Jackson, Lewis (Lewis B.)

Committee Member

Brewer, Robin D.

Committee Member

Hendrickson, Joe David, 1947-


Special Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





216 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


The transition from school to adult life, especially with respect to employment, is a longstanding and critical concern for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Unfortunately, models of services in which schools work with minimal contact with the work community or in which students are trained in isolation (e.g., sheltered workshops) have not proven to be as effective as originally hoped. An emerging model that has promise is one in which the business community has a more direct role in service provision and in which there are partnerships between businesses and service agencies. The purpose of this study was to examine processes and outcomes associated with Project SEARCH, a transition program for students with significant cognitive disabilities that involves public-private partnerships of the type the literature is calling for. Multiple data sources were used to analyze characteristics of the program, including semi-structured interviews, ethnographic observations, and textual materials (documents). An institutional ethnographic qualitative design provided the framework for exploring the work processes of Project SEARCH. Findings from this study revealed that the Project SEARCH transition program has high potential for supporting and preparing students with significant cognitive disabilities to become successful within integrated employment. The model’s expectation of direct collaboration between public and private organizations, its use of techniques of customized employment, and its reliance on integrated employment during student internships were presented as program work processes that have a direct bearing on program success. Using the stories and recommendations of the participants, six main areas were found for future program development and improvement: expanding educational opportunities; expanding long-term funding; expanding the criteria of student selection; expanding host employers in the program; expanding the curriculum; and expanding parent understanding of supplemental security income (SSI). The promising findings of this study make it apparent that more research is needed on components and processes within public-private partnership operated transition programs.

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