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Aiming Higher for Students with Disabilities

Dr. Faggella-Luby

A 2011-12 study by the National Center for Special Education Research found that 11 percent of students enrolled in postsecondary institutions reported having a disability, and 38 percent of those students completed a postsecondary program, compared to 51 percent for students without disabilities.

Dr. Michael Faggella-Luby and former University of Connecticut colleagues realized a need for more meaningful research around academic success for all learners in postsecondary education. They developed a classification system to organize future research and practice in the area, called Postsecondary Access and Student Success (PASS).

Their PASS taxonomy was outlined in PASSing College: A Taxonomy for Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education, an article published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability. Since its publication, PASS has been used by the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities (FCSUA) for inclusive postsecondary education programs designed specifically for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). The taxonomy has also been used to examine literature about students with ID served in programs across the United States. Faggella-Luby and his co-authors will present an update at the 2018 Capacity Building Institute for the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition.

The PASS taxonomy includes four areas: (1) student-focused support, (2) program and institutional-focused support, (3) faculty and staff-focused support and (4) concept and systems development.

“We wanted to develop an organizational framework that would allow interdisciplinary collaboration across fields of research—literally a way of sharing ongoing research and practice in the field,” Faggella-Luby said. “We need a better understanding of how we meet the needs of our students with disabilities and how we can teach strategies to help students with disabilities to learn successfully on their own.”

From their research, the team found that all higher education personnel on a campus must have a responsibility in assisting all students in meeting their objectives. They also found that more attention must be focused on helping students with disabilities to develop practical skills and strategies for success in higher education.

PASS will be a cornerstone for the field as we move forward, conducting and categorizing research efforts throughout the country,” Faggella-Luby said. “It provides a common lens and language to organize, discuss and research relevant research-based practices.”

Faggella-Luby serves as Vice President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Learning Disabilities and is an associate professor of Special Education and Director of the Alice Neeley Special Education Research and Service (ANSERS) Institute. The Institute hosted the first Special Education Summit at TCU on Monday, April 30, focusing on postsecondary education and disability.

Lyman Dukes, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg; Joseph Madaus, Associate Dean & Director of CPED, UCONN; Endia Lindo, Assistant Professor, TCU COE; Michael Faggella-Luby; Marilyn Tolbert, Director, Starpoint & Kinderfrogs Schools; Courtney Kinson, TCU COE Alumna; Lauren Keaney, Early Childhood Education Junior; Danie Roberts-Dahm, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg; Nicholas Gelbar, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, UCONN