Middle School Transition Planning Practices Prepared
by Wen-hsuan Chang and Dana Rusher May, 2018
Why are Transition Practices Important for Middle School Students with Disabilities?
Researchers have identified predictors of post-school success for students with disabilities. These twentieth evidence-based, in-school predictors include career awareness, community experiences, exit exam requirements/high school diploma status, inclusion in general education, interagency collaboration, occupational courses, paid employment/work experience, parental involvement, program of study, self-advocacy/self-determination, selfindependent living skills, social skills, student support, transition program, vocational education, work, parent expectations, youth autonomy/decision making, goal setting, and travel skills (Mazzotti et al., 2015). Knowledge of these predictors by staff in middle schools may help empirically improve students’ post-school success.
At the federal level, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments (IDEA) of 2004 mandated a transition component be included in the Individual Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities at no later than age 16. Each transition component must be based on students’ transition strengths, needs, interests, and preferences. This legislation also requires students with disabilities to participate, at an appropriate individual level, in the IEP planning process. This requirement encourages educators to beginning preparing students with disabilities at an early age.
Successful transition is more complicated than just having a transition component in an IEP at the age of 16. It also includes continuity of special education services, coordination of interagency collaboration, and capacity of educators to teach students with disabilities using evidence-based transition practices. Early and ongoing transition planning for students with disabilities reduces alienation, improves attendance, and decreases student dropout (Weidenthal & Kochhar-Bryant, 2007). This indicates the importance of promoting instruction in critical transition skills such as career awareness and exploration at an early age, giving students time to formulate realistic goals (Storms, O’Leary, & Williams, 2000). Yet, current transition practices often focus on students who are in high school (Cook, Wilczenski, & Vanderbrg, 2017; Griffin, Taylor, Urbano, & Hodapp, 2014; Hirano, & Rowe, 2015; Kelley, Bartholomew, & Test, 2011; Prater, Redman, Anderson, & Gibb, 2014; Zeedyk, Tipton, & Blacher, 2016). Beginning transition planning in middle school may complement efforts at the secondary level, potentially alleviating discontinuity of instruction in transition skills and services.
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