Six Strategies Make Model Transition Programs Excel
Researchers at the University of Vermont and the University of Illinois
have conducted a qualitative study of factors that support the success
of school districts' transition programs. The study, funded by the U.S.
Office of Special Education Programs, used a panel of national experts
to identify five sites that had model transition programs and four sites
that represented typical transition programs. Interviews, observations
and document reviews were conducted at each site and cross-case analysis
Results suggested several differences between the model and representative
sites: Model sites showed more indicators of support for implementing
transition planning and services, and the use of promising practices
was more widespread and systematic than in the representative sites.
In contrast, innovative practices in the representative sites tended
to be limited to individual students or programs and had not been extended
to the system as a whole.
The model sites incorporated six factors: They used systemwide student-
and family-centered strategies; they fostered effective and substantive
interagency communication.;they facilitated systematic professional
development; they provided a visionary, supportive and inclusive form
of leadership; their reform efforts were integrated; and connections
between local and federal transition initiatives developed.
Systemwide student- and family-centered strategies. The model
sites took a systematic approach to promoting the participation of students
and families. Their curriculum included courses in self-advocacy and
self-determination and they used a combination of strategies to
promote self-advocacy and student leadership of IEP/transition meetings.
They used person-centered planning strategies to promote student and
parent participation in IEP and transition meetings and made concerted
attempts to keep the planning process focused on students' personal
goals, interests, and needs. Students often participated in pre-planning
meetings to help them organize their ideas for upcoming transition planning
meetings, and many teachers were implementing curricula designed to
teach students how to lead their own IEP/transition planning meetings.
Effective and substantive interagency collaboration. At the
model sites, examples of sustained interagency collaboration included
key positions funded jointly by education and adult services agencies,
written agreements regarding transition policies, monthly interagency
planning meetings, cross-agency training opportunities, and the use
of a variety of practices associated with collaboration and team-building.
Associated students outcomes included more students participating in
employment and other community programs during high school, more participation
in co-funded career assessment and development opportunities, greater
concurrent enrollment in high schools and community colleges, and more
students with disabilities served by a variety of adult service agencies
following high school.
Systematic professional development. Educators, adult service
providers, employers and other community providers co-developed or participated
in a variety of interagency and cross-agency training opportunities
at the model sites. Each of the model sites employed a person with specific
responsibilities for transition policies and practices, and in each
case, this person coordinated the professional development activities.
Many professional development activities were held in conjunction with
institutions of higher education or state transition systems change
Visionary, supportive and inclusive leadership. Regional, central
office, and building level administrators in education and adult services
provided leadership critical to the implementation of federal transition
policies. They were credited with helping to establish a vision for
transition and a structure to support its implementation. They were
also credited with having convinced their agencies of the need to provide
local personnel to implement transition-related services. They used
inclusive and participatory forms of leadership in which teachers and
service providers felt empowered to take the initiative in introducing
promising transition practices.
Integrated educational reform. Education reform at the model
sites was seen as an integrated process. Specific initiatives in special
and general education were not separate, potential reforms
were developed and implemented with careful attention to their potential
impact on all students. Thus, transition policies were connected to
initiatives such as block funding, interdisciplinary curricula, career
development, and the implementation of state and local standards and
Connected local and federal initiatives. Closely related to
this integrated approach to reform was the linkage in implementation
of IDEA and the School to Work Transition Act (STOA). In some cases,
positions associated with the provision of employment and applied learning
opportunities were co-funded by special education, vocational rehabilitation,
or other local funds earmarked for implementation of the STOA.
Challenges. Across the model sites, interviewees noted three
concerns. First was the need to continue and expand the use of strategies
to increase the number of students who play an active leadership role
in their IEP and transition meetings, particularly those that enhance
the ability of students with severe disabilities to identify their choices
for the future. A second concern was the need to expand opportunities
to ensure that students have full participation in school and community
life, particularly for students with ED. Finally, while all five model
sites had some postschool evaluation processes in place, most interviewees
would like to see them become more comprehensive and better utilized
in program evaluation and improvement efforts.
For more information on this research, see Implementing the IDEA Transition
Mandates by Susan Brody Hasazi, Katherine S. Furney, and Lizanne DeStephano,
Exceptional Children, v. 65, N. 4, Summer 1999.
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