The Philadelphia Start -On -Success Scholars Internship Program as a case study in inner-city special education reform: A portrait of those who can't afford to stand still

Joseph Youngblood, University of Pennsylvania


Over the past two decades, reform of American education has been a national priority and has received significant attention from educators, policy makers, the media, community leaders and parents. The national reform efforts to ensure better educational outcomes for all youth should not be viewed as necessarily guaranteeing better outcomes for young people with special needs. In light of the serious attention being given to national reform efforts, exploring new ways to improve special education research and practice must also be a national priority. Policies dating back to Public Law 94-142 (1975) to the more recent passing of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandate that special education students are to receive a “free and appropriate” education tailored to meet their varied and unique needs. However, education, employment, post-secondary education, vocational training, and community life outcomes have worsened for students with disabilities. These regressive patterns are often heightened for inner-city minority youth who in addition to being deemed educationally and/or emotionally disabled, must also address the economic, sociohistorical, and political complexities inherent in low-income inner-city schools and communities. Additional stressors and risk contributors such as racism, poverty and unemployment, and poor school outcomes exacerbate these pre-existing conditions. Too frequently, disabled inner-city youth are not considered from developmentally-sensitive and culturally-competent perspectives. In addition, current school-to-work initiatives have fallen short in assisting youth with special needs to make the transition from late adolescence to adulthood. Ergo, educators must find new and innovative approaches for providing early intervention, special education, and related services to secondary school students with disabilities as they pursue post-secondary school employment, post-secondary education or living goals. The Philadelphia Start-On-Success Scholars Internship Program, a collaborative between the University of Pennsylvania, the National Organization on Disability and the School District of Philadelphia, is a work-based training program designed to enhance the probability of resilient outcomes (e.g., school achievement and meaningful transition into the world of work) for minority inner-city youth. Grounded in two developmental frameworks, Spencer's Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST) and Youngblood's Context, Reactions, Attitude and Resiliency Perspective (CRAR), the Start-On-Success Program provides an innovative context for the enhancement and management of program delivery, quality and effectiveness for inner city disabled youth.

Subject Area

Special education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Youngblood, Joseph, "The Philadelphia Start -On -Success Scholars Internship Program as a case study in inner-city special education reform: A portrait of those who can't afford to stand still" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9976491.