Transition Goals in the IEP

Picture of a traffic sign that's just a huge question mark---where to now?Content and links updated, June 2016
A legacy resource from NICHCY

In Transition to Adulthood, we presented an overview of what IDEA 2004 requires in terms of transition planning for youth with disabilities. A significant aspect of the law’s requirements relates to including transition-related goals and statements in the IEPs of students preparing for life after high school. Now it’s time to take a much closer look at the kind of information you might include in a student’s IEP as part of transition planning.

Index

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First, What IDEA Requires

Let’s start by revisiting IDEA’s provisions at §300.320(b) regarding what must be included in a student’s IEP no later than when that student turns 16:

(b) Transition services. Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include—

(1) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and

(2) The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.

Breaking the provisions at §300.320(b) into their component parts is a useful way to see what needs to be included, transition-wise, in the student’s IEP. For example, consider:

Postsecondary goals must be…
Appropriate, measurable

Postsecondary goals must also be based on…
Age-appropriate transition assessment

Transition assessment ind what…?
Training, education, employment, independent living skills, where appropriate

Transition services include…
Courses of study

Transition services for a student as those that the student needs…
To assist the child in reaching those goals

What goals?
The postsecondary goals

The discussion below is intended to illuminate how these provisions are to be implemented in the real world, with real students.
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NTAC’s Checklist of Questions to Ask

NTAC is the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition, an OSEP-funded project whose expertise is… obviously…. secondary transition.  As part of its work, NTAC has developed extensive training materials to help states collect data about the transition services they provide to youth with disabilities (called Indicator 13). Those materials are also useful for our purpose here, which is to look closely at the type of transition information to include in a student’s IEP.

NTAC’s materials include a checklist of questions to ask, which are adapted here for use by IEP teams as they plan a student’s transition services and craft statements to include in the student’s IEP.

  • Is there a measurable postsecondary goal or goals for the student?
  • Can the goal(s) be counted?
  • Does the goal(s) occur after the student graduates from school?
  • Are the postsecondary goals based on an age-appropriate  transition assessment?
  • Are there annual IEP goals that reasonably enable the child to meet the postsecondary goal(s) or make progress toward meeting the goal(s)?
  • Are there transition services (including courses of study) in the IEP that focus on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child to facilitate his or her movement from school to post-school?
  • Do the transition services listed in the IEP relate to a type of instruction, related service, community experience, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives (and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills), and provision of a functional vocational evaluation?
  • Are representatives of other agencies invited (with parent consent or the student’s) to IEP meetings when transition services are being discussed that are likely to be provided or paid for by these other agencies?

NTAC also provides real-life examples that are as illuminating as they are helpful, especially since examples are included for three key domains of transition planning:

  • education/training,
  • employment, and
  • independent living.

We’d like to share some of NTAC’s examples with you. Again, we’ve adapted them a bit, to make them more appropriate for use by IEP teams, but all the credit goes to NTAC for this work.

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 NTAC Example: Education/Training

Here’s an example of a measurable postsecondary goal in the domain of education/training. (For the full discussion, with many examples, see: http://transitionta.org/sites/default/files/dataanalysis/I13_Alex.pdf

  • After graduation from high school, Alex will enroll at Kings College (a technical school) and take a business math class to improve his work related math skills and to advance his career in business.

This goal meets NTAC’s standard because of specific reasons:

  •  Enrolling in course in a postsecondary education environment is the focus of the goal.
  • Goals correspond with Alex’s other postsecondary goals of continuing employment
    (that is highly math skill focused) with a local business.
  • Goals reflect Alex’s strengths in the area of math.

NTAC also generously provides nonexamples. For the goal statement above:

Nonexample:

  • Alex plans to apply to Kings College (a technical school).

NTAC says that this statement does not meet the standard, because:

  • Goal is written as a process, rather than an outcome that can be demonstrated.
  • It is not clear whether the goals take place after graduation from high school. 

Helpful, eh? If you’d like to see more examples (and nonexamples!) of postsecondary goals for education/training, you can find them at:
http://transitionta.org/sites/default/files/transitionplanning/NSTTAC_ChecklistFormB.pdf

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 NTAC Example: Employment

Now let’s look at an example of a measurable postsecondary goal in the domain of employment.

  • After graduation, Paulo will work 20 plus hours a week at the local grocery store and provided temporary supports through Vocational Rehabilitation.

This goal is acceptable, because:

  • Participation in or maintenance of employment is the focus of these goals.
  • Expectation, or behavior, is explicit, as in Paulo continues employment, or does not and Paulo accesses adult agency service (or does not).
  • It is stated in this goal that increased employment and use of adult services will
    occur after Paulo leaves high school.

Would you like to see the nonexample? Here you go.

Nonexample:

  • Paulo will be referred to Vocational Rehabilitation for assistance with job placement.

Why doesn’t this goal meet the standard and, so, is used here as a nonexample?

