New and Efficient Assessment Model for Students With Disabilities During Transition

Once a child is determined to be eligible for special education services, it is expected that the school and family will work together to create an individualized education program (IEP) that outlines the specific school services needed to support the student’s individualized needs. All IEP services are provided by public schools at no cost. However, once the student graduates from high school or turns 22 years old (whichever comes first), IEP services are discontinued.

Therefore, it is crucial to have a well-structured transition plan in place while students are still in school to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills for a successful adult life after high school. Transition assessment is a critical component of the transition planning process.

Transition Assessment is an Essential Requirement

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, all states are mandated to begin transition planning for students with disabilities in pre-K to 12th grade by the time they turn 16. The purpose of transition planning is to ensure that students acquire the skills they need before graduating from high school. Transition assessment plays a crucial role in successful transition planning by providing insights that enable IEP teams to deliver services and support tailored to students’ interests, preferences, strengths, and needs.

Now, let’s debunk four common myths about transition assessment.

Myth 1: The annual IEP evaluation and the three-year reevaluation can replace transition assessment.

Reality: While the results of the annual IEP evaluation and three-year reevaluation can provide information about the cognitive, academic, and functional skills of students with disabilities, they are not sufficient. IDEA 2004 mandates that transition services should facilitate students’ transition from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, employment, independent living, and community participation. To determine the appropriate services, a comprehensive transition assessment focusing on these areas is necessary.

Myth 2: The primary purpose of transition assessment is to identify future employment goals for students with disabilities.

Reality: Transition assessment is relevant for all students with disabilities, not just those with severe disabilities. It encompasses various post-school outcome areas, including postsecondary education, employment, independent living, community participation, and social relationships.

Myth 3: Transition assessment is a one-time event that occurs at the beginning of the transition planning process or once a year to guide IEP development.

Reality: Transition assessment is an ongoing process that should occur throughout the secondary school years of students with disabilities. Conducting ongoing assessments ensures that the data remains current and relevant, allowing schools to identify the specific skills that students need to learn and develop.

Myth 4: Only formal assessments should be used for transition assessment.

Reality: Different types of assessments have their pros and cons. Formal assessments are standardized and technically sound but inflexible and often administered only once a year. Informal assessments are more flexible and can be used multiple times throughout the year to monitor students’ progress, but their reliability and validity are uncertain. Therefore, the use of multiple assessment approaches is recommended.

Transition Assessment Supports Self-Determination

The ultimate goal of transition assessment is to help families and youth with disabilities gain a better understanding of the students’ strengths and needs, enabling them to achieve independence and success in the future.

IDEA requires youth to attend their own IEP meetings, ensuring their active involvement in the transition planning process and decision-making for their own future. To fulfill this requirement, youth with disabilities need to possess self-determination skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving, goal-setting, and evaluating the best options for themselves. Research shows that self-determined youth with disabilities are more likely to experience success after high school. Therefore, schools should conduct self-determination assessments to identify how to help students develop these skills through quality instruction.

Types of Transition Assessment

Various formal and informal assessments addressing training, education, employment, and independent living skills (where appropriate) should be employed. Here are some examples of commonly used transition assessments:


Self-Determination Skills:


Independent Living Skills:

Who Can Participate?

Individuals who closely interact with youth with disabilities can be involved in the transition assessment process. School professionals should conduct a range of formal and informal assessments to evaluate the educational, socio-emotional, and functional skills of students with disabilities. Families can also actively contribute to the assessment process and monitor their child’s progress.

For example, families can use an interest inventory provided by the school to assess their child’s strengths, interests, and needs. They can also observe and collect data on their child’s behavior and share it with the IEP team. Tracking how often their child utilizes the measurement skills they learned from school, such as preparing a snack or meal, can provide valuable insights.

Clear comprehension of each component of transition assessment is crucial for families. Schools should also provide non-English-speaking families with information and documents in their native language. Using assessments that consider the youth’s dominant language can enhance the IEP team’s understanding of their language-related needs.

Interpreting Transition Assessment Data

Once all the necessary assessments are completed, the IEP team must analyze and interpret the collected data. It is essential to ensure that youth with disabilities (as well as their families) understand the assessment results. The results should provide the team with insights into the students’ strengths, preferences, interests, and needs. The team can then collaborate to develop postsecondary goals and determine the appropriate next steps. Should the student pursue

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