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Title:Programs designed to prepare blind and visually impaired secondary students for employment: An embedded case study
Author(s):Preston, Serena
Director of Research:Welton, Anjalé
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Welton, Anjalé
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hackmann, Donald G.; Cope, William; Day, Scott
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):educational leadership
visually impaired
student work program
specialized school
Abstract:People who are blind or visually impaired have experienced employment rates of around 30% for decades despite legislation to improve educational outcomes and ban discrimination in employment. It is imperative to study existing comprehensive programs for these students and to understand leadership roles which provide support and lead to continuous improvement of educational opportunities and preparation for employment. This qualitative, embedded case study explored systems in place at one specialized school for the blind. The study examined experiences of educational leaders as their school strove to provide instructional programming which would impact outcomes. It also examined perceptions of current students and graduates, staff, and employers who partnered in the school’s programs. Social capital and social networking provided the theoretical framework of the study. Data were collected through 26 semi-structured interviews with educational leaders, staff, students, graduates, and employers; site observations in school settings, work placements, and community settings; and review of documents. Data were then analyzed through an inductive and deductive coding process. Findings revealed that educational leaders of this school have high expectations for student achievement and remain focused on improving instructional opportunities, aligning their actions with the school strategic plan. The traditional school-year program has a primary focus of core curriculum and the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) which is specifically designed to meet the unique instructional needs of students who are blind or visually impaired. Two separate programs at the school focus on employment preparation. One is a student experience and training program during the school year and another is a 4-week outreach program in the summer. Both programs include classroom components and real job experiences. All of the graduates indicted they utilized skills they gained in the student work experience program and in SETE when job seeking and in their careers. Findings further indicate that rigid state mandates regarding course requirements and graduation timelines severely limited time available in student schedules for instruction in areas of ECC associated with employment outcomes, and with real life employment experiences. In an effort to serve the highly specialized needs of these blind and visually impaired students while meeting state mandates, instructional programs spanned the entire calendar year, not just the traditional 9-month school year. In addition, findings indicate negative attitudes of employers impact opportunities for employment. Recommendations for educational leaders include: inform policy makers of the unique instructional needs of students who are blind or visually impaired, continue to search for and provide employment experiences and instruction in the ECC within and outside of the school schedule, provide students direct instruction about the value and function of social networks, and develop educational materials about hiring blind employees for potential employers. Future research could include investigating the social networks of people who are blind and visually impaired, and also attitudes of employers along any existing interventions with employers.
Issue Date:2018-12-04
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Serena Preston
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-02-06
Date Deposited:2018-12

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