Age Appropriate Transition Assessment
What is age appropriate transition assessment? To answer this question, it is important to break this term into its three parts:
Age simply refers to a student’s chronological age, not his/her developmental age (Wehmeyer, 2002).
Appropriate relates to the fact that the specific assessments should be both individualized and linked to specific postsecondary outcomes. For example, the college SAT or ACT tests may be appropriate transition assessments for a college bound student, but not for a student who plans on entering the workforce after high school.
Transition assessment is defined by the Division on Career Development and Transition “... as the ongoing process of collecting data on the individual’s needs, preferences, and interests as they relate to the demands of current and future working, educational, living, and personal and social environments”. The information gleaned from the transition assessment process is the cornerstone of the transition planning process.
“But if you find yourself thinking in the future, if you find yourself actually anticipating the activity- 'When can I do this again?' - it is a pretty good sign that you are enjoying it and that one of your talents is in play. ” –Donald O. Clifton
Why is Transition Assessment Important?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students’ postsecondary goals be based on age appropriate transition assessments (IDEA §300.320[b][1). These assessments provide the information that leads to the development of a comprehensive and coordinated transition Individualized Education Program (IEP), which in turn will lead to successful adult outcomes in the areas of employment, postsecondary education, training, and independent living.
Every day we make decisions, some of them small and some big. The majority of our decisions, as well as the best decisions we make, are those made using assessment data. A decision regarding what to wear in the morning is based on the weather conditions and the activities planned for the day. The decision on which medications to take is based on an analysis of our test results and information regarding our symptoms. The fact that many students are making important decisions about their futures without the benefit of assessment data is alarming. Too often, students don’t understand their own strengths and needs, or they lack knowledge about how to use this information to make decisions. These students need guidance to understand how data can help them determine their readiness skills, progress toward a goal, and identify when goals need to change.
The transition assessment process also provides an opportunity for teachers to improve rapport and build relationships with students. This process can provide information that allows a teacher to connect with students in a personal way and discover their hopes and dreams for the future. Supported relationships with teachers can significantly contribute to a student's academic success.
Who is Involved in the Process of Collecting the Data?
For the ongoing data collection process to be effective, we must involve a team of people including the student, those who know the student well, and those who may be involved in the student’s transition to adulthood. Transition assessment data often come from three main environments:
- Home - student, family, and friends
- School - educators, paraprofessionals, school counselors, school psychologists, therapists, and other students
- Community - service providers, business supervisors, church and civic representatives, neighbors, and community members
Input from all players is critical for career and adult life direction. Each member of the team brings a unique perspective and information. For a student who plans to enter a community college after high school, the following are potentially appropriate assessments and include the IEP team members who can provide that information:
- interests/preferences (student)
- certification or workplace competencies (career & technical education teacher)
- summary of progress toward graduation (school counselor)
- independent living skills checklist related to driving and living in an apartment (parents)
- community college practice placement test results (special education teacher)
- vocational assessment (vocational evaluator/vocational rehabilitation representative)
Transition assessments should include both standardized (formal) and non-standardized (informal) data. The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) suggests selecting assessments in four broad categories: academic, self-determination, vocational interest and exploration, and adaptive behavior/independent living. This additional information will assist the IEP team in determining what skills have to be taught and what services need to be provided to help the student progress toward reaching his or her postsecondary goals in employment, education/training, and independent living.
Involving the students in meaningful assessments to gain a better understanding of their strengths, preferences, interests, and needs in the transition domains will assist the IEP team in developing and implementing an effective transition IEP. Below are some guidelines to consider when developing a student’s assessment plan.
- Where is the student presently?
You should gather information on the student’s interests, dreams, academic performance, independent living skills, self-determination skills, etc. For example, if you conduct a record review, you will have important academic performance information such as grades, state testing scores, attendance record, and earned credits. Remember to include any information you already have for each transition domain.
- What are the student’s postsecondary goals and what information do I need to assist them in reaching their desired outcomes?
After reviewing what you do know, think about what information you are missing that would help the student plan for his/her transition. For instance, if a student plans to attend a four year college, has he taken the PSAT or SAT? Is he aware of his learning preferences and academic strengths? Can he communicate the accommodations that will assist him, and does he know how to access services at his postsecondary institution of choice? Do you currently have the data to determine his strengths, needs, preferences, and interests in this transition area?
- What methods will provide this information?
Now that you have figured out what you are missing, think of ways you will collect this information. What informal or formal assessment measures do you need to administer to obtain the needed data? Keep in mind that whatever assessment tools you use must be appropriate for the learning characteristics of the student, including cultural and linguistic differences. The information gained should give you a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the student’s skills and readiness for post-school environments.