  • The expectation for learning, or behavior, is not explicitly stated.
  • It is not clear that the activities will continue to occur, or will occur after high school.
  • Activities as opposed to goals.

Find more examples and nonexamples of postsecondary goals in the domain of employment at:
http://transitionta.org/sites/default/files/transitionplanning/NSTTAC_ChecklistFormB.pdf

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NTAC Example: Independent Living

Now for an example of two measurable postsecondary goal in the domain of independent living., developed for Jamarreo, a 19 year old student identified with emotional and behavioral disabilities, as well as a moderate hearing loss.

  • After graduation, Jamarreo will follow the laws of his community, demonstrating an understanding of the need for laws to ensure his and others’ safety.
  • After graduation, Jamarreo will maintain his hearing equipment by attending annual check ups with audiologist.

These goal statements is acceptably crafted, because:

  • Actions will occur after high school.
  • Results of the goals are observable (e.g., Jamarreo will or will not stay out of jail, or will or will not maintain his hearing equipment). 

And nonexamples:

  • Jamarreo wants to hang out with friends.
  • Jamarreo wants a new less visible hearing aid.

These goals  are not acceptably crafted, because:

  • “Want” or “expressed interest” are not outcomes.
  • Goal statements are not measurable.
  • It is not clear these goals will take place after high school.

Find more such examples and nonexamples in the domain of independent living, at:
http://transitionta.org/sites/default/files/transitionplanning/NSTTAC_ChecklistFormB.pdf

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IEP Goals to Help the Student Achieve Postsecondary Goals

All right, so the IEP team (including the student) has crafted statements that describe the student’s postsecondary goals—-what he or she is going to do or achieve after leaving high school. These goals pertain to the domains of education/training, employment, and (as appropriate for the student’s needs) independent living. Now it’s time to write corresponding IEP goals that will reasonably enable the child to meet the postsecondary goals.

IEP Goals: Education/Training

Continuing with Alex as our example, remember that his postsecondary goal for education/training was: After graduation from high school, Alex will enroll at Kings College (a technical school) and take a business math class to improve his work related math skills and to advance his career in business.

An appropriate IEP goal to help Alex achieve the postsecondary goal might be:

  • Given direct instruction in the high school Business Math course and guided practice, Alex will (a) use an adding machine, and (b) create spreadsheets using money management software with 85% accuracy throughout the Spring semester of this IEP.

This annual goal meets standards, because:

  • The goal is focused on Alex’s acquisition of math skills that will support his enrollment in a postsecondary level business math course.
  • The goal includes a condition, measurable behaviors, criteria, and a timeframe.

Now for the contrast of a nonexample:

  • Given instruction in the high school Business Math course, Alex will participate in class assignments throughout the semester.

Are there problems with this statement? Yes, according to NTAC—-three.

  • There are no criteria stated for the adequacy by which Alex should participate in
    assignments of the course.
  • “Participation” does not indicate a skill that Alex will develop that will prepare him for his postsecondary goal of taking a Business Math course at the technical college.
  • The goal do not include all components (condition, measurable behavior, criteria, and timeframe)..

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IEP Goals: Employment

Good old Paolo, back in the example seat. Remember that Paolo’s postsecondary goal for employment was:  After graduation, Paulo will work 20 plus hours a week at the local grocery store and provided temporary supports through Vocational Rehabilitation.

An appropriate IEP goal to help Paolo achieve this postsecondary employment goal might be:

  • Given a whole task instruction and a task analysis for bagging groceries, Paulo will demonstrate the steps in the task analysis with 80% accuracy and no more than
    one verbal prompt weekly by (specific date).

This IEP goal is acceptably written, because:

  • Preparing for employment is the primary focus of this goal.
  • Acquisition of specific work skills are an important skill for a person who will maintain employment.
  • Goal includes a condition, measurable behaviors, criteria, and a timeframe.

How about a nonexample?

  • Given a list of jobs at a retail store, Paulo will choose which job interests him the most 2 out of 3 times.

This nonexample does not reach acceptable standards for goal-writing, because:

  • Goal does not include all components (condition, measurable behavior, criteria,
    and timeframe).
  • Goal does not support Paulo’s postsecondary goals .

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IEP Goals: Independent Living

Now the example will relate to Jamarreo (Paulo is quite relieved to get off the hot seat). Recall that Jamarreo’s postsecondary goals in the domain of independent living were:

  • After graduation, Jamarreo will follow the laws of his community, demonstrating an understanding of the need for laws to ensure his and others’ safety.
  • After graduation, Jamarreo will maintain his hearing equipment by attending annual check ups with audiologist.

NTAC’s examples for appropriate and corresponding IEP goals are:

  • Given computer/video enacted roleplays of legal and illegal activities, Jamarreo will categorize activities with 80% accuracy by (specific date).
  • Given explicit instruction on proper care and cleaning of a hearing aid, a task analysis, and weekly opportunities to practice, Jamarreo will demonstrate the steps
    of the task analysis with 90% accuracy by the end of the school year.

