mentor, or provide access to mentors
The research identified that access to mentors and connections to a supportive community are critical factors for post high school success. You can play this role formally or informally.
Helping students identify their strengths and weaknesses, and suggesting extracurricular activities that align with these strengths and weaknesses, is a key role for educators. Educators can also suggest other individuals who could mentor and support their students, including peers and other adults in the community.
Encourage students to play an active role in post high school planning
Students who were involved in planning had more positive postsecondary outcomes. Providing students with access to their IEP or 504 plans, and encouraging them to think about what their needs will be in postsecondary education will help them develop self-advocacy skills that are critical in college and beyond.
It is important to know what resources are accessible and to understand that local college support programs are available and can play a vital role in a student’s postsecondary success. For example, our program helps students navigate postsecondary education by providing academic, emotional and social support. Educating students and their parents about options for support during postsecondary education can help families make concrete plans for how they will approach post high school learning.
Educators play a critical role as potential mentors, social connectors and supportive adults. Learning from the research, and listening to student’s own voices, will help them achieve a brighter future.