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A Brief Introduction to Transition Assessment

It's Good for Kids

From every walk of life, we know that to improve the likelihood of successfully meeting our goals and dreams, we need a clear idea of the goal, the steps to reach that goal and the resources available to assist in reaching the goal. For any young person to make a smooth and successful transition out of the secondary school system into the world of work and/or postsecondary learning system, they need specific information to answer the questions of:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • What do I need to get there?

Young people need to identify what they like, what their strengths are, what supports they need and how to access those supports. This is particularly true for students with disabilities as they may have additional barriers and needs to be able to meet their goals and dreams.

Data from Iowa Follow-up Surveys

Postsecondary follow-up surveys for students in Iowa have shown that students with a disability are significantly less likely to participate in formal postsecondary training than their non-disabled peers, 57% (IEP) compared to 92% (no IEP). While employment rates are similar, 85% (IEP) compared to 89% (no IEP), the youth with IEPs are more likely to work in assembly, maintenance and retail jobs. They are less likely to have benefits such as medical insurance. They are more likely to see this current job as a life-long position, in a society where the national trend is for the average worker to have ten or more career changes in their lifetime. They are also less likely to talk with a guidance counselor or other adult at school about their plans for the future or to participate in the typical school activities that might expose them to a broader range of career options. While assembly, maintenance and retail jobs are viable employment for many young people, it is likely that students with disabilities are in these jobs because they did not have any other options or the supports to pursue other options?

IDEA 2004 Requirements

The purpose of IDEA 2004 is for students with disabilities to have individualized education programs (IEP) that are "designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment, further education, and independent living." The content of the IEP, for students 14 and older, is to include "appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills." The content of the IEP must also identify the transition services and activities needed for students to pursue their postsecondary goals. IDEA defines "transition services" as a set of coordinated activities that are based on the student's needs, taking into account the student's strengths, preferences, and interests. It is the responsibility, under IDEA, for the IEP team to include a course of study for the student that is based on age-appropriate transition assessments . Also, at the point the student is leaving school due to graduation or reaching the maximum age, IDEA requires the district to provide the student with a summary of the student's academic achievement and functional performance, including recommendations on how to assist the student in meeting their postsecondary goals. The challenge from IDEA is to assist students to find postsecondary training, education, employment and independent living based on their interests, strengths, and preferences.

Purpose of Assessment

There are three purposes of assessment under IDEA: 1) system accountability, 2) eligibility determination and 3) development of an appropriate individualized education program. Transition assessments fall under this third category. Quality transition assessment will provide students, families and educators the information necessary to:

  • identify appropriate goals, services, activities, and supports that help students pursue their postsecondary expectations; and
  • develop a course of study based on the student's performance, needs, and expectations. All of this combined will ensure that the student's educational program and course of study are relevant and rigorous.

Gathering Assessment Information

IEP teams are encouraged to use a full range of sources of information including the student, parents, school staff, and any appropriate community-based service providers. The methods for collecting the information may include some or all of the following—review of existing information (R), interviews with appropriate persons (I), observations of the student in various settings (O), and testing on formal assessments as deemed necessary (T). Iowa uses the R-I-O-T framework for the purposes of age appropriate transition assessment. As much as possible the data collected needs to be directly related to the student's academic achievement and functional performance. During the transition assessment process, the IEP team must collect information on all three areas of postsecondary expectation—living, learning and work. Parents and students become primary sources of information about "living" and "working." School records, including district and classroom assessments are an excellent data sources for the "learning" information. The other important facet of transition assessment is to understand the postsecondary environment, its demands and supports, and to assess the student with those expectations in mind. (For more information about this process, check with the local AEA IEP/Assessment training team.)