The reasons that these goal meet the standard and are acceptably written are:

  • Annual goals will be accomplished by Jamarreo while in high school to prepare him
    for living independently after high school.
  • Annual goals focus on skills and knowledge to be mastered, that are measurable.
  • Goals include a condition, measurable behaviors, criteria, and a timeframe.

And, keeping with our pattern here (NTAC’s, actually), here are nonexamples for contrast:

  • Jamarreo will meet with the resource officer at the school to discuss the difference between illegal and legal activities.
  • amarreo will visit the school nurse once a week to talk about hearing aid care.

Why are these two nonexamples of an IEP goal to help Jamarreo toward achieving his independent living goals:

  • Goals do not include all components (condition, measurable behavior, criteria,
    and timeframe).
  • Goals suggest an activity rather than learning a specific skill.

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Matching Transition Services to the Postsecondary Goals and the IEP Goals

You’ll recall that transition services are determined by the combination of a student’s stated postsecondary goals, corresponding IEP goals, and what he or she needs, support-wise, in order to move toward achieving those goals. By definition, transition services can include:

  • Instruction;
  • Related services;
  • Community experiences;
  • The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and
  • If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation. [§300.43(a)(2)]

The IEP team’s task is to identify and specify the transition services that a student will receive in order to support him or her in reaching the shorter-term IEP goals and the longer-term postsecondary goal. How does the IEP team do that? Let’s look at some examples, again from NSTTAC.

Transition Services: Education/Training

Let’s call Alex back to the hot seat. His education/training goal is: After graduation from high school, Alex will enroll at Kings College (a technical school) and take a business math class to improve his work related math skills and to advance his career in business.

What transition services could be provided to support Alex in reaching that goal?

  • Self-advocacy skills instruction
  • Personal banking instruction
  • Work-related social skills instruction
  • Computer skills (word-processing, data entry) instruction

Nonexamples might include:

  • Reading instruction
  • Cooking instruction
  • Personal Hygiene Instruction
  • Drivers education instruction

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Transition Services: Employment

Here’s an interesting example from NTAC that looks at what transition services would be appropriate for a young adult named Jodi. Jodi’s postsecondary goals for education/training and employment are:

  • Jodi will enroll in courses (non-degree) at Gaston Community College.
  • Jodi will attain a part-time position in a community retail environment independently.

What transition services does Jodi need to support her in reaching these two goals?

  • Travel instruction
  • Instruction related to hygiene
  • Instruction related to functional math skills
  • Personal banking instruction
  • Community based instruction at Wal-Mart to introduce to retail employment skills
  • Instruction related to social skills in school and work settings

What would qualify as a nonexample—in other words, a transition service that would not be appropriate support for Jody in reaching her postsecondary goals?

  • Instruction related to janitorial skills
  • Community-based instructional experiences in restaurant settings

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Transition Services: Independent Living

Working with Jamarreo as our example this time, recall that his independent living goals were:

 

  • After graduation, Jamarreo will follow the laws of his community, demonstrating an understanding of the need for laws to ensure his and others’ safety.
  • After graduation, Jamarreo will maintain his hearing equipment by attending annual check ups with audiologist.

 

Jamarreo’s IEP team decides that he’ll need specific transition services to help him move toward achieving those goals after high school. The services they specify are:

  • The related services of: Interpreter services for the hearing impaired; Counseling services to increase ability to manage anger; and Audiology for hearing aid maintenance
  • Referral to Medicaid for augmentative communication device coverage (i.e., hearing aid)
  • Mentor program through local YMCA/police department

Nonexamples, on the other hand, might include such transition services as:

  • Speech services (he doesn’t have a speech impairment)
  • Occupational therapy (he  has no needs for refining his fine motor skills)
  • Community-based instructional experiences related to the food service industry (he’s not interested in working in the food industry)
  • Two trips to adult vocational day placement (Jamarreo is capable of obtaining full-time competitive employment )

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In Conclusion

Pshew. That was a lot of reading, wasn’t it? Hopefully, NTAC’s excellent work, adapted here, will help you when it comes time to help students plan for transition to life after high school and especially to write an IEP that will:

  • capture the student’s postsecondary goals in concrete, measurable terms;
  • write corresponding IEP goals to support and prepare the student to achieve the postsecondary goals after leaving high school;
  • reflect the IEP team’s decisions about the transition services the student needs (including what the student will study while still in high school) in order to achieve the postsecondary goals.

Transition planning is complicated and involved. There are so many dimensions of adulthood to consider! That’s why, for students with disabilities, planning ahead is critical. The more significant the disability is, the more imperative it is to prepare, plan, specify, investigate, coordinate, and support. Adulthood’s coming.

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The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) would like to express its deep appreciation to the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition for the thoroughness and insightfulness of the materials we’ve so freely used and adapted here.  Great job, NTAC! Thanks.

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