Evaluation of the Maryland Way2Work Model
High school students with disabilities face obstacles in their transition to adulthood and typically underperform their peers without disabilities regarding postsecondary education and employment. To increase their chances of success, students can develop professional soft skills and networks, understand how their capacity and interests align with potential careers, and know what supports they need.
The University of Maryland, in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), designed and is piloting the Way2Work program in eight counties. Way2Work is an initiative to improve the college and career readiness of high school students with disabilities by engaging students in additional services to help them transition successfully to adulthood. Through the program, high school students receive early engagement with DORS for pre-employment transition services, work-based learning experiences coordinated through community partners, and services to help them attain paid integrated employment. Services are coordinated through local Maryland Interagency Teams made up of local community resource providers, postsecondary education institutions, workforce staff, and employers.
The Rehabilitation Services Administration awarded five-year grants to select state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to identify and demonstrate evidence-based practices for providing work-based learning experiences in integrated settings. VR agencies in five states received awards: California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Mathematica conducts the evaluations of the Maryland and Vermont demonstrations.
Mathematica is randomly assigning 400 high school students over a two-year period to receive Way2Work services or not. The evaluation includes:
- Follow-up surveys of students 24 months after enrollment
- Collection of service receipt data using Mathematica’s RAPTER system
- Collection of education and employment data
- Ongoing formative evaluations using program administrative data
- An impact analysis to assess whether the employment and postsecondary education outcomes of students enrolled in Way2Work differed from those in the control group
- A formative evaluation that relies on program implementation records and site visits