School-to-work transition: A comparison of regular and special education high school seniors

Barbara Marie Weisent, Fordham University


This study had a dual purpose: first, to develop a survey instrument that validly and reliably measures aspects of school-to-work transition; second, to compare regular education and learning disabled special education seniors in academic and vocational high schools on school-to-work transition using the survey instrument School-To-Work Transition Scale. This study examines the relationship between demographic variables, socioeconomic variables, school achievement variables, and student feelings about the future with the transition subscales of the School-To-Work Transition Scale. Mainstreaming of students in academic and vocational programs is compared. The survey instrument provides a way for practitioners and educational leaders to conceptualize and measure school-to-work transition practices in the following four dimensions: guided paid work experience, acquisition of self-determination skills, family participation in career planning, and acquisition of vocational/technical training. Content validity was established by a group of experts reaching 90% agreement on 37 statements included in the subscales. Test-retest reliability and internal consistency of the instrument exceeded .77 for all subscales. The survey was administered to a total sample of 100 general and special education seniors in academic and vocational high schools. Data were analyzed using appropriate parametric and nonparametric statistical techniques. Results show significant differences in the acquisition of transition skills among the four groups. Two distinct patterns emerged: (a) regular and special education seniors in vocational programs have greater acquisition of transition skills than their academic peers; (b) seniors in academic programs lag behind their vocational counterparts in the acquisition of guided paid work experience, self-determination skills acquisition, and vocational/technical skill acquisition. The major conclusions that can be derived from this study are: (a) the majority of urban youths plan to attend college upon high school graduation; (b) Black women plan to attend college in greater percentages than either their Black male or Latino peers; (c) general education academic students do not perceive their high school program as preparing them for life; (d) general education academic students lag behind their peers in work experience, self-determination skills, and the involvement of family in career planning; (e) vocational students in both general and special education programs are better prepared for life than their academic peers in terms of work experience, acquisition of vocational/technical skills, and self-determination skills; (f) students in special education programs experience greater family involvement in career planning than general education students; (g) increased mainstreaming correlates with increased transition skill acquisition; and (h) greater mainstreaming correlates with higher school averages.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Vocational education|Educational software

Recommended Citation

Weisent, Barbara Marie, "School-to-work transition: A comparison of regular and special education high school seniors" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9923447.