Project SEARCH has emerged as a promising program to address the challenges related to improving employment outcomes of youth with disabilities. It is a high school to work transition program that integrates employers and businesses with other educational and community rehabilitation service providers to engage youth with disabilities in paid work experiences. Recent monitoring and evaluation efforts suggest promising employment outcomes for Project SEARCH participants, but there has not yet been a rigorous impact evaluation with a large sample to demonstrate that these outcomes are substantially better than they would be if the participants had only relied on services and supports that are available outside of Project SEARCH.
In this report we present several design options for a rigorous impact evaluation of Project SEARCH. Relying on information we gathered from document reviews and from site visits conducted for this evaluability assessment, we propose two leading evaluation designs: one under the existing setting, where we take Project SEARCH sites, students, and other partners as given; and another under a demonstration setting, where we allow for the evaluation to play a role in determining the setting within which these players interact. We also discuss a few other alternative design options that we considered, but have concluded they are less appealing than those recommended.