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Transition assessments: an overview

Insight into transition assessments - and why they matter - guided by recommendations from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Think back to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA) definition of Transition Services. The process of transition is continual, and there are many considerations in creating a successful transition. Outlook, preparation, collaborative practices and development of a vision for the future are crucial elements of success. 

The IDEA emphasizes knowing a student’s strengths, needs, preferences, skills and interests. Identification of these qualities can begin early through observation, choice making, exposure to a variety of activities, programming and community experiences. 

Putting these discoveries in writing will help to ensure carryover in each transition and should be used as a working document to aid the transition process. It is important for students to be actively involved in each transition, including the development of a transition portfolio, and to take a lead role in planning and making decisions.  

Transition assessment is a process of obtaining, organizing and using information to assist all individuals with disabilities of all ages and their families in making all critical transitions in those individuals’ lives both successful and satisfying.”

Gary Clark, MEd

The Perkins Transition Framework examines transition services from a variety of potential tracks across age groups. The framework is intended to be used as a resource to:

Understanding transition assessments

Transition assessments are not simply a mandate; they are essential tools for helping students think about and plan for the future. Per the Transition Coalition, transition assessments:

Transition assessments: an ongoing process

A key element involved in formulating post-secondary plans such as where a student will live, work, learn and socialize, is the identification of strengths, skills and interests. As with each aspect of transition planning, fostering self-determination to ensure students are actively involved, holds true for the transition assessment process. Self-discovery leads to knowledge, better positioning students to make choices.    

Assessments are categorized as formal or informal; formal assessments are standardized and norm-referenced. Effective transition planning requires a variety of relevant, age-appropriate assessments, and typically involve a student’s family and team.

Formal assessments

  • Standardized tests (e.g., MCAS, SAT)
  • Interviews, questionnaires, or rating scales from a standardized assessment (e.g., BASC-3)
  • Functional and curriculum-based assessments
  • Vocational assessments (e.g., Becker Work Adjustment Profile)

Informal assessments

  • Interviews and questionnaires
  • Rating scales 
  • Community-based checklists and profiles
  • Observational and situational assessments

These assessments can be used to gather information in any of the following areas: 

Ready for more? Read this.

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